Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on The Dark Knight (2008)

A review on Hollywood feature length film, The Dark Knight (2008). The film is directed by Christopher Nolan and is the second film in the Dark Knight trilogy. The film is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

+ Crew I

  • Directed by Christopher Nolan
  • Cinematography by Wally Pfister
  • Story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer
  • Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
  • Edited by Lee Smith
  • Produced by Emma Thomas, Charles Roven and Christopher Nolan

+ Crew II (Production Houses)

  • Warner Bros. Pictures
  • DC Comics
  • Legendary Pictures
  • Syncopy

+ Note

After the success of Batman Begins which rebooted the Batman franchise for a new generation of fans, Christopher Nolan was given full reign to create a sequel for Warner Bros. with the continuation of the Dark Knight saga. The budget this time around was significantly larger and Nolan brought in his brother Jonathan Nolan to co-write the screenplay with him. Two new villains were to be introduced; Heath Ledger as the Joker and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/ Two Face. 

Interestingly enough, Nolan originally wanted Ledger to play Batman in the first film but was ultimately rejected. Many prominent actors such as Adrian Brody, Robin Williams and Paul Bettany sparked interest for the role of the Joker but Nolan was adamant on Ledger for the Clown Prince of Crime. As was the realistic tone of the first film, Nolan wanted Ledger to move far away from Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and bring his own psychotic interpretation of the character. And with that, it was mostly all Ledger from there. The iconic Chemical Factory mishap origin story was retconned and instead, the messy face paint makeup and scarred smile became the character’s iconic personification. The scenes of Handy cam Footage of the Joker were all staged and planned by Heath Ledger himself. During Production, everyone was at awe with Ledger’s performance and knew it was “something special”. Sadly such intense method acting also encouraged the actor into increasing his prescription drugs which ultimately took his own life before the film was even released.

With the sequel, Nolan wanted to experiment more with Batman’s detective skills while Havery Dent served the role as his counterpart. One of the main reasons for the addition of Two Face was to garner sympathy from the audience that the Joker character could not provide in the film. The filming started around 2007 and was primarily shot in the city of Chicago, USA. Even before the film’s release, The Dark Knight was already being hailed as a “Masterpiece” in the Superhero genre, particularly Ledger’s ecstatic performance. The film turned out to be a massive hit at the box office, earning $ 1 Billion worldwide and thus, Batman was once again the superhero of this generation.

+ Main Cast

  1. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman
  2. Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth
  3. Heath Ledger as the Joker
  4. Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent
  5. Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes
  6. Gary Oldman as James Gordon
  7. Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox
  8. Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow

+ Plot

After the events of Batman Begins, detective Gordon and Batman combine forces to clean the streets of Gotham from the corruption and terror that it once consumed. The district attorney Havery Dent plans on destroying the criminal infrastructure himself which could leave the Dark Knight’s role ‘obsolete’ as the masked vigilante. Meanwhile, a mysterious psychopath in clown makeup is terrorizing the underworld, calling himself the Joker. He plans nothing more than throwing the city into total anarchy. 

Could Batman and Dent save the city from this monster or will one of them fall into the dark path of utter chaos and destruction of Humanity?

+ High Points

i – To call The Dark Knight  a mere ‘great superhero movie’ is such an understatement. The Dark Knight IS a great film. Period. Nolan’s impeccable direction sets a new bar of what action/ Blockbuster films can be. From the opening Bank Robbery scene to the caped crusader riding on his Bat motorcycle away into the night, every moment, every scene is masterfully crafted. The character arcs, the pacing of each scene, everything is carefully and meticulously preconceived and executed, easily making the film to be one of the Best Films of the Decade. In 2002, Sam Raimi’s Spider-man may have kicked off this super hero revival but it is The Dark Knight that elevated it to an immense high standard of filmmaking.

ii – The Dark Knight is what every sequel should be. It is what The Godfather II was, what Terminator 2 accomplished. Whatever flaws the first film had, Nolan ironed out all the creases and relied heavily on his strengths and allowed his actors to bring their own set of skills to the table. This film is a textbook example of how a sequel should be made.

