Newest Review: ... that Bruce has become Batman's alter-ego, not the other way around. Although Falcone from BB is locked up, other mob bosses (who owned... more
Nolan's Batman Trilogy - II. Fall
The Dark Knight (2 DVDs)
Member Name: caseybrady1992
The Dark Knight (2 DVDs)
Date: 03/09/12, updated on 12/09/12 (38 review reads)
Advantages: Too many to list; epic and fantastic
Disadvantages: Nothing major
This is one depiction of the success and popularity of Nolan's Batman Trilogy, and in particular, "The Dark Knight". In hindsight, it's very different to its two neighbours which are very much connected, and while it remains important to Nolan's Batman story, is the least significant in that respect. It works as a standalone film excellently, although I do recommend you watch "Batman Begins" beforehand. It is far more important to have seen "Batman Begins" before "The Dark Knight Rises", though. Once again, David S. Goyer and Nolan's story has immense depth and morality that shines through the sheer entertainment "The Dark Knight" offers brilliantly. With Heath Ledger's superb performance as The Joker doing the film wonders too, it's not hard to see why the film has been received so well. I watched it for the fourth or fifth time the other day, and I found myself more blown away by Nolan's work than on previous viewings. "The Dark Knight" will stand the test of time and will remain one of the most liked and respected films in the history of cinema.
-== The Dark Knight ==-
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman
Runtime: 152 minutes
[Again, please note that while I'll try my best to avoid spoilers when plot-describing, certain details about the previous instalment will be revealed]
One way in which "The Dark Knight" (from here on in referred to as 'TDK', and "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight Rises": 'BB' and 'TDKR' respectively) differs from BB and TDKR is the speed in which the film picks up the action. There's no messing around. Batman has established himself, The Joker, as mentioned at the end of the previous film, is already running amok, and by various lines in the opening fifteen minutes, you get the impression that there has only been a gap of a few months since the end of BB. TDK opens with an engrossingly unique bank robbery sequence orchestrated by The Joker (Heath Ledger) that displays his aptitude and apathy. Meanwhile, recently elected district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and his girlfriend, Bruce's once-girlfriend-ish Rachel Dawes (now played by Maggie Gyllenhaal as Holmes' turned down the opportunity to reprise the role - crazy woman) are planning on dealing with the significantly-less-due-to-Batman but still predominant crime in Gotham City. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is struck by Dent's idealistic approach, and rather than viewing it as naive and unrealistic, he begins to believe that this is what Gotham "needs" - "a hero with a face", as opposed to Batman. Does he truly believe this, or is his love for Rachel overriding. At the end of Batman Begins, she told him that while Batman is around, they can't be together. In a sense, she believes that Bruce has become Batman's alter-ego, not the other way around.
Although Falcone from BB is locked up, other mob bosses (who owned the bank and further the money which The Joker stole in the opening sequence) are still prominent in Gotham. Lau, a Chinese accountant, has fled to Hong Kong with the rest of their money, and informs of this in a meeting. Enter The Joker, who states to them that their main obstacle is "The Batman". He makes a proposal: that he will deliver Batman's corpse to them for "half" their money, which they find quite amusing and refuse. As the film progresses, however, The Joker's power rises, emitting turmoil over Gotham through sadistic crimes and mind games, as he threatens the city and everything Dent stands for.
