The Dark Knight

Hype is a powerful entity within this world that can either successfully build a film or destroy it. Batman Begins was greeted with skepticism mainly due to disdain left by the Schumacher films which I hold in a very low regard as being among the worst comic book adapted films of their time. Fortunately, Nolan’s darker and more realistic take on the character soared and the overall reception was very well. Batman Begins served as a reboot to the character that reestablished the core of Batman and brought a darker and more sinister breath of fresh air to the film series nearly killed by Schumacher (a second, but well deserved shot at Schumacher).The ending of Begins pointed in the direction of a even darker plot line that left fans eagerly anticipating the next installment. After three very long years of rumors, speculation, and viral marketing; The Dark Knight has finally hit theaters… And the question of the moment; “Did it live up to the hype?” is the one often pondered by those who have yet to see the film.

I dislike answering a question like the one above simply because one sets their own unique expectations based upon their perception. The satisfaction of one individual may not live up to the other based upon their own taste and interests. While I myself certainly tried to suppress my inner fanboy that seemingly became psyched with the release of each piece of marketing and the various trailers that emerged; I could not help but throw the skepticism aside for a much more optimistic viewpoint of the final verdict of the film. And while I’m on the subject of the marketing; I can safely say that The Dark Knight featured the best marketing campaign I have seen to date. 42 Entertainment blew me away with how detailed their viral marketing campaign turned out to be. Clearly, a lot of thought was put into it with all the meticulous details taken directly from the film and transferred into a ongoing marketing game for the fans (such as the “I Believe in Harvey Dent” campaign or “Citizens for Batman”). The viral marketing kept me hooked and intrigued to the very end and I applaud 42 Entertainment for keeping myself and many other individuals entertained and busy until the film’s release.

The story to The Dark Knight roughly begins not too long after the events within Batman Begins. Wayne Manor is still in the process of being restored and Bruce Wayne and Alfred (both roles reprised by Christian Bale and Michael Caine) must make do with a different home and headquarters for Batman. Harvey Dent (played by Aaron Eckhart) has become the new District Attorney and face of Gotham that brings forth hope for a brighter future. Rachel Dawes (played by Maggie Gylenhal, who replaced Katie Holmes) is working together with Dent to bring down the criminals in Gotham and becomes a love interest that further drives character development and the overall complexity. The film’s center focus is upon the repercussions Gotham faces with Batman stepping in and fighting the corruption and greed that has plagued the city. Batman Begins primary focus was on Bruce Wayne and the development of Batman as not just a human being, but a symbol. In contrast, The Dark Knight’s focus steps back off of Bruce Wayne and more onto Harvey Dent and The Joker. I’ll stop there as I’d rather not spoil the film; but you can be rest assured that there is a lot of development and ties between various characters in Gotham that give breathing room while also still focusing on Batman as well.

The Dark Knight is a much darker film than it’s predecessor and certainly holds a  much more sinister tone than any other previous Batman film to date. The carnage is on a high scale and the sheer chaos displayed is even higher. The film takes a bit of time to ramp up near the beginning; but fortunately speeds up past the first quarter and never stops to take a break. The story is the equivalent of watching a well crafted tragedy unfold with the various twists and turns that take place. Some characters live to see another day and others aren’t as fortunate… The story of Harvey Dent is well developed and is very reminiscent of The Killing Joke (written by Alan Moore) in regards to the Joker’s theory of madness. And while some could say Dent’s alter ego (Two Face) is not used nearly as much as he could be; the development of the character is well played  and there’s a very unique sense of balance present in the film between the main and supporting cast. Christian Bale presents a well balanced portrayal of Batman, Bruce Wayne’s public image, and then the true side to him only a couple individuals truly see. Aaron Eckhart plays a spot on rendition of Dent and captures the character’s essence very well. Maggie Gylenhal does a relatively seamless job at picking up the role of Rachel Dawes and replacing Holmes. Gary Oldman returns as James Gordon and displays a improvement in his portrayal that further sold the character (who has a much greater involvement in the plot this time around). And the supporting roles of Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) and Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) provide numerous genuine and clever moments of dialogue that further solidifies one of the great qualities found in Batman Begins (read: the well crafted script).

Though the one role I found to be the most well crafted and truly deserving of stealing the spotlight is the now deceased Heath Ledger as The Joker. Those skeptical about Ledger as The Joker can rest assure that he indeed nailed the role in many aspects… But Ledger did not merely nail the role. He took hold of it and redeveloped it. Ledger made the role his own and brought forth a truly psychotic individual that is likeable just as much as he is despicable. The Joker is a man who holds little regard for money or power. He simply wishes to rattle the cage and watch the chaos ensue. He wishes to send a message and prove a point regarded in his mind. And that message is with a push, madness is just a step away for any individual. The Joker is about the thrill of anarchy and living for the moment. He has no defined origin and there’s multiple stories within his mind made up with the real story never fully being known and it leaves it up to the audience to interpret. The Joker is always one step ahead of the audience and the characters present within Gotham. He’s essentially a force of nature that appears and rips everything apart; then disappears to further ensure another step of the sheer madness of the “plan” laid out within the sick entrails of his twisted mind.

It’s saddening to think Ledger can never reprise his role as The Joker nor ever play another role again due to his untimely and unfortunate departure. Though what I truly find saddening is the notion that he never was able to see the legacy nor impact he left behind. His inclusion sold the film and there’s never been a better rendition of The Joker displayed beforehand. It’s very rare that I find myself looking at a actors performance and truly seeing only the character they portray and nothing else. In a act reminiscent to Malcolm McDowell as Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange, Ledger thrives and really takes on the threshold of his role. Looking up at the screen, I could only see The Joker and nothing more or less. Ledger became engulfed and lost within the role (read: not recognizable in any shape or form). In the end, his last completed performance was truly his best and will ultimately become the most remarkable and recognized worldwide.