iii – The film entails excellent performances but all of them get overshadowed by the legendary performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker (and with good reason!). His mysterious ‘multiple choice’ past, his eccentric mannerisms, the antithesis of Batman makes Joker such a unique portrayal that we had perhaps never witnessed on the big screen. With immense heavy method acting, Ledger plunged deep into the psyche of the Joker and easily dominated every scene he was a part of. Although the film is called The Dark Knight, it is in fact the Joker who steals the show.

iv – Even though David Goyer is a great storyteller, it is the Nolan brothers that translate that work onscreen as a masterful three act structure of filmmaking. It is a perfect blend of high intensity scenes and the quieter moments of the film, serving as textbook screenwriting for every other action film hereafter.

v – What is the distinction between Good and Evil? Are they both different sides of the same coin? Is Evil only a misguided personification of Good? Do some good people only need one bad day to turn sides? The question was first asked in the epic Batman graphic novel ‘The Killing Joke’ and has now been immensely explored in The Dark Knight. This brings such high voltage tension between good and evil throughout the film. As a viewer, you are constantly engaged in a battle of who to sympathize and who to root for till the end of the film. It’s not a coincidence that many fans flocked towards the Joker’s perception of the world (even though it is highly flawed and inhumane).

vi – The film starts off with an absolutely fantastic opening Bank Robbery scene. Perfectly sets the tone and pacing of the narrative right from the get-go. And it’s one helluva ride from thereon out!

vii – The car chase scene through the gritty streets of ‘Gotham’ is alone a strong conviction that The Dark Knight is like no other superhero film before it. Nolan’s insistence on shooting with Film and practical effects are highly rewarding onscreen. It is one of the greatest action scenes ever put in modern American filmmaking.

viii – The supporting cast is also no pushover. Every actor brings their A game onto this epic journey and thus, every scene feels intense and exciting to witness. Gary Oldman (once again) is exceptionally brilliant as Detective Gordon and the only ally to the masked vigilante. 

ix – Even though the ‘realistic’ world of Nolan’s Batman might prove too bleak for some viewers, there is not a single moment throughout the film where Nolan is not in control of his work. The city of Chicago (where the film was mostly shot in) creates a plausible depiction of a ‘realistic’ Batman of today without indulging in excessive brute force and losing the sense of Batman’s character (something Zack Synder’s Batman v Superman utterly failed to accomplish). Most violence and blood spree is kept off screen, creating a sense of dread and despondence in the atmosphere. The film shows how well rehearsed Nolan and his team were with the Dark Knight from its source material and reimagined it in such a convincing fashion.

x – I cannot conclude the ‘High Points’ without mentioning its undeniable influence onto American cinema. Unsurprisingly, the film was a massive success at the Box Office, elevating the Superhero genre of films to a whole new level. Even after more than a decade, its impact on superhero/ action films is unquestionable. Although Marvel Studios cracked the formula of superhero Blockbuster success, The Dark Knight still sits high on its throne due to its craftsmanship.

+ Low Points

i – With such masterful filmmaking on display, not everything is (unfortunately) flawless about the film. The character arc of Harvey Dent is slightly rushed and not given enough time for the viewer to sympathise with his inevitable downfall from grace. Perhaps if Harvey Dent was briefly introduced in Batman Begins to the audience, his plunge into insanity in this film would’ve proven much more impactful.  

ii – With such brilliant practical effects throughout the film, the sparingly used CGI unfortunately sticks out like a sore thumb (namely, Two Face’s CGI face).

iii – While the city of Chicago serves well in Nolan’s world as Gotham City, it does come off as somewhat bland and turns out to be unmemorable in the long run.

+ Overall

The testament of every great film has to be its influence and contribution to Cinema and the art of filmmaking. And this film has it in spades. With superb performances, impeccable direction and memorable moments, The Dark Knight is still the pinnacle and one of the very best in the genre. True, not every superhero film needs to be The Dark Knight but every superhero film deserves to be compared to it.

Rate: 5 out of 5 stars

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