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Jul 27, 2008

Film Review: The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is a nearly perfect superhero film. The superhero, Batman, evolves from the last film and comes to personal realizations about himself. The underworld Batman combats becomes more dangerous out of desperation from his crime fighting, spawning an incomprehensible villain and a would-be example of bravery in the face of adversity.

The Dark Knight, like most sequels buttressed by a larger production budget, begins in aggrandized fashion with a lavishly shot (they used IMAX cameras) bank robbery. This is not your ordinary bank robbery however, which should come as no surprise when the mind that created it is revealed. The bank robbed is no ordinary bank either, it’s a mob bank. The bank robbery was orchestrated to bring its architect to the attention of all the mob bosses in Gotham City. That architect is none other than The Joker (Heath Ledger).

Dealing with the bank robbery and its repercussions are Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). Dent has recently won the election to become Gotham City’s new District Attorney with the campaign slogan: I Believe in Harvey Dent. By the mid-point of The Dark Knight, it’s clear that a large portion of Gotham City believes in Harvey Dent, including Bruce Wayne. Wayne longs to be with Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, formerly played by Katie Holmes) and not only sees Dent as Gotham’s legitimate savoir but as a means for him to stop being Batman and require Dawes for himself. As in all good and note-worthy romantic dramas, things don’t go as planned. This is also one of The Dark Knight’s strengths. As The Joker says in the film: “It’s all part of the plan.”

The Joker is the most exciting element of The Dark Knight. The viewer is always waiting for him to do something or say something as only he can. This is the mercurial Joker that has, up to this point, only existed in Batman comic books: a lethal sociopath and master criminal. Who else could do a magic trick with a pencil, making it disappear with such panache and flash? And this Joker is a great story teller as well, always regaling those he gets close to about the tale of how he acquired his facial scars. His oratory technique is very intense, imbuing the listener with trepidation and in specific cases, pain.

Harvey Dent, who initially seems to not have a substantial role in The Dark Knight, turns out to be one of the most important characters in the film. Because of a litigious investigation Dent conducted before the events in The Dark Knight as a member of the Internal Affairs Department, Dent suspects something about Gordon’s unit that turns out to be absolutely true. This lack in judgment on Gordon’s part costs the facund Dent greatly, both emotionally and physically. Eckhart really sells Dent and what he is going through. The audience clearly sees Dent’s point of view unlike The Joker’s and his need for anarchy.

Bruce Wayne, on the opposite end of the spectrum, is showing the physical wear of his nightly occupation as Gotham’s Dark Knight. Most of the adversaries he has faced in the past he knew how to deal with. When The Joker arrives in Gotham, Batman finds himself in a few predicaments. How do you stop someone like The Joker without taking his life? How do you intimidate the criminals of Gotham City when they are more afraid of The Joker and his retribution than yours? The resolutions to these quandaries are more reasons why The Dark Knight stands out from other comic book-based films.

The human element, toyed with and poked at in Spiderman 1 and 2, is brought to bear fully in The Dark Knight. The situation has to do with sacrificing someone else’s life to save yourself and how far you would go to live. It is scripted and acted with sincerity, doesn’t seem artificial but authentic, making the scene all that more powerful and real. It is one of the most finely written scenes in The Dark Knight and most-likely is the cause of the early, positive buzz the film garnered. That and Ledger’s performance, his best to date and sadly his last, much like Brandon Lee’s in The Crow.

I did find that the pace of Batman Begins was better than The Dark Knight’s and that the hand-to-hand combat scenes were more effectively in the latter film as well. In Begins, Batman took down adversaries quickly, stealthy, in The Dark Knight he fights out in the open and the fights have been slowed down. Maybe this was in response to viewers not actually seeing every blow Batman delivered in Batman Begins and voicing their opinions on the fact three years ago.

