Reviews

The Dark Knight

5

“We don’t want you doing anything with your hands other than holding on for dear life.” It’s a threat, it’s a joke, it’s barked by a masked hench-thug during The Joker’s daring opening bank heist. It’s also a mission statement from the makers of The Dark Knight. And you best buckle up: they mean it…

The title sets out the stall, both in theme and ambition. This isn’t Batman 2 (or 6 or 7 or however you tally it up), it’s a stand-alone picture with its own heart and integrity. Christopher Nolan isn’t interested in franchise; he’s fascinated by character, by story, by people. Of all the superheroes Batman is the only one who isn’t, in fact, super. No powers supernatural or extraterrestrial: he lives in a world only a sliver of reality away from our own. Muscle, training and technology are his allies; aches, breaks and faltering will are his foes. When Alfred (Michael Caine) tends to Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale)’s post-fight contusions, he warns his master to know his limits. “Batman has no limits” comes the flat reply. Only, of course, Batman is limited by his beliefs. He’d rather break his own neck than snap the rule that has steered his crim-bashing excursions away from blunt Death Wish morality. He will be the judge and the jury, but he will not be the executioner. He will not kill. But if Batman’s morality is a construct, The Joker (Heath Ledger) is a wrecking ball.

Just as Wayne is contemplating an end to his crime-fighting endeavour – seeing hope in the arrival of Gotham’s “White Knight”, District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) – along comes this anarchic, mischievous terrorist daubed in “war paint”, outwitting and then uniting the underworld in one aim: kill the Batman. Desperate crimes call for desperate measures, but just how far will Gotham’s Caped Crusader go to save himself, his city and everyone he loves?

How far is too far is a pertinent question in the age of Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and 42 days’ detention without charge – but while the Nolans (Christopher and co-writer brother Jonathan) touch on everything from extreme interrogation to monitoring communications – in an actually quite bewildering tech-stretch sequence – they don’t draw glib parallels or let the War on Terror allusions overpower the entertainment. This isn’t Michael Moore’s Batman, though there’s a touch of Michael Mann in the visuals, with Gotham no longer a gloomy, gothic comic-book creation, more the corrupt conurbation of Heat. As for those The Godfather: Part II promises in the pre-release pieces?

Right there on the screen, in the hollowed out face of Bale, as he contemplates the consequences of his actions. His brilliance has become almost commonplace but shouldn’t be overlooked – he brings light and shade, depth and compassion to a character previous Bat-men have often made monochrome – though there’s no doubting the limelight will be on the late Ledger, burning brightly as he embodies an icon.
 
Dig out the thesaurus and run through the superlatives: chilling, gleeful, genius… It's a masterpiece of a performance. The 'meeja' Oscar talk is tasteless, in that the Academy usually ignores comic- book entertainment and the hyperbole is because he has died, but let it be said that it’s such a fearless, fierce, menacing turn that comparisons with Jack Nicholson don’t come into it. This is the definitive Joker.

If there are gongs going, hand another to the Nolans for their script, which fleshes out previous bit-parters – with Gary Oldman particularly benefiting as Gotham’s only honest rozzer – and gives Ledger lip-smacking sequences where he can mock the “Daddy didn’t love me!” motivations of lesser movie villains by spinning different yarns to different audiences about his damaged past. Not that the film isn’t interested in motivations – as evidenced by Harvey Dent’s journey to the dark side (though the less said about that the better; go discover it for yourself).

If The Dark Knight has a flaw, it’s that the attention to each character results in a crammed, tumultuous movie, even at two and a half hours. There’s so much going on, so much energy and ambition, that the through line becomes a little muddled. But just use that as an excuse for a repeat performance. That Mr Nolan: he has a taste for the theatrical.

Verdict:

A minor second act shake can't undermine a dazzling, determined superhero classic and Ledger puts Nicholson in the shade. With Batman Begins Nolan set the bar; with TDK he's just raised it.

User Reviews

    • AnneFay

      Nov 17th 2008, 15:20

      2

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    • BLewin7

      Dec 16th 2008, 21:56

      5

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    • mallardb

      Dec 18th 2008, 15:03

      5

      Best superhero movie. Nolan's masterpeice

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    • casinoheat

      Dec 22nd 2008, 19:56

      5

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    • mrsmiawallace

      Feb 1st 2009, 10:54

      5

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    • avfc4eva

      Feb 14th 2009, 16:00

      5

      Half-way through the Dark Knight, I thought Batman Begins was slightly better. But then the Dark Knight goes up a few gears and blew me away. Completely lives up to the Hype.