With a sequel comes the inclusion of new gadgets for Batman to utilize. The Batsuit’s revision is the most noticeable and I personally found it to be a welcomed addition. The suit is slimmed down and made to be much more flexible in order to give a better sense of realism and speed to Batman. And it stands as the best rendition of the Batsuit in the film series to date. There’s a much better sense of movement that adds a better sense of realism to the fight scenes and lessens the stiff tone found in the previous visions of the suit in the film medium. Another new gadget found is the Batpod, which I will neglect to state how it ends up in the film due to it sort of being a intriguing surprise at a later segment. It’s inclusion is well played and ties into some intriguing chase sequences as well. There are a few other tools displayed that fans will find as entertaining surprises and thus I’ll allow you to see them for yourself rather than spoil them here.

The score for The Dark Knight is phenomenal and plays upon the chaotic theme found throughout. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard have proven once again that their collaborative efforts are not wasted. The spirit of the score found in Batman Begins is indeed carried over for the sequel, though Zimmer and Howard merely used the previous installment as a means of inspiration rather than simply making variations of already present material. Having listened to the soundtrack beforehand, I was very curious just how well the score would fit in with the film. I can now say that it’s inclusion was indeed well thought out and it further raises the bar in terms of immersion. Every scene present is further amplified with the inclusion of the impressive score and it’s currently one of the only things I listen to with great enjoyment, as of lately.

The cinematography in The Dark Knight is stunning to say the least. Nolan has always had a prestige (natch) focus on the camera in his films and it indeed shows. There were numerous moments where I was literally stunned with what was just displayed onscreen and it met with a similar response to the audience around me (applause and exclamations were the main points of response). Batman Begins had impressive action sequences that were rough around the edges in term of how they were cut. Fortunately, the action is choreographed to a greater extent and it does show. Everything runs smoother and has a overall better flow to it that only amplifies the experience. There’s a certain brilliant undercurrent of cleverness to each sequence that stops your mind in it’s track to think back and realize what you just witnessed which does encourage repeated viewings. Nolan and company did utilize IMAX cameras for a select number of shots that looked great on the screen I was viewing it on and I’m sure would look a hundred times better on an actual IMAX screen (unfortunately, I will not be viewing it on a IMAX screen anytime soon). As for the detective elements that stem from the core of the Batman character; they are included more this time around and the film does blend the super hero and crime drama genre of film together in a intriguing manner that further drives the overall experience.

The Dark Knight is the best Batman film to date and very well might be the best super hero film to date, as well. The film improves upon it’s predecessors in numerous aspects and then delivers much more. There’s really nothing I perceived as negative in the film as I enjoyed every minute of it. Though the two main points of criticism found from a few individuals (critics) is the length and the darker tone. And while I can see where the length could frighten a few as it runs longer than it’s predecessor and the average film; I still did not perceive it as a issue that needed to be addressed. It’s rather doubtful you’ll notice the length as the film’s pacing speeds up roughly a few minutes in and hardly ever lets go. The darker tone depends upon taste. I myself enjoyed it and found The Joker’s psychotic behavior and other dark moments to be among the best segments of the film. In regards to whether it’s suitable for a younger audience; that is up to the parents to decide as every child is different in terms of their perception. There’s a greater amount of death, chaos, and violence present. Which is how it should be given The Joker’s inclusion and should not be a point of criticism.

The title of the film may have a few pondering at it’s inclusion and it is indeed included for a very well thought out plot line that further defines the core of Batman and his overall purpose to Gotham. The ending sequence which ties everything together left the crowd applauding. Batman Begins had a fairly straightforward nod to it’s successor’s storyline. In contrast, The Dark Knight leaves the table more wide open for future events. Certain loose ends are tied up and the film does contain a completed feeling to it that leaves the audience much more content than the previous iterations ending. There is still room for more to be said and I look forward to future installments. And now the fanbase to the film series will be launched into the speculation phase; patiently awaiting for a third film to be confirmed and checking for any update or news regarding it. The Dark Knight is a impressive integration of action, depth, and development that truly makes it must see for any movie goer this Summer and years to come.

Pro’s: Top notch acting, well crafted storyline, many twists and turns to keep the audience engaged, much more complex action sequences that are epic on a grander scale, Ledger’s role as The Joker is one of the most remarkable points within the film,

Con’s: Creative wise, there’s a couple issues such as the inclusion of the Rachel character to begin with and raspy voice Bale dons under the Batman persona.

Conclusion: An improvement upon the first iteration that further drives character development, impressive action sequences, top notch acting, and a well crafted script that sets it’s place as the best Batman film to date and quite possibly the best super hero film to date as well.

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2 Responses to “The Dark Knight”

  1. Shadow, this review is excellent and spot-on. Your exploration into the movie is wonderful. I would like to add, about the fighting and the stiffness that for an odd reason, Batman uses the Keysi Fighting Method. Which is a variation of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. But KFM is much more stiff. Although your observations are true, he does seem more fluid. What’s funnier and more amazing, is that in real life, the new Batsuit was actually 8 pounds heavier for Christian Bale than the old Batsuit.

  2. kudos to the makers Dark Knight for their record breaking opening weekend… it’s no wonder there’s talk of another one coming out ASAP

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