The year of 2008 already featured some incredible movies in the rising superhero genre (most notably Iron Man), but we received one more great film to finish it off. The Dark Knight is the sequel to Batman Begins (2005) and is arguably the best superhero movie ever created. (I have difficulties thinking of a better movie, but you are welcome to think otherwise.)
The Dark Knight (2008)
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Eckhart
This all being said, the movie is not flawless (Though it is pretty damn close.). Batman Begins was great because it made a superhero into something very real. This movie moves away from that realism towards surrealism and that can and did upset some people. I see it as the movie being inspired by a comic book and therefore a detachment from reality at some point is bound to happen. There are plenty of down to earth movies out there to enjoy. Give me something with a little fantasy to spice things up. Still, going from the grounded Scarecrow who is a psychiatrist at Arkham, to the scarred Joker who is a sociopath in face paint, and Two-Face, a once honorable man driven to madness by grief, pain, and likely serious infection is a rather large leap from real world situations to a semi-realistic, but clearly fictional world. So, to those who dislike the movie because it deviates from the original style. I see your point, I understand why you didn‘t like the film, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the movie. (Not a bit.)
What I didn’t like about this movie-
Aaron Eckhart in this movie as Harvey Dent (Two Face) wasn’t my favorite character. I didn’t mind the Harvey Dent aspect of the movie that he played. I thought Eckhart did a good job for the most part, until he turned into Two Face and went crazy. Instead of being this elaborate, clever, sociopath, he becomes really whiny and with a passion for revenge over the loss of his love. He kills several people who have it coming, but also goes after people who are barely related to the situation that occurred.
The first half of the movie he comes off with a strong ethical sense of himself, a bit clever and aggressive for justice and cleaning up Gotham. However, when he becomes Two Face, he loses a lot of the traits that would have made him an awesome villain. He is shoehorned into the battle between the two philosophies of Batman and Joker and while he certainly plays a role, he could have been so much more. I get it, he is angry, he is ravaged by infection, pain and grief, but the Joker comes in and says a few things and suddenly Dent becomes irrational, vindictive, and all out crazy. (I know, that was the whole point, but it was too easy.) Plus, let’s be honest, the scarring on his face was so extreme he wouldn’t have been able to do what he did. There is a difference between disfigured and oh my goodness, that’s a lethal infection!
I like Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne; I thought he did a marvelous job. However, his Batman voice was far too gruff. Bruce Wayne is this billionaire genius, but has no solution to cover/change his voice other to sound like he has throat cancer or far too many cigarettes (aka cancer)? It was tolerable in Batman Begins, but it got much worse in The Dark Knight especially in comparison with the Joker. Ledger did such a good job that he exposed some of the flaws of other actors around him in the movie. There are a few other minor issues with the film, but those are me picking out every little flaw. No movie is perfect, and I sure can’t do better than this film. (Love the chance to try, though.)
Like I said, the movie has some holes and some flaws, but I’ve yet to see a movie that didn’t have some issues like that. If you want to think Nolan and all his movies are perfect, that’s fine, but I’m not going to agree with you.
Onto what I enjoyed about the film.
First and foremost was Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker. Ledger worked incredibly hard to bring this character to life and he an exceptional job. The Joker was deranged, intelligent, an elaborate schemer with a sick sense of humor (told jokes that only he could laugh at). Over the years of his life he had developed a philosophy that was twisted as the man‘s smile.
My favorite part of the movie is the contrast between Batman and the Joker. Batman is about hope and seeing the good in people; he aspires to bring the best qualities that mankind has to offer. Meanwhile the Joker is the opposite, he believes that all people are naturally wicked and when the chips are down their true monstrous identities will be revealed. The Joker considers himself the only honest man in a world of liars and he wants to bring the truth out to show people they are no less evil than him.
Then there is the obvious part where Batman doesn’t believe in killing people, but rather being above that. You can’t change a corrupted society by mirroring the actions that made it corrupt in the first place. The Joker looks to make Batman break his rules, to find a way to break the bat and make him into a killer just like him. Even if that means the Joker gets killed by Batman; the Joker still wins. The Joker reminds me a lot of Friedrich Nietzsche styled philosophy. The ideals they both represent can be liberating or destructive depending on the direction you take it.
The Joker is essentially a nihilist who believes all the silly things our society does to create “modern civilization” is flawed and pointless and that this existence and society is a curse Therefore, it must be burned to the ground. Meanwhile, Batman approaches things with a level of civility, education, and persistence. He views society as a mess, but one that can be altered. That a man (or woman‘s) life is not predestined to be meaningless and cruel, but rather a blank slate. That we the people have the ability to change our lives and those around us by our actions.
I love how Christopher Nolan put this movie together. Once again, I think the cast is marvelous. I thought they improved Rachel’s character by switching Katie Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhaal (better actor). Nolan uses real props and action sequences over special effects. He flips trucks and blows up things rather than going complete CGI which is the trend these days. The film creates tension, you are uneasy at the presence of the Joker because he is so unpredictable. The music that is often associated with him almost as maddening as the character and that was the point of it. The editing, the writing, and sound effects were all top-notch (though, not perfect).
I feel like Nolan creates every movie he makes as though it were a blank canvas; he aims to create a beautiful piece of art in film form. To me, this movie is a wonderful piece despite its flaws. It has a really profound look at human nature and the philosophies that drive us all. Which character do you relate to? Does it unsettle you when (if) you agree with some of what the Joker says? Does the idea of Batman give you hope? Whose perspective do you relate to more?
This movie stands as my favorite of the DC Comic films to date. I love a movie that discusses human nature both the positive and negative aspect of it in an effective way to the point where I can relate to the characters within the film. The film can make you think and that is a concept that is underutilized in today’s mainstream American film industry. Perhaps all forms of American media.