Movie Review for The Dark Knight (2008)

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Review #661 of 365
Movie Review of The Dark Knight (2008) [PG-13] 152 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $14.50
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When Seen: 18 July 2008
Time: 12:01 pm
DVD Release Date: 9 December 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
After the Credits: Sadly, there is nothing after the credits.

Soundtrack: Download now from Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard - The Dark Knight (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - or - order the CD below

Directed by: Christopher Nolan (The Prestige)
Screenplay by: Jonathan Nolan (The Prestige) • Christopher Nolan (The Prestige) with characters created by Bob Kane

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Christian Bale (I'm Not There) • Heath Ledger (I'm Not There) • Aaron Eckhart (No Reservations) • Michael Caine (Sleuth) • Maggie Gyllenhaal (Stranger than Fiction) • Gary Oldman (HP: Order of the Phoenix) • Morgan Freeman (The Bucket List) • Monique Curnen (Bernard and Doris) • Ron Dean (The Guardian) • Cillian Murphy (Sunshine) • Chin Han (3 Needles) • Nestor Carbonell (Smokin' Aces) • Eric Roberts ("Heroes") • Anthony Michael Hall ("The Dead Zone")

review litewebsitetrailerpremiere photosspoiler2cOrNot2c?Batman Film Poster Extravaganzaincludes extensive posters from all 6 Batman films

With the Batman back story out of the way with Batman Begins, the brothers Nolan, Chris (writer / director) and Jonathan (writer) were given more time this film go round entitled The Dark Knight to focus on the eternal conflict in the superhero archetype between having a real life and living a lonely life of service. They do this with an astonishingly astute analysis of the hero in general capturing the notion in one simple line uttered twice in the film but originally attributed to the Gotham City D.A. Harvey Dent, "You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain." This simple yet elegant line veils the complexity of the notion much as does the superhero's mask hide the true person within. To take this amazing journey required the appearance of a mind-bending supervillain with a superego to match and his orchestration of the fall of the best of the heroes. Toward that end, with the seed of that villain planted in the final scene of Batman Begins, the brothers bring forth The Joker. Inasmuch as The Joker may remain the most compelling character of not just this film but any film this year, and not just because of all of the tragedy associated with the actor who becomes him, the film triumphs in its ability to share the attention and the wealth. This is, after all, a Batman movies, and where the previous series of films began to fail was when they began to focus more on the villains than the heroes.

…batwings instantly to the top of the list for best film this year.
They are not called supervillain movies for a reason. The story commences briskly where the Nolan brothers are economical in both their use of time and dialogue to advance the story. They are smart, and you have to pay attention to each line and then think for a few seconds to register all it meant. To say these guys are geniuses behind the camera and the script is to admit Stephen Hawking understands his physics. The shear brilliance of this story alone sets them far, far above their peers. It begins with a bank robbery by masked clowns. The story behind the story is that the mob has been losing money and people now that Batman is in Gotham City. And to catch their attention, a master criminal plots to steal their money out of the bank and then encourage them to hire him to get rid of the Batman. Meanwhile, the up and coming face of justice in Gotham is District Attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), and Batman / Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is growing to like the notion that Harvey can be to the public that which he cannot. What Batman / Bruce Wayne does not enjoy, however, is the enduring relationship between Harvey and Asst. D.A. Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over where Katie Holmes left off). So, as he tries to show his good side to Rachel by supporting Harvey publicly, he's constantly contemplating a promise she made that as soon as Gotham doesn't need Batman, they will be together. Harvey's rise and popularity and their successful co-campaign against crime, with Batman working closely with Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman), there should be less and less need for Batman, or so his mind calculates. That is until the whole city goes kaplooey when the strange and freaky little Joker arrives in town. He's never met a stick of dynamite he didn't love. The Joker will side up with the mob while intentionally using them to achieve his own inexplicable aims. In the end, the courage, faith, and commitment of all the principles will be tested to their outer limits and a series of spectacular mind-bending, soul-searching, morality testing climaxes that go off one by one before the grand finale like a carefully orchestrated fireworks show.

While Chris Nolan's Batman Begins was a magnificent film and one of the best superhero movies ever, The Dark Knight stands on its shoulders peering over into a whole new world. It's too bad for Iron Man which was looking to be the best superhero movie of the year, although, the comparison is a bit like comparing a year's best movie to a year's best epic film. Perhaps, The Dark Knight will finally do what no superhero film as ever done and that is receive a Best Picture nomination for the Academy Awards®. Certainly, the performances of the leading actors stand ready for consideration. Starting off with Aaron Eckhart's performance as Harvey Dent and leading up to Heath Ledger's miraculous performance as The Joker, there are plenty of opportunities for recognition. And, while Christian Bale's performance was top notch, the guy's done so many brilliant roles in the past couple of years without any Academy acknowledgement; it would be too ironic to consider him for this role.

