The Dark Knight (2008) Review

Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice hits Cinemas March 25th 2016 as the collective nerd word waits with baited breath as two of the most iconic hero’s of all time go one on one.

So what better way to look forward to the future than to have a glance back at the highs and lows (So many low’s) of the icons that changed the genre forever!

Doing exactly what a sequel should do, “The Dark Knight” takes the already superbly crafted world created in 2005’s “Batman Begins” and corrects its flaws while expanding on both its potential and premise. The result is a decidedly darker, richer, more ambitious and more mature follow-up.

Great comic book films of late like Iron Man and Spider-Man 2 may be more polished and crowd-pleasing, yet Batman Begins remains the most intriguing and influential effort of the superhero film genre to date.The flaws are there even if they are very minor, most seemingly driven by commercial needs, but they are enough to not so much diffuse but  water down the edge off the enjoyment for a decent sized portion of the audience.

The Dark Knight has no such problems at all. Right from the start the film establishes itself as a sprawling epic, gritty crime saga the likes of which Michael Mann or Martin Scorsese would be proud to call their own and keeps things consistently at that high level despite numerous dark twists and turns. Even without graphic on-screen blood-letting and a PG-13 rating, the film manages to portray menace and tension with far more power and effectiveness than many an R-rated horror film.

Chris and Jonah Nolan’s remarkable screenplay both credibly and cleverly explores the power plays, moral ambiguities and inherent complexities of a city torn apart by fractured authority figures both righteous and criminal. Many will find a surprisingly deep statement

Performances are stellar all round, most notably Heath Ledger’s definitive take on The Joker. The late Aussie actor utterly disappears into the role which smartly portrays the character as a sadistic and dangerously unpredictable wild card, a one man terrorist not driven by greed, power or ideology but his own psychotic gratification.

The Joker easily dominates all the scenes he’s in and Ledger so perfectly nails this dark creation that you can quickly forgive the fact that such an impulsive villain has managed to pull off such a highly organized and well orchestrated plan.

Less showy but equally important is Christian Bale and Aaron Eckhart’s work. Bale is the calm in the storm here – his quiet but gravitating presence not only grounds the film, but his discussions with the likes of Alfred and Lucius Fox are its heart. With Bruce Wayne firmly settled into his job as Batman, ‘Knight’ explores the fascinating issues related to such a character including misguided hero worship, self-doubt and the tenuous line between protecting people and violating their individual freedoms.

Eckhart as Harvey Dent slickly pulls off that character’s trickier aspects such as his ego-driven showboating, effective political machinations, a genuine desire to change things for the better, and the ultimate abandonment of his own beliefs. Whilst the Two-Face make-up/FX job is remarkably done, the darker character itself is played too much like a thug and never utilizes the inherent sadness that comes with such a tragic figure.

The trio of Oscar winning supporting cast from the last film are back with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and in particular Gary Oldman all delivering restrained and grounded work that adds emotional heft, humor and pathos exactly where needed. Maggie Gyllenhaal tries her best and easily improves on Holmes’ work, but the role remains notably underwritten and the love triangle angle is easily the film’s weakest aspect (and is thankfully given very little screen time). Smaller roles from Eric Roberts as a cocky mob boss to Tiny Lister Jr. as a disgruntled prisoner are played perfectly – there’s no repetitive “we’re right on top of the main hub and it’s gonna blow” cringe-inducing style lines this time. The only disappointment is Cillian Murphy’s all too short cameo returning as the now pitiable Scarecrow in an early scene.

The visual effects are done exactly how they should be – action is all seemingly shot for real and to scale as much as possible, with green screen limited to the most minimal levels. CG appears to be restrained to background extensions, wire removals, and the foreground only when necessary and even then operates with proper weight and physicality. Only one scene towards the end involving sonar-textured visual tracking of Gotham and specifically its use in a construction site gets a little too daring – over reaching the otherwise authentic and well-explained nature of the gadgetry.

The ‘Knight’ flaw that will be most complained about is the runtime. At around 2.5 hours and with its serious subject matter, it is a long film and unfortunately feels it despite the superb pacing and tight narrative. It’s a testament to the richness of the film that there is practically no extraneous elements here, every scene is crucial to the plot and characters making it very difficult to see where it can be trimmed without lessening the film in some way.

Those looking for the kid-safe thrills of the Marvel films need to look elsewhere, ‘Knight’ takes the more serious minded tone of the early scenes of “Batman Begins” and runs with it into dark and complex territory rarely seen these days in cinema let alone in Summer blockbusters. It demands intelligence, maturity and attention, but as a reward delivers a film that will justifably sit high on many Top Ten lists at the end of the year. Certainly as major studio releases go it rarely gets better in quality than this.

This film is second to none and perharps has set the bar impossibly high for the likes of Dawn of Jusitce and Sucide squad and whilst i have no doubts those tow films will bring thier A game, it sjust hard to imagine they will ever surpass the classic Dark knight

so out of a possible five stars the Dark Knight earns:


Perhaps the only “Perfect” superhero film ever created.

What did you think of the Dark Knight?

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