Retro Review: The Dark Knight

[I used to post film reviews on my facebook page back in the day.  From time to time, I’ll post them here again, as I get settled in and start pulling together new content.  I’ll be posting them in chronological order, starting with my first written review.  Bear in mind that my early movie reviews tended to be slightly long winded, but I’m working on getting more succinct.]


The Dark Knight

Well, you knew this would be my first review. Those that know me know that I have a certain affinity (read: “obsession”) for Batman. I’ve watched a whole mess of the old cartoons (not really the new ones), and I’m relatively knowledgeable on the subject. I also happen to love Batman Begins (the predecessor for this movie, if you didn’t know). As such, there will obviously be some (or maybe a lot) of bias in this review, but I’ll try to review it as a film, not necessarily as a fan-boy (did I just use that term to describe myself??).

The first word that comes to mind is: “intense.” Not just because the action is intense, or the plot is intense (though both are undoubtedly true), but the characters are intense. The first thing you’re going to realize starting out this movie is the gritty realism of the world in which it takes place. It’s a world strangely like ours – where the characters are flawed, selfishness does indeed take place (you’ll see that in the first few seconds), heroes don’t dress up in spandex and fly in when something bad happens, and the possibilities are still endless. It’s the same world that was set up in Batman Begins (so if you haven’t seen that movie, this one might be a little over your head – though you only have to grasp the main concept). Since the events of Batman Begins, Gotham City has changed – criminals are still just as rampant, but Batman’s vigilance has caused a growing fear among criminals – until a certain character called the Joker (played by the late Heath Ledger) comes to town and starts wreaking havoc (quite literally). Ok, so that’s a really quick, spoiler-free plot summary. But don’t let that very brief summary fool you – the plot of The Dark Knight is actually incredibly complex. MUCH more so than your average summer action flick. You can’t stop paying attention, because the plot is constantly moving. Fortunately, you’ll never want to stop paying attention. When I said this movie was intense, I wasn’t kidding. The movie constantly keeps you on the edge of your seat, upping the tension and making you wonder what will happen next. In fact, that’s one of the strongest points about this movie. These days, the plot can be predicted in just about every movie. Breaking that trend, the Dark Knight constantly takes sudden and unexpected twists and turns that will leave your mind spinning.

But the real strength of the movie lies in the characters. Christian Bale once again plays an amazing (yet still believable) Bruce Wayne/Batman combo. Other returning actors are Michael Caine as the sarcastic, yet fatherly Alfred (who could’ve used more screentime but still made great use of the scenes he was in), and Morgan Freeman plays Lucius Fox, Bruce’s go-to guy for gadgets. Unfortunately, a different person plays the character of Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne’s love interest. I would’ve preferred the same person play the part just for continuity’s sake, but, to be fair, the character wasn’t outstanding in Batman Begins either. Don’t get me wrong, the character was good (and necessary), but the performances weren’t ground-breaking, and being more of a minor character, having a different actor play Rachel Dawes wasn’t a major issue. Fortunately, Dark Knight’s actor Maggie Gyllenhaal played a very good Rachel, seamlessly blending her own self with Holmes’ performance in a way that establishes pretty good continuity between the two films. However, there are two actors I especially want to talk about in this review: Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent and (of course) Heath Ledger as the Joker. First: Harvey Dent. Now this was a good character. Taken right from the comic books, Dent is the new Gotham City District Attorney who undergoes a dark journey throughout the film’s two and a half hour plot. Eckhart nails the role perfectly, not only giving the character his noble personage in the public eye, but a character dealing with other demons in the private life. Finally: Heath Ledger. What can I say? His final performance has been surrounded by much hype and has been talked about for months. Well, there’s a reason for that. Ledger gives one of the most intense, creepiest, and downright evil performances I’ve ever seen. From the subtle ticks in body movement to his perfectly delivered lines, the Joker oozes with menace and an unpredictable instability. He basically steals the spotlight in every scene he manages to appear in. You can’t help but be enthralled, yet repulsed by the villain that is Ledger’s Joker. It’s spot-on.

Now to wrap it up. Director Chris Nolan pulled all the stops in this movie. Intense, gripping, and complex – it has all the makings of an epic. Interestingly, Nolan has completely filled this movie with symbolism. The Joker as a symbol of anarchy is a very intriguing and clever one. Listen to the speech he gives to Harvey Dent about chaos and the common man. Despite the fact that you want to hate him, you knnow that some of what the Joker says has truth sprinkled in it. Clever. Devishly so. Even more intriguing is Nolan’s exploration of a hero – what a hero really is and what his limits are. Specifically, this question is explored in the character of Batman and Harvey Dent. The two have a very symbolic relationship with each other that is explored quite well in this movie. As a warning, this movie is quite violent (not something to bring the kiddies to), as it can be very intense. Nevertheless, the movie is simply one word: Incredible. Easily the best movie of the summer, and probably the best one of 2008. 10 out of 10 stars.

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~ by digitallysmitten on February 8, 2010.

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