REVIEW: The Dark Knight [2008]

“Sometimes the truth isn’t good enough”

What do you do when your film is hyped up as the best comic book movie of all-time? What about when your star dies of an accidental drug overdose after completion, attributed by some to prescribed depression medication acquired due to the toll his character took on him? Well, you just have to ride the wave and hope it all turns out good. I mean just those two aspects alone were going to drive people to the theatres on Friday night, the real question was would the word-of-mouth keep them coming afterwards? My answer is a resounding yes. Rarely does a film not only live up to the lofty expectations set before it, but almost never does it exceed them. The Dark Knight is not only a great comic adaptation, but also a great movie from any genre. The acting is amazing, the story is intelligent and always keeping you on your toes, and the direction is a step up from the original installment, Batman Begins. I definitely had my reservations with the plethora of new characters and return of so many old ones, but Christopher Nolan handled it all like a champ. Some were so small that they probably weren’t necessary at all—I’m talking to you Scarecrow—but it never suffered from the sequel curse of too much too soon. Having The Joker and Harvey Dent introduced at the same time was natural and necessary because the two are on opposite sides of the legal spectrum, helping give Batman a look at what life could be in Gotham without him, both for the worst and the best.

The Gotham crime syndicates are afraid of the caped crusader to the point where their employees cower in the shadows at the sight of the Bat-signal and the mob bosses hold their meetings during the day. Worried that their finances are about to be seized by Lt. Gordon’s strike force, (Gary Oldman once more showing his greatness in even the straightforward roles he takes when on hiatus from the crazed villains he is used to playing), they pool it all together and hand over control to an Asian corporation, naively thinking it is safe from Gotham and new DA Harvey Dent’s jurisdiction. Only the demented nihilist The Joker understands that Batman has no bounds when it comes to what he is capable of. A vigilante himself, the superhero can go where he pleases and extract Lau from Hong Kong, the man with every penny owned by the city’s underbelly in his seemingly safe hands. This fact isn’t a question of could happen, but instead one of will happen. It is the first step in The Joker’s elaborate plan to take control of the city and prove to all that even the pure of heart can be and will be corruptible. Human nature is flawed and he wants to show the world just how much. Money is inconsequential; all he wants is the power and control.

While first seen as a fly sticking out of a bee swarm, Batman and Gordon don’t take any real heed of The Joker’s threat. It is the mob they are after and, with the help of Dent, are almost to the point where they can take them down for good. But as Harvey says, it is always darker before the dawn and this crazed maniac is blotting out the sun. Devoid of morals and seriously insane—“do you want to know how I got these scars?”—he takes no prisoners and consistently plays with everyone on his trail. A master of the human psyche, he is always two steps ahead of Batman and Gotham’s finest, pulling the strings on who is to live and who is to die. With the finding of his polar opposite in the form of Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego, The Joker is ready to have fun. Knowing how Batman’s one rule is the inability to kill, he pushes his buttons and places the blame of those he kills onto Wayne’s consciousness. Having a man like Dent there to stand for justice, face accessible to the world and not hidden behind a mask, Wayne’s guilt drives him to the edge of finally letting his identity be known. The Joker is a wild card in the poker match of life, orchestrator of anarchy, turning the world on each other and soon doesn’t even need to actually do any of the killings himself. Those he toys with find themselves falling to the darkness of revenge and greed, doing his bidding without even having to be asked.

No one is safe in this pitch-black world of violence and crime, almost completely shrouded in shadow once the small glint of light that seemed about to break through is snuffed out. Nolan throws conventions out the window with his plotting and willingness to take a chance on letting those we may find to be untouchable become expendable. He also has honed his action skills by giving us a bit more of a wide angle view on fights, letting them happen before our eyes and not be constructed later with quick cuts that don’t meld together. And the special effects, all I can say is bravo. From the new gadgets, (sonar systems and a kickass bat-cycle whose introduction is only upstaged by its ability to flip 90 degrees by riding up a building wall), to the make-up work, (The Joker is unsettling to view without Heath Ledger’s superb acting work), to the computer graphics, (not to ruin anything, but Two-Face is a sight to see), The Dark Knight pulls no punches.

With solid acting all around, Christian Bale and company carry over the success from the first film without fail. He himself is more comfortable in the duality of lifestyles, shining as Bruce Wayne the playboy, while also getting a chance to show some heroics before able to get his suit on, showing how it is the man and not the costume that really is super. However, it is the newcomers that bring the standard for comic book performances up to a level that may never be eclipsed. Aaron Eckhart is great as Dent with his pretty boy looks and affable charm. Unable to be bullied or scared, Eckhart embodies the good that Gotham has in its future and the subtle hinting to the darkness always hiding behind the façade of someone that pure of heart. He himself said it best, “you either die the hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Foreshadowing at its best.

But of course, the true amazement is with Ledger’s Joker. When cast, many had their doubts, yet I remember always standing by the choice, knowing he could hit it out of the park if given the chance. Wow, this is the best villain ever put to screen. His vocal work and laugh are chilling and the facial ticks and licking of the lips just show the detail Ledger put in. The back-and-forths between him and Bale are always intriguing and exciting as the two powerhouses just put on a clinic and how about the introduction to his character at the start robbing the bank, what an entrance. The only part of this film that left me sad was the fact that we won’t be able to see Ledger reprise the role in the next installment. Kudos to Nolan for already saying that they will not recast; it is an honor to the job Heath did and to the audience so as not to pull a switch, ruining the character and movie because no one could ever even attempt to match the craft that went into the role here. A fantastic performance in a fantastic film…whatever you have heard, believe it.

The Dark Knight 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

[1] HEATH LEDGER stars as The Joker in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action drama “The Dark Knight,” distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and also starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Morgan Freeman. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures. TM & © DC Comics.
[2] Batman on his Bat-Pod in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ action drama “The Dark Knight,” distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and starring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Morgan Freeman. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures. TM & © DC Comics.


3 Thoughts to “REVIEW: The Dark Knight [2008]”

  1. […] be experienced firsthand to fully grasp the devastation and hope for the future. Dark Knight, The, review: Could it be the best superhero movie of all time? Yes, it can, if I could truly call it a […]

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