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    • MikeyRix

      Feb 17th 2009, 21:03

      5

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    • skullkassidy

      Mar 9th 2009, 12:49

      5

      Couldn't agree more! Sod the backlash by spiteful fans and appreciate this for the masterpiece it is. Does for the superhero movie what the Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen did for the superhero comic!

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    • nolanfan

      May 21st 2009, 5:22

      5

      epic ..

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    • nolanfan

      May 21st 2009, 5:22

      5

      epic ..

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    • thekillingjoke

      May 21st 2009, 17:51

      5

      I love this film more than life itself.

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    • MikeyRix

      Jun 2nd 2009, 21:30

      5

      Rendered me speechless, this film. Manages to still today.

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    • vanillasky

      Aug 30th 2009, 19:47

      5

      This film is amazing! Heath Ledger absolutely excels as the joker. OK Christian Bale is the Dark Knight but Heath Ledger completely took over the film with his outstanding performance. Maggie Gyllenhaal was good as Rachel Dawes as I completely forgot about Katie Holmes. WHY SO SERIOUS!!

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    • jacoblost48

      Nov 28th 2009, 18:19

      5

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    • BaleAndNolanFan

      Jan 10th 2010, 19:09

      5

      Phenomenal

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    • mbembet

      Jul 7th 2010, 8:54

      5

      one of the best movie ever

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    • TheDMeister

      Jul 23rd 2010, 12:22

      5

      The Dark Knight is a film which digresses from being a simple comic book film and strays into being an epic crime drama and a classic. The Dark Knight is huge, heavy, sadistic, and thrilling which thrives thanks to the glorious blend of comic book action with gritty realism which made Batman Begins stand out. It's carried by its three protagonists who are struggling to save Gotham from a manic terrorist; Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart and Gary Oldman bring emotional connection, likability and personal motivation to make this a compelling drama dealing with intense themes like morality, human nature and good versus evil. It does suffer very slightly and drags in the middle while it tries to show off its credentials as a detective story and some of the other scenes stop too abruptly and shift too sharply to have a full impact. Heath Ledger turns out a show stealing performance as a twisted, psychopathic and instantly iconic Joker. But Nolan is the real star here because the Dark Knight is a very intelligent film which doesn’t just deliver outstanding characters and plot; it also delivers thrilling action as his shaky handling in Batman Begins has been fully overcome here. This is an incredible film as Nolan manages to make old characters seem new and fresh, Bale brings personality to Batman and the films score mixed with the drama and action are blended perfectly together to give a satisfying finale without ever abandoning any of its key themes. A true masterpiece.

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    • SteveMcc

      Apr 25th 2011, 22:24

      5

      Possibly my favourite film. The visuals are stunning, the action outstanding and the score from Hanz Zimmer is his best yet! My only negative....not even negative, just niggle is that I find Maggie Gylenhall terrible as Rachel Dawes. Maybe its just that I think she looks like she has had a reaction to a bee sting or its that horrible voice, but when she was let out her horrible vocals in her final appearence I find myself cheering and covered in relief! But even that is no reason not to find this film the best Comic book adaptation ever!

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    • elgar7

      May 25th 2011, 20:17

      5

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    • elgar7

      May 25th 2011, 20:18

      5

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    • aleks989

      Jan 20th 2012, 20:13

      5

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    • movielover1994

      Oct 15th 2012, 22:25

      3

      2008's The Dark Knight Is One Of My Favorite Films, I Like Heath Ledger's Performance As The Joker, Christopher Nolan's Direction, The Screenplay, The Cinematography And The Score By James Newton Howard And Hans Zimmer, I Like 2008's The Dark Knight Better Than 2005's Batman Begins And 2012's The Dark Knight Rises.

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    • matthewbrady

      Apr 20th 2014, 21:07

      5

      Best comic book movie ever made to the big screen. Batman raises the stakes in his war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to dismantle the remaining criminal organizations that plague the city streets. The partnership proves to be effective, but they soon find themselves prey to a reign of chaos unleashed by a rising criminal mastermind known to the terrified citizens of Gotham as The Joker. Good music and score and good acting.this film just show how dark is batman and it did it well.

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