The Dark Knight (2008)
One of the most popular sources for material used by movies has been the comic book. As far back as the thirties this standard of American youth has been made into more flicks than would be possible to count. In recent years the technological advances have permitted more and better special effects than ever. The comic book movie has come of age and typically become major studio blockbusters and some of the best financial investments possible. Over the last few years the audiences have been more demanding with these films. They now require a real story that holds up on its own aside from the phenomenal effects. With highly successful movies like ‘Spider-Man 2’ and ‘Iron Man’ the bar for this genre has been raised incredibly high. The newly restarted Batman franchise has not only reached those heights it pushes that bar of quality just a little bit higher. With ‘The Dark Knight’ audiences are given action, special effects and a compelling human story all in one film. Batman original began his long career back in 1939. He was the dark avenger for the crime reddened Gotham City. Over the intervening decades he has gone from the camp comical hero shown on television in the sixties and a film franchise in the late eighties and early nineties. That film series almost destroyed this classic American anti-hero but the franchise was reinvented and revamped in 2005 with ‘Batman Begins’ from master director Christopher Nolan. With this film Batman was once again a dark and trouble hero and the fans flocked to the film. This second film in the revised franchise is even darker and more tragic than any Batman you have ever seen. Most importantly the movie stands as a great piece of cinema not just another summer action flick. Comics have replaced the need for mythology in our modern technologically inclined society and Batman has been vital to that new Parthenon for decades. It is only fitting that he be restored to his original glory. The film had a staggering budget of $185 million and nearly made it all back its first weekend. The ticket sales for this film are well over half a billion at this point. It is now available on DVD and Blu-ray through Warner Brothers so you can enjoy this film at home.
The story was written by the amazing brother team of Christopher and Jonathan Nolan. They both previously worked on the cryptic ‘Memento’ and ‘The Prestige’. Christopher also wrote the screenplay for ‘Batman Begins’. Together they have crafted a near perfect screenplay. There is ample room for the heart pounding action and those ‘wonderful toys’ that all incarnations of Batman are famous for. They also weave a story that plunges the audience into a dark world of revenge and shifting morality. It reminded me of the best of the classic Greek tragedies that provide a moral lesson inhuman nature while enthralling the audience. In most of the earlier films based on comic books the focus was on the unbelievable feats performed by the characters. Here in the Nolan brothers give us a story that explores the deepest and darkest places in the human psyche than ever before. It is not just a good versus evil tale. This is almost existential in the way it splays open the cruelty that man is capable of heaping on his fellow man. It is rated PG-13 but this will be too intense and emotionally beyond young audiences. In this film Batman (Christian Bale) is more than just troubled; he is on the verge of an emotional identity crisis. The city is divided hailing him as a hero and a vigilante who does more damage than the criminals he captures. His main nemesis this time around is The Joker (Heath Ledger). Just forget the playfully deadly prankster. In the hands of the Nolan script the Joker is the ultimate anarchist. He is the type to set a fire just to watch it burn. It is not enough to perpetrate his brand of anarchy he needs to destroy the moral integrity of the people around him. His idea of a good time is take two groups of people and set them so one group has to murder the other. He doesn’t just want Batman dead he wants him morally devastated. There is also a romantic triangle; a plot device that always seems to work for audiences. Bruce Wayne has been in love with Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) since they were children. She loves Bruce bit can’t accept his dual role as Batman. She is an assistant district attorney and is dedicated to the law. She begins a relationship with the DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). He is a law and order type who does have a meeting with Batman to discuss their mutual goal of stopping crime in the city and they differences they have in methodology.
Christopher Nolan may not have a lot of films to his credit but the ones there are for the most part masterpieces. Okay, ‘The Prestige’ wasn’t that great but the reverse timeline used in Memento’ was sheer genius. Few directors can take a film down a dark path like this and still keep the audience so entranced. His Gotham city is a dank and sinister place where the criminals rule. No shinny hero could do what is necessary but Batman is just twisted enough in his own right to get the job done. Instead of taking the easy route of Batman defeating the villain Nolan wisely chooses to go to a more personal and emotional direction. This film is more about how fragile a person’s morality can be. The Joker wants to see a good man turn evil not just steal. To him money isn’t a driving factor; it is the destruction of society by undermining the personal convictions of the individual. Nolan also as risen to the challenge of an action movie; the chase with the ‘batpod’ motorcycle is one of the most thrilling ever committed to film. In short this movie has it all and is the type that can be discussed for a long time after you are done watching it.
Pushing this film well into the stratosphere of greatness are the performances it contains. Bale is a new version of Batman who is far more complex than any previous one. He is moody and determined; isolated from all except Alfred (Michael Caine) the long time family servant and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) the new CEO of Wayne Enterprises. These men know the darkness that troubles Bruce. There has been a lot of talk about the performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker. This is one of the best performances ever. He takes the usual comical Joker and makes him into a psychopath without the slightest modicum of empathy. With this character Ledger took on a man so twisted that there is no room to understand him. His thoughts are so foreign to rational man that is becomes evil incarnate.
Warner Brothers has provided several ways to bring this amazing film home. They do have a Pan & Scan version but it is important to support the art of cinema by only watching the film with the original scope and vision of the director. For the widescreen selections there are both DVD and Blu-ray variations. For DVD there is regular edition and a special two disc edition. For those that prefer Blu-ray they have a special edition and a deluxe edition with a model bat-pod included. The cost for Blu-ray has come down so now on most sites they are only a dollar or two more. No matter how you get this film just make sure you add it to your collection.
Disc 1 - Movie With Focus Points
Disc 2 - Special Features