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The Dark Knight (2008) – Movie Review

Dark Knight poster

Written by: Christopher Nolan & Jonathan Nolan, based on a story by David S. Goyer & Christopher Nolan, which was based in turn on characters created by Bob Kane
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman

My Advice: Don’t miss it.

Batman (Bale) has been doing a good job cleaning up the streets of Gotham. In fact, he may be doing too good a job. Or too bad a job, depending on how you look at it. The organized crime collective is getting backed into a corner. Not only do they have Batman after their asses, but a new DA, Harvey Dent (Eckhart), actually wants to clean things up. And of course, Jim Gordon (Oldman) and his crew are fighting the good fight as well. Seeing no other way to deal with the situation, they accept the assistance of a newcomer: The Joker (Ledger). Trouble is, they don’t know what they’ve unleashed.

[ad#longpost]Batman Begins was such a breath of fresh air. Showing that you could actually understand a comic book character and distill it to where it would fit on the screen without massive amounts of reswizzling for whatever reason you want to name—helping “middle America enjoy the film more” or “rope in more toy tie-ins” or you name it. Any dumbass reason you can think of for needless tinkering has been used, trust me.

But Begins gave us a Batman that’s so good, it probably hurt sales of DC Comics, since Hollywood was finally doing a character better than the company that’s supposed to be charting its course. And with Dark Knight, the buzz was tremendous even before the tragedy that cost Ledger his life. And it’s so terribly odd to see a film that actually meets and yes, even surpasses its hype.

So yes, in a nutshell, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it immensely. I don’t even get bothered by “Gravelly Voice Batman.” At least he’s doing something to try and disguise his voice, since he’s constantly dealing with people who would probably recognize Wayne’s voice in a heartbeat. No, I was pretty much smooth sailing for the entire film.

The amazing thing is that where previous attempts at doing a Batman film couldn’t get two villains correct, Nolan and company are juggling the main hero, two villains, and a brigade of important secondary characters who are all fully-fleshed out. Even characters in Gordon’s police unit seem like real people with a storyline you could follow. In two and a half hours, they delivered something that honestly is so tight, it’s like an entire season of a really good HBO or Showtime drama smooshed down to feature film length. Of course, it helps that you introduced the characters like Alfred (Caine) and Lucius Fox (Freeman) in the first film, but if they hadn’t been given a solid foundation there, they never would have worked here. That’s the thing that impressed me the most: excellent writing. And really good dialogue, too. Not even counting the really dense amount of lines that have all kinds of meaning on a second viewing.

Also, I’d like to point out that the fight sequences are improved over the first film in that Nolan actually backs up so we can see what’s going on. It is abso-fricking pointless to give Batman this kickass (literally) fighting style and then have the camera shoved up his nose. Let’s hope this is a sign that this stupid trend in action movies is starting to wane.

Bale is in fine form as Batman, acting as this version of Batman would act at every step of the game. Gary Oldman continues to channel the comic book Gordon so well that it’s just scary. Michael Caine is Michael Goddamn Caine. Not much else needs be said. He and Morgan Freeman have some excellent individual moments. Maggie Gyllenhaal fills Katie Holmes’ shoes and then some. I sorta wish we had had her from the beginning. Aaron Eckhart makes for a believable Harvey Dent and I hope this gets him some more work, since I’ve appreciated him since In the Company of Men.

And there’s Heath Ledger. Christ, what a performance. He is the epitome of what The Joker is at his most effective—and he says it himself. An “agent of chaos.” You forget you’re watching Ledger. This is not the same lovably goofy guy from A Knight’s Tale or 10 Things I Hate About You. No, he’s gone. And it’s not just the makeup. He’s just GONE. And he gives us the single most dangerous screen villain in recent movie history. I still can’t believe that after Parnassus we’re not going to get any more. Because this is a Joker I would have watched over and over again.

This is an epic film and proof of a few things. First of which is that we can have not just good comic book movies, but fucking amazing comic book movies. Also, you can have a film that is both intelligent and a blockbuster. The proof is in the box office.


  • Ledger was way too awesome, i really forgot it was him playing the part… he’s embodied the role in a way that you would forget the actor and see him as the character himself…

    it’s just sad that we’ll see no Ledger anymore… and i’m sad that he would not be able to read these amazing reviews…

  • Excellent points. Batman Begins was, up to that point, the best superhero movie ever made. It is not even close to this film. The Dark Knight’s intelligence and complexity are astounding for this type of film. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

  • anyone notice that Batman steps off the ledge dropping on the van at a perpendicular angle, facing the driver’s side, and lands straight on, facing forward. Amazing scene but unless he twirled, mid-air, a little off.

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  • To think that this movie belongs in the top 100 movies of all time let alone the top five is ludicrous. You bet, it’ quite a spectacle. But spectacle doesn’t make a great movie. There’s one truly great character and everyone knows it’s Heath Ledger’s Joker. That was a magical paring of great writing and great acting.

  • Hmm. Let’s see, 4gb cf card, your comment is actually about the film but has nothing to do with the review in question. So why don’t I just strip the URL out of your spam and leave the relevant part? I’ll also give you an E for Effort. Thanks for playing, though.