The Dark Knight Review (Life of Films’s Guest Review)
Christopher Nolan has created many incredible films, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say his true masterpiece is 2008’s The Dark Knight. Not only is this film perfectly put together, it is groundbreaking on many levels. It was the first film to incorporate IMAX into production, as well as taking the superhero genre into a new direction by dropping it into the real world.
The Dark Knight is the sequel to Batman Begins, a film that suffered from it predecessors, therefore not being a huge success at the box office, with it being a Batman film. With such negative history surrounding the character, Warner Bros really shook it up by bringing Christopher Nolan in to reshape the Caped Crusader, and, in turn, introduced us to this new Batman, played by Christian Bale. Even though this film didn’t hit extreme heights within the box office, word gradually got out that this film was, in fact, very good, and extremely different to what we were used to seeing. For a start, there were no nipples on the Batsuit! So, by the time the The Dark Knight came out, everyone was fully prepared to go see this film knowing full well that Batman was in capable hands with Christopher Nolan.
The Dark Knight starts off with Batman fully integrated into Gotham City, with the criminals scared to do any of their business during the night in fear of running into “The Batman”. With Batman in complete control over Gotham, the mob turn to a mad criminal who dresses as a clown, formally known as The Joker, played by Heath Ledger. During the build up to this film, the casting of Heath Ledger raised a lot of eyebrows, given that he had done quite a few cheesy films previously, such as A Knight’s Tale and 10 Things I Hate About You. Therefore, people were worried about his acting capabilities when taking on such a big role, especially as the last actor to play The Clown Prince of Crime was Oscar-winner Jack Nicholson. Boy, did Heath prove everyone wrong. Not only did Ledger put in an incredible performance, he broke the mould and brought the superhero franchise an Academy Award. His passing was an incredible tragedy. I wish I could have seen him reap the rewards for his incredible work. Forever will the next actors to play The Joker be compared to Ledger, and rightfully so.
Not only do the mob have an issue during the night, they have an issue during the day; that issue going by the name of District Attorney Harvey Dent. Harvey is played by Aaron Eckhart, who, yet again, is a perfect casting for this character. With Batman being Gotham’s Dark Knight, Harvey is its White Knight, operating within the law to bring down the scum of Gotham’s underbelly. Harvey will do anything to keep Gotham safe, and is a believer in the Batman. The Batman has inspired him to face these criminals and not give in to terror. This is shown in a great scene where a thug pulls out a gun on him in a courtroom, and Harvey disarms the criminal without even flinching. Granted, he gets fortunate with the gun jamming. Anyone who is familiar with Batman knows what happens to Harvey Dent, but I will get to that later…
With Gotham on criminal lockdown, the mob turn to The Joker to help them gain power over the city again. Little do they know just how crazy the Joker is, with him being a direct opposite to Batman. There aren’t many ways to get to Batman, but the Joker finds a way by publically announcing that everyday he is going to kill someone until Batman shows the world who he truly is. This creates pure anarchy throughout Gotham, and is the main theme for the Joker, and the rest of the film, with the clown consistently trying to catch the Batman out. Even when it looks like the GCPD have captured The Joker it turns out it is all part of his plan to get close to Batman.
This leads me to one of cinema’s most iconic scenes – the interrogation of The Joker by Batman, where our hero is trying to find out where he has taken Gotham’s White Knight, Harvey Dent. I could watch this scene over and over again, as two acting legends go toe to toe, creating some outstanding work. The details are incredible – The Joker’s makeup as it is partly rubbed away, Batman’s velvet-like cape running along the floor, the clowns slithering tongue appearing every other moment as he torments the Batman. This is all cinematic genius from Christopher Nolan. As the interrogation gets more heated The Joker tells Batman he better hurry if he is to “save one of them”. Writing this gives me goosebumps, as we see the Joker has got one over on Batman again, revealing that not only has he kidnapped Harvey, he has kidnapped Bruce Wayne’s one love, Rachel Dawes, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal (yet another great casting, may I add). Not only is Rachel Bruce’s love, she is also Harvey’s, creating a love triangle subplot.
