Christian Bale returns as the Caped Crusader, aiming to clean up Gotham City. Batman is joined by a new ally, the new District Attorney, Harvey Dent. Together with Commissioner Gordon, the three take a stand against the mob that controls Gotham's underbelly. Unfortunately for everyone, the mysterious Joker appears to introduce anarchy into the works, threatening to bring the city to its knees.
Being that Batman has always been a big fave of mine (Superman is a dick, and Spider-Man too cocky), I devoured BATMAN BEGINS and loved every morsel when it hit (it beat having to swallow the crap that Schumacher tried to pass off as a film the last time Bats was on the big screen). When THE DARK KNIGHT hit theatres, I was lucky enough to see it in IMAX with a couple of friends. I was floored then, and still am.
Nolan crafted a wonderful atmosphere in Gotham City the first go-round, and continued with TDK. While certainly not as grungy feeling this time round (obviously because Batman was kicking ass), there's still that underlying notion of something lurking in the shadows once the lights go out. Of course, it also helps when you pull off cinematography like the opening sequence (thanks IMAX!) and the piece in Hong Kong. Breathtaking and immersive (and the various chase sequences aren't that bad, either!).
One of the main strengths of the film is the storytelling, which Nolan and company crafted superbly, despite at first glance the apparent complexity of the plot. There's a lot going on in the film, and it's quite a feat that it all managed to be contained and explored in the film's 152 minute runtime, as well as maintaining the viewer's attention the whole time. Helping that out is (of course) Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker (more on him in a bit), along with everyone else (Eckhart is great as a fallen hero, and Bale continues his Batman streak from BATMAN BEGINS).
For all you fanboys who pounced on the viral marketing of the film and Ledger's performance, I agree that it was a great performance, and definitely worthy of some awards (key word is 'some'). But does Ledger stand out from the rest? At first, yes. It's not every day you get an anarchistic, antisocial personality wrapped up in a psychopathic genius like this. Ledger's Joker is both entertaining and scary, satisfying the need for a strong villain, while at the same time giving viewers a personality that in the back of your mind you want to succeed, if only to see more of him.
But when you boil it down, Ledger's performance is one of many strong performances in the film. Eckhart's portrayal of Dent, his rise to glory, his obsession for justice and its ultimate corruption by his rebirth as Two-Face, is unfairly overlooked. Bale didn't have to go all out in this film like in the first to reinvent Batman, so his spotlight is moved back a bit to make room for others. Oldman continues his portrayal of Gordon superbly, and it was great to have the character developed further.
There's really not much more I can say about the film, since the majority of you will have already convinced others of how great the film is. Others will be angry that I didn't talk enough of Ledger, and still others wondering why I haven't touched on the various internet memes resulting from the film. But really, do I need to? Like I said, you've probably taken that job unto yourselves. As for the rest of you, know this: the film rocks, you should see it, end of story.
Video: Being that it's Blu-Ray, this is a no-brainer. With the beginning of the film shot in IMAX, the shift between the initial 2.4:1 ratio and the rest of the film's 1.78:1 isn't jarring in the slightest. In fact, you don't notice it much. The detail remains consistent throughout the film, blacks are solid, and really, this transfer is the reason I wanted the Blu-Ray version over the regular DVD set.
Audio: Like the visuals, the audio is something to behold. Hans Zimmer's masterful score (I love the 'razor blade on the string' effect) comes through wonderfully. The TrueHD 5.1 track, despite the underuse of the rear speakers, is truly immersive and rumbles with the low-end registers, perfect for the explosions and action sequences in the film. The rest of the tracks (DD 5.1 English, French, and Spanish, DD 2.0 English) are nothing to sneeze at, either.
Now, despite all this praise, this is one area which I felt was lacking, despite there being some really excellent supplements in this set.
Disc One contains a single extra that is accessed in two different methods, as either the standalone documentary "Gotham Uncovered," or as Picture-In-Picture "Focus Points" that can be accessed during certain screen-specific scenes. These are full of great information, despite the sequences lasting on average 5-6 minutes.
On Disc Two, the bulk of the supplements is taken up by the two 45-minute documentaries.
"Batman Tech" is an exhaustive television documentary that details the nitty-gritty of all the wonderful toys Batman gets to use, touching on the fact that Nolan wanted to keep everything as grounded in reality as possible, while still emphasizing the 'wow' factor.
The second documentary (which really appealed to me as a Psychology minor), entitled "Batman Unmasked," explores the Batman from a psychopathological point of view. Light enough for those not schooled in the realms of the mind, and still packed with info for those of us who are. This is a great doc, but feels more inclined to belong with BATMAN BEGINS than TDK.
Gotham Tonight is a series of six newscasts running about eight minutes each. They all explore Batman and Bruce Wayne, as presented by "Gotham Cable's Premier News Program". Bits and pieces of these sequences can be seen in the film, and while interesting, are kind of boring, as they are nowhere near the stuff of ROBOCOP's media breaks.
Last up is the Galleries section, which contains onesheets for the film, along with production photos and the many cards The Joker uses in the film (yes!). We also get TV spots, trailers and concept art in this section.
Taking advantage of Blu-Ray, there's also a BD-Live feature which allows you to record your own visual commentary and upload it for the world to see, as well as other BD Live Community options.
Oh yeah, we also get a Digital Copy of the film on DVD, which if you have the slightest idea of how to rip video from your DVDs/Blu-Ray discs for your iPod, is irritating.
Despite all the good stuff, you're probably wondering why I'm not satisfied. Well, I'm not, for a couple of reasons: a) the film screams for a commentary by cast and/or crew, even though the Focus Points feature kind of makes up for it; b) there's no real comprehensive documentary for the film, including touching on the viral campaign and the shift in focus after Ledger's passing; c) a tribute to Ledger in some form or another is suspiciously absent. Obviously, don't be surprised if we see THE DARK KNIGHT and BATMAN BEGINS revisited on DVD and Blu-Ray in the future.
Really, do I need to say anything other than 'get it now'? It's the GD Batman (another internet meme), with The Joker, on Blu-Ray. While I won't say this is the definitive set to get, it's still a solid release, and one you'll be proud to show off your HDTV and home theatre system with. Why so serious? Why so awesome!