There is a triangle. Batman - the caped crusader, has been cleaning up the streets of Gotham for many months now, and has done so quite successfully - the Dark Knight. Harvey Dent - the idealistic attorney, providing hope and stability to Gotham - the White Knight. And The Joker - the merciless anarchist - the agent of chaos. This triangle provides the foundation to the film, and allows themes to be explored. As mentioned in my last review for BB, terrorism is a main theme across the board, and each of Nolan's Batman films are representation of the terrorised post 9/11 in which we live in. The Joker is a terrorist unlike terrorism seen in the other two movies. Ra's al Ghul of BB was using a toxin as wide-spread killer across Gotham City, while Bane of TDKR revisits Ra's al Ghul's quest to destroy Gotham on never-before-seen heights, displaying utter carnage and disarray. The Joker is calculated, psychotic and specific. He tells Gotham that he will kill a person each day until the Batman reveals his true identity - and he is true to his word, killing innocents, judges, and even attempts to murder the mayor of Gotham. He is a destroyer, both physically and emotionally. He describes himself as a "dog chasing cars", in that he ever caught up with one, he wouldn't know what to do with it. He apparently doesn't have a plan, but rather acts on brutal impulse. He never threatens the character of Batman quite like Bane, but his effect on the city and the actions he carries out are monumental. The character of The Joker is layered, and Heath Ledger's take on the villain is absolutely fantastic, and well deserved of the posthumous Oscar he received for Best Supporting Actor. While he conveys the completely craziness of The Joker well, the chip on his shoulder and paranoia is depicted so effectively. He is one with a troubled past, stemming from parental abuse, evoking a strange, deep-rooted and ever-so-minimal trace of sympathy; The Joker's self-contained response to somebody calling him 'crazy' is powerful. While sympathy is evoked, there is also shock, horror and fear present - Ledger did a wonderful job, and while quite a sinister role, it's an incredible representation of the actor's supreme and diverse talents, and he will be sadly missed.
It could be said that Ledger and The Joker steal the show, but Nolan has tonnes more to offer with The Dark Knight. The theme of idealism vs. terrorism speaks universally, and is executed superbly in TDK. To use an iconic character such as The Batman is a great ploy, but rather risky considering he has always been perceived as a comic character, in both senses of the word. Nolan instils darkness and seriousness like no other, and the story speaks volumes. The Joker is like a wrecking ball over a Gotham on the rise; both Dent and the Batman are threatened. It becomes quite an emotional story as people die and characters fall. The acts of utter terrorism are frightening and oftentimes reminiscent, and the effect that is made throughout the whole film is powerful and distressing. Aaron Eckhart plays the role of Harvey Dent very well, while Christian Bale's role of agent under fire is portrayed excellently.
Christopher Nolan has a rather individual and specific style in directing. Colour is one thing; if BB was brown, TDK is blue. Scenes are finished off with a cool blue hue, and it creates unison across the movie, and gives the film its own identity. Meanwhile, for the majority of the scenes, you constantly feel like you're about to move on to the next one, which is helped somewhat by Zimmer and Newton Howard's score, which I will return to. The film almost feels like a complete montage, which does somewhat subconsciously reduce the 152 minute runtime - it never gets boring or 'slow' (I hate using 'slow'). The quiet moments are helped by high levels of tension, or emotion, or comedy, the latter again being helped along the way by Michael Caine's Alfred and Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox. And the action sequences are spot on. The bank robbery at the beginning, the street chase when Dent is being escorted, the Hong Kong heist and the final hunt for The Joker - every element is on an epic scale. I felt by the end of it that the film was just perfect. Of course no film can be completely perfect, but TDK gets pretty close. It provides elements of every genre fantastically, but is completely and equally entertaining and emotional. Nolan executes the balance inspirationally, and come the final line ("a dark knight") and the punch of the title 'The Dark Knight' before the end credits, you feel like you've experienced something very special - a unitary masterclass in filmmaking; and that's exactly what it is! But like I say, no film is perfect, and some people have had quite a few niggles about TDK...
