Weekend Movie Review – “The Dark Knight”

Don’t have tickets yet? Line up now, and you might get in to see it by Tuesday. Iron Man was the reigning box office superhero for the past two months, but we’ll find he’s far from invincible.

Cast and Crew Information

Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman
Heath Ledger is (not as) the Joker
Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent / Two-Face
Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth
Maggie Gyllenhall as Rachel Dawes
Gary Oldman as James Gordon
Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox
Cillian Murphy as Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow
Nestor Carbonell as the Mayor
Eric Roberts as Salvatore Maroni
Anthony Michael Hall as Mike Engel
Melinda McGraw as Barbara Gordon

Written by Jonathan and Christopher Nolan wrote a script based on a story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer.
Directed by Christopher Nolan.

Premise

Batman has inspired a major change in Gotham. The city is brighter, the people are hopeful, and the criminals run scared. A new player comes to town to throw a little chaos into all of this order.

High Point

They get it. That’s the bottom line. I can’t pick out one or two points as being better than any others, because each moment is dead-on from start to finish. There’s a lot of complexity and subtlety to the methods and motivations of the characters in the Batman mythos, and this cast and crew get it all. They get Batman’s motives and limitations. They get the Joker better than any other live action or animated team ever have. They understand what it would take to turn a man like Harvey Dent into Two-Face. They understand why Alfred Pennyworth stands by Batman through anything. They understand why those who get close enough to deduce Batman’s dual identity keep their mouths shut. They understand the line Jim Gordon walks. They get it all.

Low Point

We’ll never see a repeat performance of this Joker.

The Review

This loses originality points for being an adaptation, but that’s it. Batman’s relationship with the city has never gone this route in live action before, and no representation of the Joker has nailed him so well. I give it 5 out of 6.

The effects were excellent. The makeup effects were phenomenal, and they go well past the Joker. (They were right to keep Two-Face out of the trailers; that’s a perfect reveal.) They were utterly seamless, and that’s really difficult given what they needed to show. I give it 6 out of 6.

The story is very well crafted. The Joker is presented as a perfect foil to the Batman they’ve created. Batman inspired a change in the city, and so does the Joker, driving decisions in just about everyone in town. He personifies the chaos that Batman fights against, but is brilliant enough to outsmart the Bat on occasion. This treatment also makes it clear why neither of them kills the other. This is the relationship people are expecting to see, but most audiences will be presently surprised by the quality and time given to Harvey Dent’s story. I give it 6 out of 6.

The acting is great. Most of the cast deliver their roles with passion and power. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, who stole every scene they were in the first time around, do just as well this time, but they pale in comparison to Heath Ledger’s Joker. Ledger breathes life into the psychopath so completely and effectively that you forget you’re watching an actor. (In fact, from the reports I’ve heard, Ledger got the prescriptions for the sleeping pills that killed him because becoming the Joker was so disturbing for him.) I give it 6 out of 6.

The production is excellent. The look and feel of Gotham show the improvements that Batman has inspired, while the editing and musical score drive the emotions home. The use of a single crescendo instead of melody when the Joker is “pushing” someone to their limits is as disturbing as the Joker himself. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response was incredible. (I’m rapidly running out of positive adjectives, here.) I followed the course the filmmakers laid out from start to finish. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, this is an amazing film, and the best one I’ve seen this year. I give it 6 out of 6.

In total, The Dark Knight receives 41 out of 42.

9 replies on “Weekend Movie Review – “The Dark Knight””

  1. Timeshredder says:

    Overall I agree….

    I especially echo your sentiments with regards to the characterization of Batman and the Joker. I felt they tried to put too much in,* I didn’t quite buy the ending (the truth would make a stronger statement, IMO), and I found myself wondering, even in a comic-book film, how the Joker managed to accomplish quite so much.

    Still, the filmmakers and actors have a grasp of Batman that I don’t think I’ve seen on film before. This may be the best superhero adaptation Hollywood’s produced.

    *Anyone else feel like you just watched an entire season of a (very good) Batman tv series? Any of the plots– the situation on the boat, for example– could have been developed into very suspenseful, character-driven episodes.

  2. Timeshredder says:

    BTW
    A friend sent me this link. Batman in reality?

