By Will Barber – Taylor
Batman is 75 years old this year. To celebrate I shall be posting a Bat Cave full of reviews and articles dedicated to The Dark Knight. The eighth in the series is a review of Christopher Nolan’s 2008 sequel to Batman Begins – The Dark Knight. The film not only redefined comic book movies but also changed the way we look at the characters that inhabit these comics.
“The night is darkest just before the dawn, but I promise you the dawn is coming.”
Batman raises the stakes in his war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to dismantle the remaining criminal organizations that plague the city streets. The partnership proves to be effective, but they soon find themselves prey to a reign of chaos unleashed by a rising criminal mastermind known to the terrified citizens of Gotham as The Joker.
While Batman Begins sets down the groundwork for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, The Dark Knight is the pièce de résistance of the whole trilogy. It not only manages to encapsulate Batman on film in a way never before seen, it also redefined the whole superhero genre in a way that has yet to be surpassed since. Nolan manages to create a film that feels in touch with the real world but also feels true to the comics. This is a fine line which The Dark Knight treads better than any other superhero inspired movie. It anchors you down to the reality of the world you are seeing and also the people who inhabit that world. You believe that Batman is a real person and you also believe The Joker and everyone else who inhabits the world is real.
The plot is wonderfully done and manages to make all three acts as exciting as each other. The mixture between the plot and the acting keeps the audience hooked throughout the entire film. It is this mixture that is part of the film’s success because everything slots together so neatly and effectively that it almost compels you to watch it. The progression of cause and effect is also done brilliantly; you see why everything happens, how it happens and what effect it will have on the rest of the film. This is a particular stand out feature seeing as a lot of recent superhero movies (The Avengers, Iron Man and X Men: Days of Future Past being exceptions) seem to have forgotten how to write decent plots and become too entangled in either creating great twists or becoming so full of their own self-importance they lose what makes the films good – their individual plots.
The late Heath Ledger gives a fantastic turn as The Joker. Everything that can be possibly said about Ledger’s performance has been said. He is Machiavellian, psychotic and totally brilliant. Ledger gives a tour de force in his performance as The Joker. He inhabits the role like no other and makes you believe that he is an insane man who wants to spread disorder and mayhem throughout Gotham. Not only is Ledger convincing he is also genuinely frightening as well, unlike the previous Joker, Jack Nicholson. Ledger has a presence like no one else in the movie and dominates the screen when he appears. He gives a believable performance and one that will be remembered for a very long time.
Christian Bale is once again on top form as Batman. While Ledger is often referenced as being the heart of the film, the heart is in fact Bale’s performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman. He is at times side-lined throughout the film but he still gives a top notch performance. His Wayne feels less vulnerable than Keaton’s version of the character but he also feels human in a way. This could be seen as a disadvantage to the film but you have to remember Wayne is spending almost every night transforming himself into a creature of the night, a vampiric figure, an inhuman dealer out of justice. The fact the film shows the mental and physical consequences of Wayne’s mission to go out and avenge his parents should be applauded. It doesn’t shirk this issue but addresses it in a masterful and subtle way by making Wayne seems less vulnerable and less human than he did in the last film.
The Dark Knight is not only a stand out comic book film but it is also a stand out film. It presents a great three act plot, fantastic acting, a deep psychological look at our main character and a great deal of thrilling action. The Dark Knight demonstrated that comic book movies could be taken seriously and it also showed that a good film is a good film no matter what genre or “age range” it is put into.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES