Josh Wilding Reviews: THE DARK KNIGHT
As we get closer to the release of The Dark Knight Rises, I've already looked back at Batman Begins (find that review HERE) and now it's time for 2008's The Dark Knight. Is it really the greatest comic book movie of all-time? Read my verdict here.
Batman Begins may not have been perfect, but Christopher Nolan still had an awful lot to live up to in order to surpass the 2005 reboot. The Dark Knight not only does that, but to this day remains one of the greatest comic book movies ever made. There was a lot of buzz surrounding the sequel in 2008 after the sudden death of star Heath Ledger a few months before its release and it would be easy to look back and accuse critics of overpraising his performance as The Joker because of that. However, there's simply no doubting the fact that the actor deserved every bit of acclaim he received. The Joker is a well-written and terrifying villain, but Ledger's performance brings him to life in a way it's hard to imagine any other actor being capable of. Creepy, manic and utterly brilliant, Ledger was rewarded with a posthumous Oscar and delivered one of the greatest performances not only in the genre, but in film period.
Of course, it would be unfair to ignore the rest of the cast while looking back at The Dark Knight. Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman) is on fine form as he continues to flesh out Bruce Wayne, showing a violent Batman who is clearly pushed to the brink as he faces off against The Joker. Whether the Caped Crusader's gruffer voice was a result of this wasn't clear, but it occasionally borders on being a little silly. Aaron Eckhart (Harvey Dent/Two-Face) is another new addition to the cast, and manages not to be too overshadowed by Ledger by delivering a fantastic performance throughout. Like Batman, Dent is a man pushed to his limits and he unfortunately lives long enough to see himself become the villain. It's a credit to the actor that he make's Dent's transition into Two-Face entirely convincing, especially as it feels a little rushed and features a few slightly unconvincing moments. Maggie Gylenhall (Rachel Dawes) replaces Katie Holmes as the main love interest, and while she definitely delivers a much better performance, it still never really stands out. Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon) is spectacular, while Michael Caine (Alfred) is as impressive as ever.
The story is as great as the performance, and despite some structural issues - it occasionally feels as if The Dark Knight jumps around a bit TOO much - it all pays off in the end. Christopher and Jonathan Nolan's screenplay is far better than that of Batman Begins, and the character work is particularly excellent. As mentioned above, The Joker is extremely well-written, stealing every scene he's featured in. A big part of this is of course down to Ledger's performance, but the dialogue in the interrogation scene or final confrontation between Batman and the villain is incredible. The movie feels a tad over-long at times (did we really need the subplot with Batman getting a new suit?) but never bores. Christopher Nolan shoots the film beautifully, replacing the brown and orange tones of Begins with a blue hue which makes this as visually stunning as it is wonderfully written.
The action in The Dark Knight is a big improvement upon the previous film, as fight scenes are far more cohesive and easy to follow. The major chase sequence in the middle of the film is brilliant and although Hans Zimmer's score is as fantastic as you might expect, the decision not to use any sort of music during this point in the film is a genius one. The Dark Knight also gave Nolan the opportunity to really utilize his preference for shooting with IMAX cameras and regardless of whether it's that chase sequence, the brilliant bank heist which kicks off the film or the stunning Hong Kong set scenes, the film is beautiful. Gotham City still fails to feel anywhere near as major a character in its own right as it should, but Batman thankfully doesn't look anywhere near as out of place as he occasionally did in Begins. Comparisons aside, The Dark Knight is filmmaking at its best and even managed to steal the summer of 2008 from Marvel's brilliant Iron Man.
A masterpiece. The Dark Knight is not only one of the greatest comic book movies, but also one of the best films of all-time. Can The Dark Knight Rises top it? We'll find out soon...
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