The Dark Knight Review

The Dark Knight (2008) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

THE DARK NIGHT

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan (screenplay),  Christopher Nolan
Stars: Christian Bale,  Heath Ledger,  Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy

Christopher Nolan really did leave us hanging at the end of Batman Begins (2005) with the Jim Gordon / Batman scene at the very end teasing the audience with the “has a taste for the theatrical, like you. Leaves a calling card.” with what we could look forward to in the next instalment of “The Dark Knight Trilogy”

Within those three years slowly but surely little pieces of information began to leak online on who would portray “The Joker” and it’s no great secret that when Health Ledger was announced it caused a bit of backlash amongst the fans that hadn’t been seen since pre-internet days of Tim Burton’s announcement that Michael Keaton was portraying Bruce Wayne in the 1989 version of the caped crusader. In fact, we as fans still haven’t learned our lessons for in 2013 a similar backlash happened with the announcement of Ben Affleck taking the Wayne mantel in the upcoming sequel to “Man of Steel” that would soon becoming title “Batman Versus Superman”

We need not worried as most folk know about Ledger’s now iconic portal of “The Clown” and more importantly the tragedy surrounding the actors untimely death on 22nd January 2008 aged 28, six months before the premier of “The Dark Knight”

The hype and publicity surrounding the release of the movie in the summer of 2008 probably would have tainted the movie in a way that with all the publicity into Ledger’s death may in fact leave a massive shadow hanging over the sequel. Going into the theatre to watch the follow up to Batman Begins, any fear of this was put to bed within the first 10 minutes of the movie as we watched a bank heist taking place and The Joker’s reveal was straight to the point was also shocking as we see and hear this portrayal say “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you stranger” the theatre may have been in complete darkness but you couldn’t sense the audience rubbing their hands knowing what was in store for the next couple of hours.

One thing I noticed and have always applauded Christopher Nolan for was the focus is taken away from Bruce Wayne in the movie. Batman Begins was always about Bruce Wayne and the development of that character so much so they didn’t give us one of the “main” villains in the opening instalment (although The Scarecrow was excellent) as the Director was in every sense rebooting the franchise. In “The Dark Knight” this was never going to be the case. Here we saw a man “Who just wanted to watch world burn” in The Joker and also we see the Rise and Tragic Fall of Harvey Dent who went from “Gotham’s White Knight” to “Two Face” gradually and even more so tragically.

The pacing of this movie is something that has always impressed me, from those opening IMax designed shots moving over the city to the end is so consistent and the tone never changes although there are some lighter tones of dialogue, particularly with Bruce and Alfred or Bruce and Lucius Fox but overall the darkness of the film accompanies the audience throughout its duration.

Christian Bale did receive a little flak for his Batman “voice” in this movie and I can understand that on the first viewing you might miss a few of his lines due to his voice but overall it really is just nitpicking as Bale’s Wayne is really finding it difficult to deal with a man who has no plan and has nothing to lose. Also his portrayal of the billionaire’s personal life an in particularly the relationship between him and Rachel Daws continues to develop. The actor again shows us all why he was cast as Bruce Wayne in the first place and barely puts a foot wrong throughout.

Health Ledger as previously mentioned, it is very difficult to say where after this performance would have taken him. Receiving posthumously an Oscar for best supporting actor in his portrayal of the The Joker was bittersweet and heartbreaking as his performance was up there with the best of them and to this day his lines are still as memorable as they were 9 years ago. Ledger takes the character in a different direction from previous incarnations of the legendary villain. Not as much theatrics or parlour tricks but a more edgier and gripping portrayal is witnessed as the actor turns “The Clown” into a really disturbing figure that even the “Mob” fear.

Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. Could I think of anyone else to portray the new DA in Gotham? Well no. In fact I don’t think Eckhart has come close to reaching these heights before or since this movie was released. Eckhart’s performance matches Christian Bale’s scene for scene and the character gives Bruce Wayne hope that the day of Batman being Gotham’s saviour is coming to an end, much to the delight and relief of Wayne. Eckhart’s performance is terrific is his almost whiter than white portrayal of a good man wanting to better his city and rid Gotham of the disease that was slowly dragging it back down to the days of Falcone. Eckhart’s “turn” is almost as tragic after losing everything becoming “Two Face” I have to admit I was excited when it was announced that “The Joker” would be the villain in this instalment, but admittedly I was concerned that having Two Face in there too may be a little overkill. My fears were put to bed after the first viewing of the film as the handling of the character was more sympathetic and tragic than the out and out villain of the movie.

Again the supporting cast of Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy was very similar to Batman Begins with all these characters playing their parts for the right amount of time and used correctly. Even Maggie Gyllenhaal replacing Katie Holms for the part of Rachel didn’t really distract in anyway and that’s down to good writing and obviously the acting of Gylenhaal who had a larger part to play than Holms did in Batman Begins.

Overall this movie is perfection and I didn’t think Batman Begins could be topped if I’m being honest. The tone of this film is trademark Nolan and Hans Zimmer’s collaboration with James Newton Howard is a piece of art itself adding to the already darker tones and adding to the feel and texture of the movie. As most of you know this is the middle part of the trilogy, but I couldnt help but feel at the time how this movie would be equalled or bettered with a concluding part to it as in 2008 I really felt this movie hit the Dark Knight’s peak and I have to be honest and say in 2008 I didn’t want another one after this as I did regard this as a masterpiece and anything after it would be inferior. If you haven’t seen this movie yet I can’t recommend it enough as it is in my all time top 5 movies to see.

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