The Dark Knight (2008)

“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Cast:  Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart

I think everyone was anticipating the release of this film and for a very long time! After the fresh, innovative take on the Batman franchise by visionary director Christopher Nolan – who is becoming one of the best storytellers of today’s day and age – who thought it could get any better than Batman Begins?!

The Dark Knight marks the second instalment in Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Though if you can believe it, the super-director revisits this iconic hero on an even bigger scale than before, with everything else amped up to suit. From the goodies to the baddies, the score to the CGI, the twisting plot turns to the full-on, all-out action sequences, there is no doubt that what we have here is a piece of art.

The Dark Knight takes place a few months after Batman Begins and Gotham is still in a very corrupt state. Criminals still rule the underworld and law and order is rarely enforced. With it being such a backwards society, Batman decides to combine forces with Lieutenant Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent to try and tackle the degenerative state on Gotham’s city streets once and for all. What Batman doesn’t bank on is a new villain rising from the depths. The Joker, a crazed criminal who thrives on chaotic spontaneity and moments of lunacy is Gotham’s new and unprecedented criminal mastermind, and Batman’s new match.

What a treat the audience are in for with this film. Depending on your own definition of a ‘superhero’, I would go as far to say that I think this is the best superhero movie ever. It’s dark, gritty, big, serious, unpredictable and constantly coming at you. At no time did I feel a lull in the storyline nor was I beginning to notice the generic sequences of other superhero films sneaking into the script. While Batman Begins covers the origin of the hero, exploring why he is who he is, it also pushes boundaries and teases us with potential character developments and further explorations, which The Dark Knight does its best to satisfy our curiosity with.

The sequel delves further into Bruce Wayne/Batman’s story (and other characters for that matter) but does so in a complex and tense manner that will have you thinking more seriously about this man than you have ever done before. The way in which Bale portrays this playboy, Bruce Wayne, with his obvious deep-seated issues, set alongside his alter-ego Batman, a serious law enforcer, caped and masked crusader with no apparent sign of slowing down, is utterly fantastic. This switch-up game also allows for a subtle sense of emotion to be seen fuelling some of Batman’s actions, which again, gives a new dimension to the hero. You can sense his pain, frustration and anger, even when he’s wearing the suit and hiding behind a mask – which must have been a hard feat to pull off. Again Christian Bale does a great job and pulls another solid performance out of the bag, reassuring us why he was cast as the face of the new and improved Batman in the first place.

Though let me have a moment to state the obvious..

Heath Ledger. What a performance. With each scene he’s in, he commands the screen, pulling your attention right on him. He without doubt gives the best performance of his tragically short-lived life and does so with such pizzazz, flair and conviction that his character has already become an iconic villain within the film community. While he was nominated for an Oscar for this role, I have a feeling people will think he was awarded it out of respect or perhaps even commiseration. Well no, lets just look at this performance, personal issues aside. It most definitely is an Oscar worthy role. He completely allowed The Joker’s character to consume him and I think he understood that character more than anyone else. I believe the make-up and costumes really allowed for him to get more involved with the role too, giving him a mask of his own to hide behind so he could act more extravagant and wild, making this villain what I consider to be the best in Nolan’s trilogy. If he was alive at the time of the Academy Awards, I believe Ledger would have still walked away Golden Statue in his hand.

Other obvious choices of praise go to Aaron Eckhart, his performance of Harvey Dent/Two Face really blew me away. Though I do feel for him as all of the attention was on Ledger as the film was opening. Still, we get to see him at his best here and he was eventually given the recognition he deserves for this role. Returning actors Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are both brilliant, and a few other familiar faces from Batman Begins also make (un)welcomed appearances. The cast for this film is really stellar, I can’t fault anyone, mainly because Katie Holmes was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal which was a major step up in the tables. Yeah, Rachel is still whiny, but Maggie pulls it off better than Katie did and with much less sass.

On my first watch of The Dark Knight, I felt so overwhelmed by the combined elements of the film that I needed to watch it a second time to be fully appreciate the magnitude of the film. A third and fourth time helped too, but even now, I come across little things I’ve missed on previous viewings. As with Batman Begins, there is too much good about The Dark Knight to go into detail with. Nolan really packs it tight with carefully selected elements which ensure the best possible outcome. Ranging from fantastic CGI, to innumerable plot twists, subtle messages, top class acting and most of all, the scariest villains you could ever meet, The Dark Knight is a bloody brilliant spectacle, showcasing Nolan’s real talents as a director.

Star rating:  9/10

Directed by Christopher Nolan.

Running time 152 minutes.

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