Brilliant Dark Knight rules the summer

The Dark Knight (2008)
Directed by Christopher Nolan, Written by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan
Starring Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman
Rated PG-13, 152 mins
With Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, we were treated to a new Batman. This was a gripping, dark, and realistic take on the caped crusader, more akin to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One than anything Tim Burton or Joel “Rubber Nipples” Schumacher ever produced. And now, with its sequel, The Dark Knight, we have not only the best film of the summer, but of the year. This is, hands-down, the greatest comic-to-movie adaptation of all time, edging out the recent Iron Man.

Gotham is certainly safer with Batman (Christian Bale) around, but criminals still run rampant – and they’re getting desperate. As Batman, police lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), and district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) tighten the vice on the mob, the denizens of the criminal underworld turn to the sadistic Joker (Heath Ledger), a psychopathic serial-killer with a flair for the theatrical. Plans to arrest and prosecute hundreds of criminals are foiled by Joker, who develops a personal interest in the trio of Batman, Gordon, and Dent, and goes out of his way to wreak havoc within the city and their lives.

The Dark Knight follows much of the same tone as Batman Begins, but the stakes here are set much higher. We are feeling for these characters as we never have in a superhero movie. These are believable people, presented by strong and capable actors, in dire situations. This is a haunting film, invigorating and emotionally exhausting at the same time.

The action is taught. Chase sequences and fight scenes are shot well, with plenty of establishing angles. One major complaint I had with Batman Begins was the camerawork during the action sequences, which was choppy and confusing. But I had no issues in The Dark Knight. Part of this might be due to the new Batman costume, which is flexible and even allows Bale to turn his head, a first for the Batman franchise. Complimenting the action, though, are plenty of dramatic elements. It’s as much a crime drama as it is a superhero flick, and it succeeds on both counts.

The performances in The Dark Knight are its greatest asset. Bale pulls off the conflicted Bruce Wayne, who struggles with a way to bring down Joker without encroaching on his own morals. Bale, in my opinion, is the best Batman we’ve seen, edgier than Michael Keaton, and just plain better than George Clooney or Val Kilmer (though you don’t have to try too hard with those last two – I’m pretty sure, I could do a better Batman than they did). Bale’s Batman is an inherently flawed character, operating on the blurry edge between justice and vigilantism, a hero who is a bit crazy himself.

Eckhart seems to be channeling Robert Redford as Dent, Gotham’s “white knight.” He keeps pace with the likes of Bale and Oldman, which is a feat in and of itself, and manages a strong and competent performance. The love triangle involving Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Dent, and Wayne is well-played-out, and lends itself to the storyline without becoming overwhelming. Also turning in great supporting performances are Michael Caine, who plays Alfred the butler, and Morgan Freeman, who returns as Lucius Fox, Wayne’s gadget-guy.

But far and away, surpassing everything else, is Ledger’s performance as Joker, which is, quite honestly, brilliant. Ledger’s Joker is at once repellent and hilarious, darkly funny and creepy. Ledger has gone above and beyond, sprinkling the already strangely endearing character with odd little nuances and subtle mannerisms, crafting a rich and truly deep character that is, for me, the highlight of the film. I could go on and on about how tragic it is to have lost such a tremendous talent, but I would be doing Ledger a great disservice if I focused entirely on his absence, ignoring his masterful performance. Put simply, Ledger is amazing in this film, everything I could have hoped for and more out of the Joker. Many critics are calling for a posthumous Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, and you can count me among them. It’s not a sympathy Oscar, either – Ledger is completely deserving of the nomination, if not the win. His is the best performance of the year.

It’s not over exaggeration to call this film a masterpiece, and it’s not ridiculous to tote this film come Oscar time. The Dark Knight is everything we wanted it to be, a monumental movie among a slew of great summer films. First Iron Man, then Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, followed by Wall-E and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. We’re not through the summer yet, but I feel safe in saying that its certainly the best summer movie season I’ve ever experienced, and The Dark Knight is its headliner.


  1. I wanted to see this movie again IMMEDIATELY after seeing it.

    I think Heath Ledger scared me more than any bad guy ever has.

  2. Wow a phenomenal movie, and kudos to you for a spot on review. I was absolutely blown away by Ledgers performance as I had serious concerns of his ability to pull of the joker, but he not only pulled it off, he knocked it square out of the park.


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