“Where do we begin?” questions the Joker to a room full of Gotham City’s most elite mob bosses whose once-threatening criminal empire has been shamefully subdued by a masked vigilante known as The Batman.
And I really don’t know where to begin. “The Dark Knight” is an explosive, heart-wrenching, dumbfounding , ingeniously concocted masterpiece that will forever stand the test of time as long as movies are made and the world keeps watching them. In no way has there been a hint of exaggeration in that sentence, whatsoever. It is that good.
Christopher Nolan (director) is a filmmaking sage and the masterpiece that is The Dark Knight clearly corroborates that. It is with a film like this that Batman fans everywhere can finally feel blessed for having such an admirable director who is the epitome of what many rising directors out there need to aspire to. He is a man who sincerely cares about the material he works with and treats it with the utmost respect and devotion that is a definite rarity in the Hollywood industry. Interpretation is an extremely vague term and is what led a franchise ignited by Tim Burton’s much-revered Batman ’89 epic into the most macabre of hellholes that was Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin. Nolan, on the other hand, has delved into the source material and core of the comics drawing inspiration from some of the greatest Batman stories ever told including “The Long Halloween”, “The Man Who Laughs”, “The Killing Joke”, and retroactively, Batman #1, which coincidentally depicts the Joker televising his crime threats beforehand. While expanding on the mythos such as introducing new, yet essential characters and tweaking certain backstories, he does something that none of the previous directors have done – he stays true to the inner heart and soul of the characters and gets them right.
In “The Dark Knight”, we do not see a pudgy, two-dimensional Commissioner Gordon who simply directs his bumbling cops to chase after Batman. We see a bold, yet unpretentious leader, played by Gary Oldman, who is torn between preserving the peace in a newly-restored Gotham City, and protecting the family he loves. We do not see an underused, underdeveloped Lando Calrissian reading off a letter from Batman before the fawning citizens of Gotham…or a Smuckers grape jelly Two-Face. We see Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), a fearless, ambitious District Attorney who is adamant about cleaning up the streets of Gotham, while desperately battling with his inner demons which gnaw away at his sense of sound reasoning and judgment. As for Two-Face, he looks amazingly gruesome with a partly CGI’ed face burn that brings the 10-megabyte computer files that are Iron Man and Hulk to utter shame. We also do not see Katie Holmes, but Maggie Gyllenhaal’s honest and credible take on Rachel Dawes, the Assistant District Attorney who completes the love triangle, standing in between Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne. Morgan Freeman returns as Wayne Enterprises CEO, Lucius Fox, and Michael Caine as the avuncular butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Both indeed, play pivotal, directional roles to Bruce Wayne, who is once again reprised better than ever by Christian Bale.
These characters are so well-developed in “The Dark Knight” that whenever we see them in the most desperate and hopeless of situations, it most literally tears us apart. But most remarkable of all, is the maniacal, psychopathic clown, The Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger. I must say, the critics are entirely correct that he should be nominated for an Academy Award. Ledger’s performance is flawless in that he has completely transformed himself, body and mind into the character of The Joker. He is The Joker in that he performs the most sadistic and humanly disturbing of acts, yet leaves the audience in a laughing riot that is sure to make some question whether or not insanity, perhaps, lies dormant within the deepest niches of all of our psyches. Ledger’s Joker is the wake-up call and he surely hits the spot. Hard. An interrogation scene between Batman and the Joker is classic, as we finally witness the extremities of these two characters and the expressions that make them iconic: Controlled rage and masochistic laughter. This is, without a doubt, one of the most memorable moments in the film.
A city at rest. Lights shut off, except for one building. A towering skyscraper, illuminated by a radiant sapphire, atop which stands a lone, dark figure peering down into the abysmal streets below. Batman launches off the rooftop edge, gliding through the glorious cityscape of Hong Kong. A scene that can be accomplished by none other cinematographer, Wally Pfister. “The Dark Knight” is like nothing we have ever seen before. In “Batman Begins”, we marvelled at a helicopter shot of Batman perched over a lofty ledge – a guardian watching over his city. With “The Dark Knight”, Pfister has taken a gargantuan step up from “Begins”, as we see a multitude of aerial and background shots hovering through the beautiful cities of Chicago, London, and Hong Kong. Not too enamored on special effects, Nolan and Pfister have easily proven by far how the scope of a film can exceed that of many CGI-cluttered, overbudgeted blockbusters today that tend to fail in all other aspects. Believe me. You will have not seen this film in its true form until you have seen it in IMAX.
Last, but not least, the storyline. Without revealing any spoilers or specific plot details, let me say this. Chris Nolan has pushed these characters to the brink of their limits until morals become obsolete and all that matters is reaching that final goal, which will only help alleviate the scars that have already been cut deep into the flesh. “The Dark Knight” is a lengthy 2 1/2 hours long, but in no way, I repeat, in no way does it drag and provide you a second of respite to emanating those searing indiglo light beams into people’s eyes from your watches or sending your cutesie friendz sappy “idk rotfl byob” txt msgs ; ) This film is graphic, gritty, and emotionally abrasive and gives the best possible reason as to why it barely nicks the surface of an R-rating. The twists and turns are so effectively crafted and well-executed, as they are constantly utilized to raise the stakes precariously higher as the storyline progresses. Nolan has made a masterpiece so seamlessly woven as a whole that you’ll be trying to catch your breath when the screen fades to black with the title of a momentous achievement in filmmaking history that is…”The Dark Knight”.
Euge’s Final Verdict: A+