By Liam Alexander
It’s been 3 years. 3 whole years since Batman Begins (review here) left us with that major tease, the tease that continues to make me squeal every time I see it…the joker card. A promise of greatness to come. Batman Begins introduced us to this new, grounded in reality world, now Nolan, you have to follow that up. Following up a revolutionary shift in blockbuster cinema has got to be no easy task, but what comes after the revolution? The renaissance. A chaotic renaissance of clowns, crime, drama, psychological tests, hockey pads and disappearing pencils. The Dark Knight is not only the greatest comic book film of all time, it’s one of the greatest crime movies of all time…hell, it is, in my opinion, one of the best films of all time. Yeah, lets talk about it.
It’s been a year since our caped crusader stopped the toxin attack on Gotham, now Batman (Christian Bale), Gordon (Gary Oldman) and new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) are cleaning up the streets of Gotham, and they’re doing a good job at it as well. Crime rates in Gotham are at an all time low, and criminals are afraid to do… criminal like things at night because of a little guy called Batman. That is until a certain clown prince of crime, The Joker (Heath Ledger) decides to take a stroll into Gotham.
The Dark Knight is the second act in a great 3 act story, the fall. Batman is constantly tested throughout the film, not physically, but psychologically. And that is what makes it so engaging. It’s all fine to see Batman go up against a brute, a villain who has some gadget, or an end of the world scenario - but it’s kind of boring to be honest. What about when he goes up against someone who knows his inner workings and plays on that, constantly pushing him towards breaking his moral code? A villain who is the polar opposite, yet still similar to our hero? A villain who’s just doing it for fun? That is just great drama. That is the Joker. Scarecrow used fear as his weapon, the Joker uses madness.
“Madness, as you know, is a lot like gravity, all it takes is a little…push." The Joker
Bale is great in the film, even though he has that…voice, you know what it is. He does Bruce Wayne, Millionaire Bruce Wayne and Batman all brilliantly. But this is the Joker’s film. This is Heath Ledgers film. Ledger as the Joker is quite honestly my favourite performance in just about any film I’ve ever seen. Every scene he is in he just steals, he grabs it and runs away. You forget you’re watching a performance, you forget that he’s following a script; it’s just the Joker being himself on camera. There is no greater praise an actor can get, there is method acting…and then there’s Ledger as the Joker. It’s a league entirely on its own. What I love so much about Ledgers performance as the Joker are the little things, the slight lick of the tongue, the changes in his backstory, and his laugh, which is just menacing, psychotic and riveting. But by far, the most compelling aspect of the character is the intellect. He’s a villain, but everything he says makes sense, and that terrifies Batman. He’s not a psychopath; it’s all an act. He plays the audience as much as he plays Batman… it’s fucking brilliant. I could talk about this character and performance all day, but I’ll continue with the rest of the review.
Maggie Ghyllenhaal as Rachael is also fantastic, a casting change that actually worked very well. Her death scene came as a major shock and her relationship with Bruce is 100x more interesting in this film than in the last. You really feel that she is one of the only people (apart from Alfred, of course) who understood all 3 aspects of Bruce. Now, talk about someone who doesn’t get enough credit, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent AKA Two Face. It’s a fantastic performance for an amazingly written, yet also tragic hero. He’s a man who falls from a height of virtue and becomes the back up in the Jokers master plan. Holding Gordon’s kids hostage… yikes. Gary Oldman as Gordon is still one of the greatest castings in the history of EVER! He is so good throughout the film and especially in the final minutes. Everyone is just at the top of their games in this movie.
“You either die a hero…or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain." Harvey Dent
The Dark Knight has so many memorable scenes that it hurts, thanks again to Nolan’s superb understanding of the world he has created, his sublime direction and killer writing. He just nails the whole film. The opening bank robbery shot in IMAX (AKA best format ever), Joker’s pencil trick, the hospital explosion, cellphone in the belly, Jokers fall, Harvey’s death and on and on. But by far, my favourite scene in this entire movie, my favourite scene in the trilogy, one of my favourite (lots of favourites in this film) scenes ever put on celluloid: the Interrogation. The scene is so incredibly written, insanely directed and the performances from Ledger and Bale encapsulates the characters better in just 3 and a half minutes then most movies do in 2 and a half hours. Seriously, if you haven't seen The Dark Knight in a while, YouTube the scene and just salivate at how perfect it is. Film at its finest.
Once again, you couldn’t possibly think I’d talk about a Nolan Batman film without talking about Hans Zimmer’s eargasm enduring score. It’s better then the already fantastic Batman Begins score, the themes in this film are iconic at this point, and really do take the film to another level. ‘A Dark Knight’ and ‘Aggressive Expansion’ are my personal favourites, but all of the tracks are just stellar compositions. I’ll say this while I can now, another unsung hero of the film is cinematographer, Wally Phister. He captures the film with a certain grit and brings fluidity to the chaos, which is just marvelous to look at.
“I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.” The Joker
The ending is cathartic and incredibly unexpected, genre defying, emotional, not happy? Batman taking the blame for Dent’s death and riding off into the night with the police chasing him behind, Gordon knows Batman is the hero Gotham deserves, just not the one they need right now, a silent guardian, watchful protector…a dark knight. BANG. END CREDITS. Liam wipes away the tears, hits the replay button and watches it again for the six thousand and forty seventh time.
The Dark Knight is not only one of the greatest films to come out of the 00’s, its one of my favourite films ever made. It’s deep, entertaining, emotional, dramatic, thrilling, it’s everything you could really want in a movie. Ledger gives the greatest performance I’ve ever seen and Nolan directs the hell out of it. The Dark Knight is a superior film to the already 5 star Batman Begins, so if I could give it a higher grade, you bet your hockey pads I would.