There are two very material elements that people dislike TDK for, both of which are just silly. Firstly, some people view Christian Bale's voice for Batman as overly husk. Well, if he went round speaking in his own voice, they'd all soon clock on that he's Bruce Wayne now, wouldn't they? At the end of the day, he's a normal person like you and I, and he knows that he needs to use an alternate voice to hide his true identity - plus he wants to inflict fear. You'd try and make your voice scary; Bale's voice for the Batman is honest, and very appropriate. Secondly, the length of screen time for the villain Two-Face. Yes, he isn't in it for long, but there is good reason. One of the most admirable elements of Nolan's Batman trilogy is both Nolan and Goyer's efforts in creating a story that brings a renowned superhero to a realistic and modern level. Their stories for the three films, particularly TDK, are fantastic in the sense that every detail is relevant. They haven't brought a certain character in for the sake of it, and the inclusion of Two-Face is incredibly relevant to the story. Yes, they could have stuck an extra half an hour onto the run time and have him go around killing people, but there's no need. His short-lived presence is extremely effective regardless. As mentioned in the BB review, this idea that the trilogy "isn't perfect" or "has loads of mistakes" is another ridiculous view. I have a mental spectrum for these films, on the action and comedy front, anyhow: Bond or Bourne? In other words, fun, round-around-the-edges and slightly comic action, or hard-hitting, serious action. The Dark Knight along with the other two films take influence from both; Nolan is a big fan of the James Bond films, so while his leaning towards a highly serious and dark story with some highly serious and dark elements is predominant, this is a blockbuster and he adds some very fun elements too, such as Lucius Fox's Applied-sciences department (which is ultimately Q-Branch), the gadgets and vehicles, and the humour, particularly between Bruce and Alfred and Lucius. Take "Goldfinger", for example. People remember that as a great film, but I'm sure somebody could go and pick numerous mistakes out of that. But what's the point? It's enjoyable and does everything it sets out to do! TDK blends so many elements, and undertakes such a serious subject that, really, it needs these 'Bond' elements to give us a little bit of a break and, ultimately, appeal to the masses.
Finally, sound and music. The former received the film's only other Oscar: Best Achievement in Sound Editing for Richard King, while the latter didn't receive anything from the Academy. The score for TDK, composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, is one of the most marmite soundtracks of modern cinema. I personally love it (see my review 'Gotham FM'), but I know that others certainly do not. Their style is perfect for Nolan's. His films make room for a lot of music, and Zimmer and Newton Howard carry this film fantastically from scene to scene. Zimmer's Joker idea is innovative and psychotic, using razor blades on electric guitars and cellos and what not, while Newton Howard's brass-laden Dent themes are wonderful. The score, regardless of how you feel about it, is one of the most defining scores for the 21st century, and is certainly one of the most imitated. The chugging strings, the deep swells and so on. The 2008 score came about during Zimmer's second and arguably higher peak since his late 80s-early 90s work (which includes "Rain Man" and "The Lion King"). This peak has lasted all decade, with "Gladiator" in 2000 right up until "Inception" in 2010, although it's starting to wane a bit now. With veteran James Newton Howard accompanying him, the two composers created a very cool score that has inspired thousands, including myself, and provided a perfect accompaniment to Nolan's work. Nolan states in the OST CD sleeve note that one of the main reasons he returned to the Batman world after BB was because of the music.
-== Final Word ==-
I'm not ashamed to say that The Dark Knight is one of my favourite films. It's popular for a reason, but is shunned by some simply because it is such a god damn popular blockbuster. Nolan's vision is world-class, and he is up there as one of the greatest directors ever. He brings out the best in everyone and everything with TDK - the acting is superb, the story is spot on and the atmosphere of the film is one that stays with you. It's a cinematic experience that everyone should enjoy at some point and I strongly recommend that you purchase a copy of this modern classic. In our world, fear and anarchy is omnipresent, whether it's under or above the surface. The symbols of the three corners of the triangle: the Dark Knight, the White Knight and the terrorist are representative of forces in our modern world, and the theme of idealism and hope that underlies The Dark Knight is inspiring and touching.
Some men want to watch the world burn; I just want you to go watch this bloody movie. Though you probably have already. In that case, go watch it again!
Summary: The second instalment in Nolan's Batman trilogy but an outstanding film in its own right