The Joker has both Harvey and Rachel tied up next to oil drums, wired up to explosives, in two separate locations across Gotham. With Harvey trying to escape he knocks over a rig and falls to the floor covering half of his body in oil. As the police rush to save Rachel, Batman heads for Harvey, and gets there just before the explosives goes off. Whilst Batman is dragging Harvey out, the explosives detonate, shooting flames at the pair. The flames catch the fuel that has doused one side of Harvey, thus creating the iconic villain Harvey “Two-Face” Dent. Originally, it is acid that is thrown at Harvey to create the alter ego, but as this is a more realistic approach to Batman, the fire makes more sense, which again shows us Nolan’s genius.
With The Joker still wreaking havoc on Gotham, and Harvey Dent out of action, Batman has a moment of doubt, requiring his trusted butler Alfred, played by the legendary Michael Caine, to put him back on the right path. “Things were always going to get worse before they got better.” This brings us to the finale of this somewhat perfect film.
The Joker sets up another test for Batman, having captured doctors from the hospital he has just blown up. This also frees Harvey Dent, who goes missing. He uses the doctors as bait for the police, dressing them like thugs and taping guns to their hands. With snipers about to shoot them thinking they are the enemy, Batman swoops in, to then find out what the Joker is hiding. This scene sums up Batman, as we see him take on the real Joker thugs whilst stopping SWAT from killing innocent people by mistake, finishing this ultimate heroic scene by capturing the Joker for real this time. But, yet again, the Joker has caught the Batman out, telling The Dark Knight he knows where Harvey is, and that his plan was to show the world that even the best person in Gotham can fall, hinting that he has corrupted the DA – “I took Gotham’s White Knight and brought him down to our level”.
With the film coming to a close there is just one loose end to tie up, and that is Harvey Dent. This is my favorite part of the film. We see Harvey in the ruins of the building his love was in as it exploded, due to the police not reaching her in time. Not only is he there, he has also drawn Commissioner Gordon, played by yet another legend, Gary Oldman, to this destination due to him kidnapping his family. As we see the half-burnt Harvey stood there explaining how he tried to save Gotham but the world isn’t fair, Batman manages to reach them in time and tries to explain to Harvey that it was not the Commissioners fault Rachel died. But Harvey has his own rules now, and that is living by the rule of 50/50, Live or Die, as this was the same chance him and Rachel had. To make this decision he uses a his father’s lucky coin, which was ruined in the explosion that killed Rachel. He flips to decides Batman’s fate, and our hero gets the bad side of the coin and a bullet in the stomach. Two-Face turns to the Commissioner’s Son, and flips the coin, but before the coin lands the Batman dives into them both, throwing all three of them off a ledge. Luckily Batman manages to hang on the ledge whilst holding the boy, but unable to prevent harvey falling to his death. Just before we see the aftermath of the fall, we see the coin land good side up, which is a lovely little detail, very typical of Nolan.
With Harvey dead and Gotham in pure anarchy, the Joker managed to succeed in undoing everything Batman had worked for. The people looked up to Harvey for security. To see what he had become would send Gotham back into turmoil, leaving us with what I think is the most heroic scene in any superhero film. Batman tells Commissioner Gordon to call the police in on him and report that he was responsible for all the damage Harvey has caused, reassuring Gordon that he’s “not a hero” he’s “whatever Gotham needs him to be” and, with it, completely changing the face of superhero films forever. That a hero isn’t just about swooping in and saving the day at the last minute. It’s about standing for something, even if it means people will hate you.
Not only has this film got incredible IMAX cinematography, awarding winning acting and an outrageous story, it also has one of the best movie scores ever, which is composed by none other than the legendary Hans Zimmer. With tracks like “I’m Not a Hero” and “A Watchful Guardian” this score is absolutely iconic, and one people would recognise anywhere.
As you can tell, I am a huge fan of this film, and wanted to try and go into as much detail as I could regarding this masterpiece, but really this movie speaks for itself. Christopher Nolan is an absolute genius, and in this film created one of the best movies ever, which is why it jumps around within the top 5 highest ranked films on IMDb. As the Joker says “You’ve changed things, forever”, and this is exactly what Nolan has done to the superhero genre.
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