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is not as great a sequel as Aliens or The Godfather 2 nor is it the best superhero movie sequel since I believe X-Men 2 is a tighter film, with a better score that one-up’s its predecessor in almost every area. The Dark Knight fails do that. What The Dark Knight does do is raise the bar for superhero films, as Iron Man did earlier this summer. The Dark Knight’s greatness lies in the fact that it gives the viewer what they were not expecting. The Dark Knight surprises viewers that have “seen it all before.” Humanity and human life are what most super-heroes strive to preserve at all costs. In The Dark Knight, humanity acts on its own behalf and saves itself.

Rating: 9.5/10

Soundtrack Review for The Dark Knight

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  • Hugo

    To me this was truly a great movie making accomplishment. Nolan just made a flat out great movie, regardless of the fact that A) It’s a comic book film and B) It’s a summer blockbuster, therefore making all the Oscar buzz legitimate in my eyes. DC is back, let’s hope they build on this momentum, get the damn Superman sequel out already.

  • Hugo

    To me this was truly a great movie making accomplishment. Nolan just made a flat out great movie, regardless of the fact that A) It’s a comic book film and B) It’s a summer blockbuster, therefore making all the Oscar buzz legitimate in my eyes. DC is back, let’s hope they build on this momentum, get the damn Superman sequel out already.

  • http://film-book.com/ filmbook

    I agree with the great part but I might take Nolan’s The Prestige over The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight deserves the Oscar buzz it has generated, especially for cinematography and Ledger’s performance. Johnny Depp didn’t win the Oscar for Jake Sparrow and neither did Nicholson for The Joker. I think Ledger will be nominated but I doubt he will win.

    DC needs more marquee characters brought to the screen and well-scripted films. The Director’s Cut of Daredevil is far more entertaining than Superman Returns.

    The Superman Returns sequel needs to be action orientated like The Incredible Hulk.

  • http://film-book.com/ filmbook

    I agree with the great part but I might take Nolan’s The Prestige over The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight deserves the Oscar buzz it has generated, especially for cinematography and Ledger’s performance. Johnny Depp didn’t win the Oscar for Jake Sparrow and neither did Nicholson for The Joker. I think Ledger will be nominated but I doubt he will win.

    DC needs more marquee characters brought to the screen and well-scripted films. The Director’s Cut of Daredevil is far more entertaining than Superman Returns.

    The Superman Returns sequel needs to be action orientated like The Incredible Hulk.

  • Hugo

    I want to see it because I loved SUperman Returns, it had heart and a genuine love for the original film and Singer realizes that the second film needs to have action, he has acknowledged this so I cant wait and hope he gets it going.

  • Hugo

    I want to see it because I loved SUperman Returns, it had heart and a genuine love for the original film and Singer realizes that the second film needs to have action, he has acknowledged this so I cant wait and hope he gets it going.

  • http://www.capzles.com/ Nick Love

    Such a great movie… and like 1000000 times better on an Imax screen for sure!!! I got so wrapped up in the film that I had to make a time line of the making of this movie!! I found so much stuff online and made just one huge linear time line of the movie at capzles.com. Tons of behind the scenes footage/photos and all the viral marketing campaign that they did for it as well, like Clowns against Dent… check it out i’m very positive you won’t be sorry!

  • http://www.capzles.com Nick Love

    Such a great movie… and like 1000000 times better on an Imax screen for sure!!! I got so wrapped up in the film that I had to make a time line of the making of this movie!! I found so much stuff online and made just one huge linear time line of the movie at capzles.com. Tons of behind the scenes footage/photos and all the viral marketing campaign that they did for it as well, like Clowns against Dent… check it out i’m very positive you won’t be sorry!

  • http://film-book.com/ filmbook

    @ Hugo. Yes, Singer did all of those things with Superman Returns but that doesn’t make me automatically like or love the film. The film should stand and be judged on its own merits, not on the homages present within the film.

    @ Mr. Love. I might be seeing this film in IMAX this week.

  • http://film-book.com/ filmbook

    @ Hugo. Yes, Singer did all of those things with Superman Returns but that doesn’t make me automatically like or love the film. The film should stand and be judged on its own merits, not on the homages present within the film.

    @ Mr. Love. I might be seeing this film in IMAX this week.