The Dark Knight easily establishes itself as the greatest movie of 2008 thus far. Considering the unfathomable hype surrounding the production one would think that the set expectations would be absolutely impossible to fulfil. After all, director Christopher Nolan had some serious shoes to fill with the quality of the preceding Batman adventures taken into consideration. Personally, Tim Burton's 1989 masterpiece Batman is a film I cherish very dearly. Through my eyes Burton's original film was the best Batman movie of all time and it's too perfect to be surpassed. However, Nolan has achieved an unprecedented feat with The Dark Knight. This is a phenomenal movie...an artistic accomplishment that exceeds standards set by its hype and trailers. Everything has been executed with filmmaking of the highest regard: from the sheer scale, the dark atmosphere, the acting, the music, the action, the concept, the production design, the script...there are essentially no faults to be pointed out. The special effects, as well, are absolutely mindblowing.
The Dark Knight is a wholly gratifying, realistic, down-to-earth comic book movie. Just like Batman Begins, the film feels far more potent and gritty. Gone is the over-the-top, colourful visuals that once plagued the frame in Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever and the disastrous Batman & Robin. Do not mistake this for a Batman flick aimed squarely at the kids. This is the darkest Batman escapade so far. This can be looked upon as a fault as it alienates its target audience, but some children may enjoy the stylish visuals. The Batman outfit is more eye-catching than ever! The film is deep, satisfying, gripping and enthralling - and at the same the film is immensely entertaining, and permeated with fascinating undertones that effectively contrast good and evil in a way that isn't even slightly exaggerated. Every shot is enriched with realism and infused with visual intrigue. Superhero films have never reached this quality ever before!
Bruce Wayne (Bale) spends his nights masquerading as the Dark Knight as he raises the stakes in his war on crime. Bruce aims to dismantle the remaining criminal organisations that still plague the streets. As Batman he aims to inspire a sense of good in a city dominated by evil and malevolence. Bruce now exists in a life of complete desolation, anguish and seclusion, which is fuelled by his passionate abhorrence for crime and his dedication to its abolition. Batman, already partnered with Lt. James Gordon (Oldman), unites with new District Attourney Harvey Dent (Eckhart) in his perseverance for the strengthening of justice on the streets of Gotham City. Amongst the already overwhelming organised crime numbers, a new prominent figure emerges in the form of The Joker (Ledger) who elaborately schemes to unmask the Dark Knight whose identity is always concealed. As days pass by, The Joker creates a new wave of chaos unlike anything Gotham City has previously experienced. Beneath that menacing grin of scars and heavy make-up, the perplexing figure unleashes a heinous agenda. What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse as The Joker hunts Batman and vica versa.
The foremost thing that will remain unforgettable about the film is the cast. Christian Bale surpasses his previous performance in Batman Begins. Batman is a far deeper and more developed character in this film, and his loyalty to preserving peace is significantly more palpable. Bale's character of Bruce Wayne has a flawed personality that Bale pulls off with extraordinary skill. His perception of justice and the methods of its execution eventually cause a shift both personally and mentally. As he drifts further away from the people that love him the most, his choice to become a superhero transforms into an unnatural obsession. It's easy to sympathise with Bale's faultless embodiment of the character. But this is not Bale's show...this is Heath Ledger's time to shine. I was among the many millions of people mourning his tragic death in February 2008. Even more tragic is that his portrayal here would have guaranteed him a place on the A-list. Michael Caine even spoke excitedly regarding Ledger's performance as The Joker. Caine, a veteran actor, forgot his lines due to the level of intimidation instilled by Ledger's character rendering. This is wholly understandable: Heath Ledger's portrayal as The Joker is electrifying and terrifying! We have never seen this actor reach this standard before. If the actor was still alive, acting offers would have gone through the roof! Ledger masters the creepy, psychotic side to the character. It would be unfair to compare him to Jack Nicholson's performance from almost two decades prior. Where Nicholson was frequently reeling out gags and making us laugh, Ledger is occasionally very funny but at the same time psychotic and sinister. Ledger's posture and facial expressions (hidden behind that intimidating make-up) are enough to make you laugh. His hand gestures and dialogue are the icing on the cake. I agree with the hype: Ledger deserves a posthumous Oscar nomination at the very least. Deciding the man of choice to portray The Joker...I call it dead equal between Nicholson and Ledger.
Thankfully, Katie Holmes stepped away from the role of Rachel Dawes. Maggie Gyllenhaal takes the role with style and a subtle screen charm. Maggie is beautiful and dashing, presenting the audience with some amazing acting skills. Aaron Eckhart undertakes the duel roles of DA Harvey Dent and Two-Face. It goes without saying that Tommy Lee Jones' past portrayal is left far behind. He was too much like a comic...whereas Eckhart is more realistic and looks far more credible. He's downright terrifying with a half-scarred face. Michael Caine once again displays his talents for tackling the role of Alfred the butler. Caine has always had a charming screen presence, and on top of this his voice is soothing and poignant. Gary Oldman is a far younger depiction of James Gordon who's more commonly known as Commissioner Gordon to the Batman fanatics. All those characters previously stranded in a world resembling a comic book have now been brought to the screen with a truly amazing host of actors. Look out for a brief appearance by actor William Fichter. Blink and you'll miss him!
The creative team involved in The Dark Knight ensure that their efforts match all expectations. Thankfully, Nolan's previous creative choice to use quick cuts and shaky cam isn't as distracting here. Instead the action is far more involving and stimulating as the film moves at an invigorating pace. Interestingly, the filmmakers have also employed a shock value. There are abusive beatings, intense action scenes (more so than its predecessor) and some frightening images. The moody visuals are mainly attributed to the cinematography. The city of Gotham feels like a character in the piece with the visuals that encompass the intricate locations within the complex metropolis. Although the city isn't as visually stimulating as Burton's neo-gothic vision that was brought to life in the late 80s, I must give credit to the production crew for topping the cheesy interpretation presented in later films. It may still seem like just another American city, but this time every facet is far more involving.
The music conforms to the standard set by Batman Begins. The joint musical skill of Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard produces fantastic results. Every piece of music is ear-shattering, and is complimented by the equally loud sound effects. Each gun shot, each punch, each piece of dialogue will have you riveted. When the action comes booming onto the screen, you'll be giddy with delight. The sheer scale of The Dark Knight is a marvel to behold. This isn't just a superhero movie...it completely rises above the superhero genre. The filmmakers cited Heat as a key influence on their filmmaking. This film is simply a dark, bleak, realistic multi-layered crime tale. The film is long but not overlong. It certainly feels like one heck of a lengthy movie and it will frustrate you due to the length. However, it's impossible to remove a thing. The screenplay is so well written and its execution is so stylish that you'll be riveted the entire time. It's a saga of crime set in a superhero setting.
Overall, I don't think anyone imagined The Dark Knight to be this good. The whole film is lacking clichés, instead presenting the audience with something unpredictable. This film is on par with Burton's original Batman film. It's impossible to choose a winner, although that is subject to debate. However, I think Two-Face was a bit underused and his participation is a wasted opportunity. Bottom line: The Dark Knight is an awesome movie with more tragedy and a less sentimental approach to characters.
"Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I'm an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It's fair."