  3. Babbster says:

    Really liked it, but…
    I have two main issues with the movie:

    1) The Batman fight scenes just didn’t do anything for me. I think I understand the artistic reasoning behind the quick cuts (comic book panels), and I’m sure they make the scenes easier to shoot, but the style leaves me cold. Of course, the movie wasn’t about Batman’s hand-to-hand skills, and shouldn’t be, but when the fights were happening I became annoyed instead of engrossed.

    2) –Seriously, don’t read the following if you haven’t seen the movie– I really disliked the way the boat situation resolved. It seemed to be basic human goodness coming to the fore, but it was hugely unrealistic, particularly when it came to the criminal boat. Survival instincts would be far too powerful, and I’d argue that the civilian passengers would have been even more disposed to destroying the boat full of criminals given that they had voted and that there would be a tendency for them to consider the criminals’ lives less important than their own. Gotham is a dark place, and I just don’t get how these passengers, in perhaps one of the darkest situations imaginable, would make the decisions they did.

    And, it could have still worked with the passengers using the detonators by making their detonators fakes. Joker could have recorded a camera feed from the boats and used it as a demonstration of how bad people are, and his awesome sense of humor, and he could still have had a real detonator so that he could enjoy commiting mass murder.

    I guess I just think it was something of a feel-good cop-out, and not in keeping with the rest of the movie.

    Again, I still enjoyed the movie and I’d recommend it highly to anyone. :)

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: Really liked it, but…

      I have two main issues with the movie:

      2) –Seriously, don’t read the following if you haven’t seen the movie– I really disliked the way the boat situation resolved. It seemed to be basic human goodness coming to the fore, but it was hugely unrealistic, particularly when it came to the criminal boat.

      Except that by vote, they actually make the "wrong" decision. Then someone takes the leadership position and makes the "right" one on their behalf.

      Just like Batman and Gordon decide at the end to lie, because they feel it’s in everyone else’s best interest.

      Anyone else uncomfortable with this thematic slant?

      • babasyzygy says:

        Re: Really liked it, but…
        Not uncomfortable in the least. The entire theme of the movie, and conviction of the Batman that the movie portrays, is that the masses make the wrong decisions without the right leaders (the Batman, ) to inspire them to make the right decisions.

        It’s pretty easy to see, looking at history (Pol Pot, Stalin, and that Godwin fellow), that the wrong leaders can lead a populace towards horrific behavior, one can only hope that good leaders can do the opposite.

        • Timeshredder says:

          Re: Really liked it, but…

          Not uncomfortable in the least. The entire theme of the movie, and conviction of the Batman that the movie portrays, is that the masses make the wrong decisions without the right leaders (the Batman, ) to inspire them to make the right decisions.

          The hero has always raised the issue– but I see a difference between inspiring people and making decisions on their behalf without informing them or worse, lying to them.

          • ViperDriver says:

            Re: Really liked it, but…

            Not uncomfortable in the least. The entire theme of the movie, and conviction of the Batman that the movie portrays, is that the masses make the wrong decisions without the right leaders (the Batman, ) to inspire them to make the right decisions.

            The hero has always raised the issue– but I see a difference between inspiring people and making decisions on their behalf without informing them or worse, lying to them.

            Ah, but remember….he’s not a hero. He’s something past that. He’s a place to put our sins, and he’ll be whatever we need him to be in order to get through the day. The whole point is that he’s willing to take that responsibility – even if it’s wrong – because that way nobody else has to.

          • ViperDriver says:

            Re: Really liked it, but…

            Not uncomfortable in the least. The entire theme of the movie, and conviction of the Batman that the movie portrays, is that the masses make the wrong decisions without the right leaders (the Batman, ) to inspire them to make the right decisions.

            The hero has always raised the issue– but I see a difference between inspiring people and making decisions on their behalf without informing them or worse, lying to them.

            Sorry, I forgot to add this. Look up the original definition of ‘scapegoat’. Then think about this movie. (Specifically, the ‘Hebrew Bible’ section of the definition on Wikipedia is a good start.)

            • Timeshredder says:

              Re: Really liked it, but…

              Sorry, I forgot to add this. Look up the original definition of ‘scapegoat’. Then think about this movie. (Specifically, the ‘Hebrew Bible’ section of the definition on Wikipedia is a good start.)

              Hard to miss the scapegoat allusion. I just didn’t really like it as the ending of this film, which I thought might have been better had it ended about a half-hour earlier.

              Great acting though, great Joker, and I’m interested in seeing where they go next.

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