“Let’s put a smile on that face,” the Joker cackles toward the end of “The Dark Knight” trailer, leaked in grisly form online late Thursday night and now available in glorious resolution on MTV.com.
And after watching the pirated footage, any fan might respond, “Try first erasing the one that already goes ear to ear.”(Tell us what you think of the trailer at the MTV Movies Blog.)
Like the first six minutes of the film — which were shown to select audiences two weeks ago — the trailer is nothing short of dazzling, an impressive combination of whiz-bang effects and deft character touches. Batman rides his new motorcycle through the streets of Gotham; a truck overturns on a crowded street; and the Joker is in custody, taunting his captors with a devilish smirk and looking up at the camera with the cocky self-assuredness of a madman.
Now that the trailer has been unveiled, so much of the film itself comes into focus.
For starters, anyone who still has doubts about Heath Ledger’s Joker won’t after watching the footage. In scenes from the trailer, Ledger inhabits the character — the way his posture is just a bit cockeyed and his voice takes on the sing-song quality of a schizophrenic, slightly high-pitched in places, always playful.
Most terrifying of all for Batman (and audiences, of course) is the way Ledger’s Joker seems determined to laugh in the face of death. Three times in the trailer we see him gleeful and taunting — when he should be scared witless — driving a truck into danger, baiting Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and facing down the Bat-Pod with nothing more than a knife.
The last clip, in particular, seems rooted in a scene from Tim Burton’s original, where Jack Nicholson’s Joker raises a gun to a soaring Bat-Wing. “C’mon, hit me!” Ledger bullies. Batman, of course, veers aside (his decision from the last film not to kill seems intact here). It only underlines the difference between the hero and the villain, and signifies just why the Joker is Batman’s arch-nemesis. (“There’s no going back,” the Joker says by way of opening the trailer. “See, to them, you’re just a freak … like me!”) We’re told his pockets contain nothing but “knives and lint.” Lieutenant Gordon (Gary Oldman) says he has “no name, no other alias.” Our rules, our conventions, our norms — these have always been the biggest joke of all to the character. Director Christopher Nolan and company seem to have nailed that perfectly.
Along those lines, it is also clear from the trailer what direction they’re taking the Joker’s motivations, which, barring a big reveal in the film itself, seem rooted in nothing less than pure, citywide anarchy. Does he want money? Sure, the IMAX footage proved that. Does he seek revenge? Perhaps. Does he want power, fame and glory? It’s possible — but if so, he wants them all as merely a means to an end. The trailer indicates his true goal is just chaos. There’s a scene in which citizens run wild in the street (one even smashes the Bat Signal with an ax). There’s the way he walks into a crowed fundraiser spraying bullets and then heads immediately toward the assistant district attorney (Dawes). Also, the explosions in the film don’t seem surgical. If anything, they seem designed to inflict the most possible damage.
Along with the Joker, we also get brief glimpses of other characters from the movie — Alfred (Michael Caine), Gordon, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and, new to the cast, Gyllenhaal’s Dawes. (Is it just us, or does she actually look a lot more like Katie Holmes than expected?)
As with most trailers, however, “The Dark Knight” teaser is just as notable for what it leaves out as for what it includes — notably, Harvey “Two Face” Dent (Aaron Eckhart). Not one shot of him is in the trailer.
With two villains on the loose and his city in turmoil, Bruce Wayne asks Alfred in the trailer, “What would you have me do?” “Endure,” his faithful butler answers.
The world only has to endure seven more months of waiting: “The Dark Knight” opens July 18.
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