The Dark Knight Review
Christopher Nolan re-introduces the most iconic comic book villain in history, with The Dark Knight.
Genre: Action / Crime / Drama / Thriller
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Eric Roberts.
Run Time: 152 min.
US Release: 18 July 2008
UK Release: 24 July 2008
German Release: 21 August 2008
My string of Batman and Superman reviews continues, leading up to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice this March. I released my previous review for Batman Begins around two weeks ago; if you are interested in reading it, click here. This analysis will focus on Nolan’s second Bats movie The Dark Knight, which was released in 2008 in cinemas around the world. This film took everybody by surprise, with stellar performances and beautiful cinematography, but more on that later.
I’ll be honest, when it was announced that Heath Ledger obtained the role for the Joker, my first reaction was “What? The guy from A Knight’s Tale, seriously?” But when I saw him on screen, with the makeup, telling grotesque jokes and the incredibly dark and psychotic performance he gave, I was sold. I went with a friend to see this movie and he is no fan of comic book adaptations, but when we left the theatre he was speechless. On our way back home he looked at me and muttered “I can’t believe this is from a comic, it was so grounded and so good.”
— WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! —
The plot was inspired by the 1940s first appearance of the Joker, the 1996 series “The Long Halloween” and part of “Batman: The Killing Joke” as inspiration for the Joker. The Dark Knight begins with the introduction of the Joker (Ledger) who, together with some criminals he paid, robs a mob bank in Gotham. After the robbery, Batman (Bale) meets with Gordon (Oldman) but dismissed the Joker as just a minor criminal, believing that it is the mob they should really concentrate on. While mean, new district attorney Harvey Dent (Eckhart) pushes Gordon for a meeting with the Batman and is also dating Wayne’s love interest Rachel (Gyllenhaal).
The Joker starts taking over the mob pretty fast and Wayne soon realises that he made a mistake by not paying much attention to the Joker, who bribed corrupt cops to kidnap Dent and Rachel and sets up a sickeningly for the Batman, in hopes to make him drop his one rule about killing. Rachel dies and an explosion scars Dent’s left side of the face. The Joker manages to twist Dent, who goes know by the name of Two-Face, and turns him into a villain, while kidnapping two fairies leaving Gotham City; one with citizens and the other with jailed inmates.
One of the best decisions made by director Christopher Nolan was the fact that he saved Batman’s arch-nemesis for a later film. Batman Begins was just a fantastic build-up for what we were to expect and what we obtained was an explosion of epic proportion. The Dark Knight is not so much a Batman movie as it is a psychological portrayal of his enemy the Joker. The Nolan brothers kept on expanding their realistic Batman universe and by doing that washed away the lines of good and evil, giving us a world where moral and ethical dilemmas exist.
One of the aspects that really surprised me was how funny this film was. The dialogues are brilliant and have quite some humour in them, even when the tone changes and the story turns dark the humour is set to fit the atmosphere without distracting from the plot. I was also astonished at how spooky this movie could get and there was an actual jump scare from a scene that literally made me fall off my seat the first time I saw it in a theatres.
All of the actors in this blockbuster gave terrific performances, but Heath Ledger as the Joker overshadowed them all. Ledger managed to get into the Joker’s head and manifested the psychotic personality of this classic villain in his on-screen portrayal. He understood that the Joker did not seek revenge or money even though he is a deeply wounded character, all he wants is to cause chaos for chaos sakes. Ledger drew inspiration from the classic 1920’s film The Man Who Laughs and the comic book series “Batman: The Killing Joke”.
Christian Bale & Michael Caine both gave great performances as they did in the movie before. Bale fully comprehends the complexity of Bruce Wayne’s character and I found it very respectable of Nolan to include scenes where Batman uses detective like methods to identify villains and operational procedures, as the character used to be originally a detective rather than a superhero. Cain was as always loveable as Alfred; he is like a father to Bruce and understands him better than anyone else.
Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman had just minor roles in this action-thriller, but where nonetheless vital to this film. Freeman had great chemistry with Bale and I can’t picture anyone else but Oldman as Commissioner James Gordon. Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, a fantastic casting choice since they share some facial resemblance and Aaron Eckhart gave the best performance in his career.
Just like in Batman Begins, the cinematography in The Dark Knight is impeccable and Nolan used a variety of formats to film this adaptation. Major action sequences, including the opening act, were filmed in IMAX format which made for a more impactful experience due to the higher resolution, while the rest of the films was shot on standard 35 mm. The use of dark colours helps to convey the grittier mood of this movie and the special effects used, such as Two-Face’s burned half, looked incredibly realistic.
Hans Zimmer scored the music for this blockbuster, just like he did for the previous Batman motion picture. Low-pitched string instruments are used to build up suspense and when a sequence of interest is about to begin, the music quickly rises to build more tension. The complete soundtrack builds upon the fantastic-looking imagery.
Verdict: The Dark Knight is not simply a comic book adaptation; it is way more than that. Christopher Nolan took the characters of Bruce Wayne/Batman and the Joker and gave them a real and grounded environment. The cast is phenomenal and the characters are fleshed out incredibly well. This is one of my favourite films, belonging to one of my favourite trilogies and I will therefore give this movie a 10 out of 10! I will post my review for The Dark Knight Rises by the end of February, so if you are interested keep an eye out for it.
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