So I watched The Dark Knight…
I love watching movies and, for a long time, I thought I could never have a favourite because of how many movies I was in love with. This movie completely shattered that preconception. I LOVE this movie! I watch it when I’m happy; I watch it when I’m sad. Even if I wasn’t such a Batman fan, I’d still appreciate this movie’s quality and this movie is nothing but quality.
Okay, basic plot: A year after the arrival of Batman, Gotham is a city on the rise. Crime is hitting all-time lows; criminals are scared stiff and hope is back on the streets. The Mob, in an attempt to stop this curb, hire a masked criminal known only as ‘The Joker’ to kill The Batman. But Joker is no ordinary criminal and his war, not only on Gotham; but also The Dark Knight will push Batman to his breaking point and beyond.
The best thing about this movie (and trust me it’s a tough choice) has to be Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker. A lot of people weren’t looking forward to it after seeing photos of Ledger in costume but I think we can all agree that his performance has reached icon status and he’s one of the most memorable characters in all film history. Seeing the performance is absolutely spectacular but it’s when you read the things that Ledger did off-camera that you realise the level of mastery in his portrayal. Locking himself in a motel room to construct the identity of the character; the moments of improvisation and focus; the commitment and authenticity he wanted in the character, for example, that scene where Batman is beating up Joker in the interrogation room is real. Leger told Bale to hit him as hard as he could. Another example would be how Ledger actually created the look of The Joker. While locked up in that motel room he experimented with make-up and created the eerie, haunting face of Gotham’s Clown Prince. A lot of people say that if he hadn’t died he wouldn’t have won the Oscar but I think that’s ridiculous. Ledger’s performance was unmatched and its quality transcended the shackles of it coming from a comic book movie.
Of course Ledger’s fantastic performance would be nothing without an equally well-crafted script. Jonathan and Christopher Nolan do it again and produce a script that is not only thrilling but also thoughtful and engaging. This movie poses questions of morality and duty and sacrifice that, although often unnoticed, are the pillars of this movie’s brilliance. You can see the method behind Joker’s madness and because he isn’t some comical villain trying to take over the world or rob a bank, because he’s such a real character, he’s all the more terrifying. I said with Batman Begins that Nolan truly understood the nature of Batman and this allowed him to bring his story to screen with such precision and once again you get the sense of the understanding that Nolan has towards the character of Joker. As with Batman Begins, this movie’s dialogue is crisp and sharp and manages to infuse the gritty, dark tone of Batman with some levity to keep it from feeling morose.
But this movie has so much more to offer than just an amazing performance from Ledger. I think Nolan worked out his kinks with regards to filming action and this movie has some great blood-pumping moments; but I think it’s in the quieter moments that this movie really shines. One of Batman’s monikers is ‘World’s Greatest Detective’ and this movie devotes a great amount of time to illustrating this. Batman does spend a lot of time kicking ass in this movie but he spends an equal amount of time, if not greater, solving puzzles and showing that his intellect is as impressive as his ninjutsu. Batman isn’t just this solitary hero in a mask and cape – he’s part of a network and we get to see how he liases with the police, lawyers even criminals to inspire change and enact lasting policies to rid Gotham of crime.
A thing I didn’t notice, at first, about The Dark Knight Trilogy is that each movie has had a minimum of two villains in it and that they’ve managed to balance these villains with absolute ease. When you think that having more than one villain in the movie has been the reason why the Spiderman movie franchise has had to be rebooted twice in the last five years, you realise how significant this balancing act was. I really loved Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two-Face. I didn’t expect Dent to become Two-Face in this movie but when it happens, it feels so natural and moves the plot along instead of merely being a product of it. I think all the villains in The Dark Knight Trilogy are incredibly entertaining because they all test Batman in different ways and they’re carefully selected to suit the needs of the story rather than being random results of the plot.
I’m almost done with this review and I’ve hardly mentioned Batman. I think focus was stolen away from himbecause of Ledger’s enigmatic Joker but you can’t ignore the good work that Bale continues to put in. The fluidity in his portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Batman is absolutely remarkable. The lavish arrogance he has as Bruce Wayne in this movie was absolutely hilarious at times but I love how he managed to also display the complex, broken psyche that would push a man to become Batman. Even in moments where he isn’t in the suit, you feel the brooding and damaged nature of The Batman seeping through him. It’s an understated performance but it’s paramount to the movie because without a solid performance from Bale, Ledger’s extravagance would have meant nothing.
The Dark Knight has some of the best pacing and consistency I’ve ever seen in a movie. When most movies start dying and spinning down to a finale, this movie picks up the pace and raises the stakes. The last twenty minutes of this movie are better than most movies and I mean that sincerely. Sometimes I just go watch the last twenty minutes because it’s so amazing. The scenes where Batman explains to Gordon that he’s “whatever Gotham needs him to be” and Gordon tells his son that Batman is “the hero Gotham deserves but not the one it needs right now” is beautiful! It isn’t a clean victory nor is it an outright loss, it’s the best of a terrible situation which is all you can get out of life sometimes. Astounding filmmaking!
Overall, I still have a long list of compliments for this movie but I fear you wouldn’t read any further than you already have. I love this movie, it’s not only a testament to how good comic book movies can be; but also to how good films in general can be. It’s a must watch and a future classic. 10/10