Billy Soistmann

Review: The Dark Knight

In Action, Batman, Christopher Nolan, Comic Books, Comic Books & Superheroes, Drama, Remakes & Sequels, Reviews, The Forum, Warner Brothers on September 12, 2008 at 8:23 AM

(This is an article I wrote earlier in the year for another publication. I have estimated a date and added it here late so please excuse any time discrepancies.)

After leaving the theater over 74 million people were amazed. This sequel was even better than anticipated. Unheard of!

On June 15, 2005, Batman debuted on the big screen for the first time in about eight years. Batman Begins was a great re-introduction to Batman and far surpassed any previous Batman film. Exactly 1,029 days later, its sequel, The Dark Knight, was released. Months of anticipation and hype, which were even more fueled by Heath Ledger’s death on January 22, made it seem impossible that The Dark Knight could live up to its expectations. In the months since, critical acclaim and word-of-mouth catapulted The Dark Knight to 27 on the box office chart (adjusted for inflation) at $525,904,700.

While Batman Begins is a fantastic movie about how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, The Dark Knight focuses on the criminal underbelly of Gotham and how Batman and the police department strive to fight it. In this way, The Dark Knight becomes a much deeper movie than Batman Begins because it raises questions of what is right, and “how far is too far?” Other thought-provoking dilemma the film explores are “Should Batman fight crime?” and “Is the world better off without him?”

In an interview with David Halbfinger of The New York Times, the director and co-writer, Christopher Nolan said, “As we looked through the comics, there was this fascinating idea that Batman’s presence in Gotham actually attracts criminals to Gotham, [it] attracts lunacy. When you’re dealing with questionable notions like people taking the law into their own hands, you have to really ask, where does that lead?” This leads to the Joker.

“I love that dynamic between The Joker and Batman,” says Christian Bale (Batman) in an interview with SuperHeroHype.com, “He completes him in a sense that he finally has a really worthy challenge, a worthy opponent that challenges him in a way that nobody else ever has.”

Originally portrayed by Cesar Romero in 1966, the role of the Joker was then passed on to Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). In July 2006, Heath Ledger was confirmed to play the Joker in The Dark Knight. To prepare for the role, he spent a month living in an apartment in London where he developed the character. Eventually, he settled on an anarchic interpretation that fit the feel of Batman Begins. Even though Heath Ledger’s iconic voice and laugh for the Joker are excellent, the most impressive aspect of the performance is that in every scene, the Joker’s body language and small nuances in his face tell you more about his character than any amount of dialogue can. The most frightening aspect of the character is that all he cares about is “seeing the world burn.” He couldn’t care less about money or power. Most criminals want something, so they can be negotiated with, however, the Joker cannot be dissuaded. After filming concluded, Heath Ledger tragically died from a prescription drug overdose on January 22, 2008.

“The Joker, he sort of cuts through the film – he’s got no story arc, he’s just a force of nature tearing through,” says Christopher Nolan, in an interview with The LA Times, “Harvey Dent is a tragic figure, and his story is the backbone of this film.”

In The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart, has recently been elected District Attorney and is starting to crack down on crime in Gotham. Dubbed “The White Knight,” he contrasts with Batman, because while Batman, “The Dark Knight,” fights crime by his own rules, Dent attempts to fight crime through the court system. Dent’s presence causes Batman to question his motives and ask himself whether or not he should be fighting crime in this way. However, what makes Dent a centerpiece of the film is what he does in response to the Joker, not the affect he has on Batman.

The Dark Knight is definitely the best film of the summer, not only because it is a great superhero movie, but also because it is a very complex morality tale. We eagerly anticipate what is next for the record-shattering “Dark Knight.” Is there a posthumous Oscar in store for Heath Ledger? What conflicts and villains await our hero? Can Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film surpass the first two? Only time will reveal all… and eager fans will certainly be in line.

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