Movie Review – The Dark Knight (2008)

by GEOFF GEIB

Prepare yourself, gentle viewer, for The Dark Knight is very, very dark.

In every film version of the caped crusader since Tim Burton’s fine Batman through the astonishingly wretched Batman and Robin and peaking (perhaps) in Nolan’s latest twist on the franchise, there has been a pervasive sense of isolation that envelops the title character. He is a man who has since the day his parents were murdered before his eyes, stood largely alone against the world.

For the first time, however, and in what must be considered a master stroke, The Dark Knight takes Bruce Wayne’s personal struggle and elevates it to become the central preoccupation of the film. By the end of the movie, Bruce Wayne has arguably lost every single person who has any meaning in his life. Now that’s dark.

The driving force of Bruce Wayne’s misery is the Joker, played in riveting, sensational style by Heath Ledger. Dominating every scene in which he appears, Ledger’s Joker is both a fully formed psychopath and a construct through which Nolan batters his characters with impossible moral dilemmas. The character is so fully formed, with an endless array of gestures, mannerisms and facial tics, it is a wonder to behold. The performance is sure to garner an Oscar nomination, at least in part for Ledger’s untimely passing, a horrible tragedy in and of itself, and also for how it will naturally obscure what is painfully obvious to me is the greatest performance I have ever seen in a comic book film.

It helps that Christian Bale is once again superb in the title role. His taciturn turn as the troubled hero is at an immediate disadvantage against the bravado of Ledger’s Joker, but since the film is so much about punishing Batman, it’s hard to imagine it working any other way. The supporting characters, many of whom have returned from Batman Begins, are all tested in painful ways, bringing into sharp focus the agony Bale’s Batman must endure. While all are good, especially Gary Oldman as Gordon, the sheer number of people who must find screen time illustrates the small weaknesses of the film. It’s a little long, it’s a tad jumbled and heavy handed towards the end, and the plot requires a few small leaps of faith.

Small complaints about what is a great film and an improvement on Batman Begins, very good in its own right. Crafted with exceptional skill, The Dark Knight works as an exciting action film which dares to explore complicated territory usually reserved for an art house crowd. If only every summer blockbuster exhibited such qualities.

The question naturally arises, if there is to be another installment of the franchise under the Nolan/Bale partnership, where does it go next? It is a delightful prospect to imagine what Hell Nolan has in store for Gotham’s vigilante/hero now that he has been so completely forsaken. The next chapter might naturally ask, when your enemies come for you, what is it to be truly alone? Now that’s dark.

3 1/2 stars

6 responses to “Movie Review – The Dark Knight (2008)

  1. my mouth is watering

  2. I thought it was quite amazing, too. Though, I’d been prepared for something very dark, and I think it maintained its comic book cred by not ending on a completely hopeless note. Without spoiling anything, bear in mind that some characters are spared who might have died, and also that Gotham’s citizens – all of them – prove that there is good in their hearts.

    I, too, am wildly curious as to where they’ll go next. Can’t wait to find out.

  3. I saw the film twice in IMAX and was blown away both times and never once did I feel my money went to waste. However, I felt that a certain event early in the film could have been omitted to make it more lean and mean. Bale doing the “bat voice” so much that he did it in front of people who know his true identity. Granted these are minor quips. Easily the best comic book movie ever made. On a note about performances, yes Ledger is indeed Oscar worthy in my book, but Aaron Eckhart was also truly amazing as the heart of this “dark” story. Let’s not forget his storyline is the glue that held the film together. Which is why “I believe in Harvey Dent” resonates.

  4. As for where the franchise goes next. I honestly think they should not do another Batman movie despite it making a boatload of money. For the simple reason that the bar has been raised to the limit and cannot be topped. I say go out out on a high note, but we all know that will not happen in today’s hollywood sadly.

  5. A very powerful and affecting film. It maintains an incredible dramatic intensity from the opening scenes through the conclusion, an impressive achievement in itself, and the performances are uniformly excellent. I agree both with your criticisms and your conclusion that they are small complaints about a great film. I might even go so far as to say the flaws are negligible when considered against the whole. Easily one of the best films of the year so far.

  6. The movie was indeed a treat for any Batman fan. Heard of news that the following movie would have the Riddler. I cannot wait!

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