Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman
Plot: Following the events of Batman Begins, Batman and police Lieutanant James Gordon are continuing to bring down organized crime in Gotham, along with newly appointed district attorney Harvey Dent. But when a mysterious and crazed criminal known only as The Joker arrives in Gotham, everything Batman and Harvey Dent have worked for is thrown into chaos. Now, with everything he loves on the line, Bruce must confront his inner demons to bring down his most disturbed adversary yet.
(Warning! This review contains some spoilers. Consider yourselves warned)
First Thoughts: Following the huge success of Batman Begins, it was time for Christopher Nolan to step up his game. Despite thinking it couldn’t be topped, somehow he pulled it off. I watched this movie again in preparation for this review, and I am still blown away by how much this movie improves upon Batman Begins. And not just because of Heath Ledger’s Joker (I’ll get to that later), but the film as a whole just feels like such an improvement, and it really broke the mold for superhero movies to come.
Story: Right off the bat, what makes The Dark Knight such a great film is the fact that it really does feel at times like an intense, gritty crime thriller, even more so than Batman Begins, because even though that film had some crime thriller-esque moments, it still did feel very much like a superhero origin movie. This film definitely feels like a straight-up crime thriller and the Batman stuff is kind of pushed to the side. But is that really so much of an issue when the rest of the film is so good? Nope. Because even though the film doesn’t feel like a Batman movie, that actually works in the film’s favor. The film also has some great foreshadowing with the character of Harvey Dent when he says the line “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”, which perfectly sets up his eventual downfall and transformation into Two-Face.
Technical: I’ve already said this numerous times in my other Nolan reviews, but pretty much every single one of his films are absolutely beautiful, and The Dark Knight might be one of his best looking films. Not only is Wally Phister’s cinematography extremely gorgeous, and very much improved when viewing the IMAX enhanced scenes, but all of the makeup work and the CGI that is used in the film, because even though Nolan doesn’t really like CGI that much, he does use it on occasion, and whenever he does use it, it’s always used very well, especially for Two-Face. It actually still looks very realistic looking, even after almost ten years. And the action scenes in the movie are also very much an improvement over Batman Begins, because even though the action in Batman Begins were good, I feel like Nolan wasn’t quite as skilled back in 2005 as he was when he was making this film. All of the fight scenes in this movie are beautifully fluid with excellent fight choreography and terrific editing. I also love the new design for the Batsuit, because early in the film, Bruce is attacked by these dogs and he tells Lucius that he wants to be able to turn his head, since with other movie and TV iterations of the character, the cowl was connected to the rest of the suit, so whenever they wanted to turn their head, they’d have to turn their body as well, so making a new Batsuit where he can actually turn his head is a really great idea.
Performances: Heath Ledger’s Joker. What more needs to be said? Okay, I’ll say more. Okay, we all know that Christian Bale’s Batman is really good, as is the entire main cast, but we all know who the real star of the show here is. Heath Ledger as the Joker. This was his last completed role before his death in January 2008, and what a damn shame, because he gives his all in this movie. He is clearly having a ton of fun with the role. He perfectly balances the menacing aspects of the character as well as his dark sense of humor. And it’s so sad that he wasn’t able to see the final product, because his performance is truly legendary. Something else I feel was improved over Batman Begins is the character of Rachel, and if you saw my review of Batman Begins, you’d know that I really did not think that Katie Holmes was very good in that film, and I think they heard those complaints and recast the role for Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is most definitely better at delivering Rachel’s lines, even though her character is still a little underdeveloped and isn’t helped by her abrupt death, but Gyllenhaal is so much better than Katie Holmes. Aaron Eckhart is also really great as Harvey Dent, and what really works about his character is that during the first half, he is such a likable character and you connect with him and his crusade to rid Gotham’s streets of crime, but in the second half where he becomes Two-Face and reluctantly teams up with the Joker, he seeks revenge against the dirty cops in Jim Gordon’s unit for what they did to Rachel, and his transition to the dark side was actually one of the film’s biggest hooks. And of course, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman are all fantastic.
Final Thoughts: If it weren’t already apparent enough, I think The Dark Knight is one of the best movies ever made, and possibly the best superhero movie of all time as well. It’s everything I want out of a good superhero movie, or any type of movie for that matter. And when I say that everything about this movie was improved over Batman Begins, I really do mean everything. It’s not just with the villains, but Christopher Nolan’s direction, the performances, the action sequences, the story, the cinematoraphy, EVERYTHING was improved. As this is probably the most famous superhero movie ever made, I’d be surprised if anyone hasn’t seen this film yet.
- Heath Ledger’s Joker
- Better direction
- Better action sequences
- Better performances (especially Maggie Gyllenhaal)
- Better cinematography
- Feels like a crime drama in the best ways
Overall Grade: 10/10
So… I think I may have to call off the rest of my Christopher Nolan reviews. I hate to say this, but doing all of these reviews have put a lot of stress on me. I hardly have enough time to watch the movies and sometimes it can be hard for me to write them. The same is gonna have to go for finishing my Edgar Wright review series. I will still review Baby Driver and Dunkirk when they come out, but due to all the stress I’m going through, I’ll have to hold back on my reviews. Holy crap, this has been harder than I thought it’d be.