The Dark Knight, Still the Best of the Trilogy and Here’s Why
I recently read an interview with Joss Whedon in which he was asked which of the new Batman trilogy he preferred and why? His answer was surprisingly Batman Begins.
The Dark Knight,
Still the Best of the Trilogy and Here’s Why
I recently read an interview with Joss Whedon in which he was asked which of the new Batman trilogy he preferred and why? His answer was surprisingly Batman Begins. He said he preferred Batman Begins because it was the only Batman film that was actually about Batman. Whedon continued by saying that he thought The Dark Knight was an excellent film but that he felt it was largely an ensemble piece and that Batman wasn’t the main focus as much as he would have liked. A few days later I began reading a lot of published stories from other sources in which both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises seemed to be the preferred choices over The Dark Knight. To be honest I was fairly shocked by this as I had always seen The Dark Knight as a seminal moment in film, a rare time when both critical acclaim and commercial success melded together like never before. It will always be my favourite of the trilogy and in this article I shall to tell you why.
First of all I think it is fair to say The Dark Knight changed comic-book movies forever. I think this fact is indisputable. Before that film, comic-book movies were seen as incredibly entertaining but none-the-less simple popcorn films. There was an obvious air of condescension from certain sections of the media as well as the general public. Even Batman Begins, despite its complex, psychological theme and dark, gritty visuals was seen essentially as something for the late teens/early twenties market. But right from the opening scene in the very first trailer of The Dark Knight, the world sat up and took notice. Everyone knew they were watching something that was more than just a lightweight popcorn movie for a certain market, with every new scene in that pulsating trailer, with every new chord of that bleak score that screamed this was a trailer not just to be seen once or twice but to be indulged many times over, the excitement grew. When the film finally arrived, it didn’t disappoint. The clear comparisons with Heat were undeniable but it only made it more enticing, the idea of Christian Bale’s/Al Pacino’s good guy trading taunts with Heath Ledger’s/Robert DeNiro’s criminal genius giving the film an extra weight. From scene to scene the movie rambles effortlessly along leaving you salivating at the prospect of more to come.
It goes without saying that I can’t do an article like this without mentioning Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as the Joker. I was seven years old when I first saw Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the same character in Batman. I never thought I would see it outdone, but Ledger not only outshone one of the greatest actors of all time, he brought to life a more menacing, more homicidal, more maniacal villain than anyone has ever dared let grace the silver screen. The Joker of this world was as bizarrely creepy and disturbingly unhinged as you’ll find him in any comic that’s ever been written, and you couldn’t take your eyes off him. The highest compliment I could possibly give Ledger’s performance is that he has actually made it impossible to envision anyone else playing that character…Ever!!
My main reason for choosing The Dark Knight over Batman Begins and The Dark knight Rises is simply because for the first time in a Batman film we were shown the true ramifications of Bruce Wayne’s reality-altering decision to become a vigilante. Never before were his sacrifices laid so bare before us. The dual personalities of Bruce Wayne and The Batman both suffer in equal measure. For The Batman; the life of a fugitive, on the run, maybe never to be seen nor heard from again, his influence just a whisper on the Gotham breeze, for Bruce Wayne; the life of a lonely recluse, cruelly tortured by his own thoughts, forever tormented by the reality he can’t escape, his every decision up to this point led to the death of the woman he loved. There is no obscene amount of money, no cleverly disguised gadget that can heal these festering wounds. The feared monster that Bruce Wayne created, the theatrical figure to haunt and taunt the violent offenders, the evil rapists, the homicidal clowns of this town inadvertently bit back and left him a broken man surrounded by regret and self-pity. I have never seen a comic-book movie adaptation deal with these themes in such an effective and emotive way before (Batman Begins) or even after (The Dark Knight Rises) The Dark Knight.
I could go on for three or four more pages writing frantically and with a huge smile on my face about the very first moment we see the Batpod or the very second we catch a glimpse of Harvey Dent’s mutilated face, but I think I’ve made my choice clear. While I understand why the first and third films of the trilogy would appeal to people, for me The Dark Knight will always be the movie that showed us there are no limits to what can be produced from the wonderfully ingenious source material that has been read by millions for all these years. The Dark Knight was a game-changer; a creatively brilliant, billion-dollar film that ensured comic-book movies would continue to spark the interest of both the loyal fans that traipse the pavements outside the theatres and the money-men in Hollywood keeping a sharp eye out for the next billion-dollar franchise.
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