The Dark Knight (2008)
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Review Date: September 08, 2008
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan
Producers: Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas, Charles Roven
Christian Bale as Batman
Heath Ledger as The Joker
Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent
In this sequel to BATMAN BEGINS, Bruce Wayne continues his fight against the villains who reign over his precious Gotham City, only this time the man running the bad-guy show is a total anarchic loon who sports white make-up all over his face, green hair and red smeared lipstick (or is that a really really bad scar?). That’s right, kids…the Joker is on the prowl and the Dark Knight, he is on top of it all. Or is he? Another self-righteous do-gooder named Harvey Dent also enters the picture and falls in love with Bruce Wayne’s childhood love-fantasy to boot. A very dark, credible and fantastical comic book movie ensues.

An epic superhero adventure that delivers on a variety of levels including story, action, characters, visuals, acting and yes…even entertainment value! I’m not gonna call this movie a “masterpiece” because I’m not really big on hyperbole, but THE DARK KNIGHT is definitely the best film that I’ve seen to this point in 2008, and certainly ranks right up there in terms of best superhero movies of all-time, although I’m sure not everyone will fall in love with it as much as fanboys as it does present a pretty bleak environment, difficult moral choices and a loon of a madman as its lead bad guy. Personally, I lapped all that shit up, along with the film’s very dark look and feel (no Joker dancing around with Prince music in the background here). I was also reeled right into its storyline as soon as the film started because unlike its predecessor, BATMAN BEGINS, there was no need to set everyone and everything up. We all know the characters already, so director Christopher Nolan blasts us right into a HEAT-like bank robbery featuring a handful of creepy men in clown masks in the opening scene, and the “fun” doesn’t really stop until the very end after that.

Granted, we are introduced to a few new characters, namely Eric Roberts playing a mobster as only he could, a surprisingly low-watt turn by Anthony Michael Hall as a news reporter, William Fichtner brandishing a shotgun and Maggie Gyllenhaal replacing Katie Holmes as Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend and love. But it’s Aaron Eckhart who is the real addition here, both in terms of his character’s importance to the plotline, but also his well-rounded performance. And to add to that point, one of the things that really separated this “comic book movie” from some of the others was the fact that all of its lead characters were fully realized characters and human beings, so you’re immediately invested in not only their emotional journey, but their respective stories wrapped into the one big one. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, for example, has to dig deeper into his vault of reasonings for doing what he’s doing when things start to get really bad in Gotham. Gary Oldman, as Lieutenant Gordon, has to balance his ongoing quest for truth and justice, but also the many turncoats within his midst and the love for his family. Everyone seems to have a true “raison d’etre” in this film including the Joker himself, played deliciously devious and dark by the late Heath Ledger, as a man who simply enjoys the chaos and destruction of society around him, while attempting to bring the entire world to his level.

But the characters and dense storyline make up only two parts of the film’s greater success, as Nolan doesn’t only set things up methodically from the start, but he also injects the movie with plenty of action, mayhem and murders, while at the same time, building up its momentum all the way to its final and grandiose showdown. Several memorable scenes can be re-watched with wonder in this picture including the massive Tumbler/Bat-Cycle sequence (Where does he get those wonderful toys?), the gadget-filled moments in Hong Kong, the Batman/Joker showdowns, as well as the transition into Two-Face for one (un)lucky character in the movie. But the film doesn’t stop there, it also sews a number of moral and timely messages into its epic quilt, asking the audience (as well as its characters) to consider what exactly it means to be a part of a society, what/how far we’re all willing to go in face of a super-villain (aka terrorists) and what kind of decision we’d be willing to make when faced with a life/death question mark. The film also looks spectacular, with many of its aerial shots of the city looking and feeling like an actual place, and all of its characters and locations feeling genuine, dark and grungy.

It did take me a little while to get used to the switch from Holmes to Gyllenhaal though, and even though I absolutely adored the Joker as a character, I think his many-many-many nasty shenanigans felt a tad unrealistic at some points, considering that the film was moving so fast and it seemed like every time you batted an eyelash, he had organized another major plan of attack in some other section of town. Seemed a little too well organized, if you ask me, especially for such a “chaotic” guy, but God knows that maybe I missed something that might’ve explained all that at some point. And speaking of eyelashes, was it me or was the Mayor of Gotham City painted up in black eye-liner? Weiiiiiiiird. But the film had even more goodness, including a surprising number of “light” scenes (although granted, most of these were early on), plenty of very cool technological doohickeys, jarring twists and turns (including some deaths you might not expect), the same awesome score as in the original movie and superlative dialogue across the board. Oh, I’m also happy to report that the movie had almost no blatant CGI throughout its entire runtime, so the rest of Hollywood’s trigger-happy-CGI directors should take note and attempt to strengthen their screenplays in the future, rather than continually overdoing the CG effects in their films.

All that to say that THE DARK KNIGHT delivered on many fronts that interested me, including an engrossing storyline featuring a number of characters fighting one another over the state of their city and the future of their society during a time of great menace around them. I look forward to watching this movie again, several times, and hoping that Christopher Nolan and his screenwriting brother Jonathan return for the third and final installment of this amazing Batman re-boot franchise.

"So, you're saying that you think your billionaire boss is a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare fists. And you want to blackmail this man?"
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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