…a film that real people, not just erudite film critics, will agree is amazing.
The Joker, however, stands alone as one of the most brilliantly villainous characters of all time. Nihilistic to a fault, he simultaneously embodies both the genius to unravel and exploit not just the weaknesses of Gotham City's heroes and villains but, indeed, all its citizens and the cunning and fiendish malevolence of a tortured soul who finds cathartic refuge in the absolute misery and fear of others. Only Alfred (Michael Caine) has known his kind before, observing that some men are motivated not by the traditional life rewards such as riches or power, some just want to watch the world burn. Much will be written on just this single performance. If you can even recognize that the man beneath the make-up is Heath Ledger at all, you cannot help but marvel at the incredible transformation he brings forth adding pounds more to the torture of realizing he's gone and will not get to see the public's reaction to his most profoundly perplexing and perturbing performance. Failure to nominate him for Best Actor posthumously would also be a serious tragedy. This role and this portrayal must not go unrecognized. Every single performance is perfect right down to the clowns that serve The Joker. The pace, the special effects, the haunting Hans Zimmer / James Newton Howard score, the story, the writing, are nearly letter perfect. This film is the definition of fantastic, and batwings instantly to the top of the list for best film this year. Moreover, it's actually a film that real people, not just erudite film critics, will agree is amazing.
Do Check Out the Spoiler for More Plot Details and Commentary

Note Of Caution Regarding MPAA Rating of PG-13
There is a note of caution, however, for parents and guardians. With all due respect to the MPAA, it's hard to see how this film is not an R-rated film given the level of violence, mayhem, and some gruesome, torturous scenes. Youngsters are quite likely to have Joker nightmares for months to come. Not to use The Dark Knight as a poster child fro what's wrong with a ratings system that labels any film with mild sexual content an immediate R, but extreme violence can still fit nicely in the PG range. Likewise, much of the moral complexity of this story will be lost on younger kids and even many pre-teens. There is no way I would take a kid under 15 to see this film. It is high time the MPAA examine its focus and mission and recognize the violent times in which we live and any relationship that may or may not ever be linked between youthful exposure to violent films and video games and future violent tendencies. Lower the threshold, MPAA, on violence in films that yields the R vs. PG-13 rating.

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Related Products from
Other Projects Featuring The Dark Knight (2008)
Cast Members
Christian BaleHeath LedgerAaron Eckhart
Michael CaineMaggie GyllenhaalGary Oldman
Morgan FreemanMonique CurnenRon Dean
Cillian MurphyAnthony Michael HallNestor Carbonell
Christopher Nolan
Jonathan NolanChristopher Nolan Products

Review-lite The Dark Knight (2008) [max of 150 words]
Batman Begins covered the back story affording the brothers Nolan, Chris and Jonathan, more time in The Dark Knight to focus on the the superhero archetype and the conflict between having a real life and living a lonely life of service. "You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain," says up-and-coming hero D.A. Harvey Dent. This simple line veils the complexity of the notion much as does the superhero's mask hide the true person within. This required the appearance of a supervillain and his orchestration of the fall of the best heroes. Toward that end, the brothers bring forth The Joker. Every single performance is outstanding. The pace, the special effects, the haunting score, the deftly-constructed story, are perfect. Dark Knight batwings atop the list of best films 2008—representing one that real people, not just erudite film critics, can agree is amazing.

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John Thomas "Kooz" Kuczmarski said...

Man, Heath's denouement. I so want to see this. I haven't read the review for fear of spoilers, but I've bookmarked your review and will read it as soon as I'm read to fully scrutinize the movie. How do you think Eckhardt's Harvey Dent performance compared to Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face in Batman Forever of the previous franchise? That was a great performance.

movie junkie said...

i still wish Katie Holmes had stayed on board as Rachel Dawes for the Dark Knight; it was like the time spent getting familiar with her character in Batman Begins was wasted...

Kori said...

Although I agree with most of your points - there's one I strongly disagree with. I myself am a fourteen-year-old girl, and I loved The Dark Knight. To say that 'there is no way' one would take someone under fifteen to this movie is preposterous. Children today have to grow up a lot faster than adults seem to realize, and we're a hell of a lot smarter, too.