Source: Trailer Addict
After restoring order to Gotham's streets in Batman Begins, the criminals of old are looking for somewhere to hide their ill-gotten gains. After choosing Lau Security Investments, a new criminal bursts onto the scene. The Joker (Heath Ledger) tells the mobs that the only way to keep their money is to remove the Batman (Christian Bale) which he offers to do for half their money.
As Batman joins forces with district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), the Joker pushes each to their limit as he tries claim the city for his own malevolent reasons.
A lot has happened in the three-and-a-half years since I first reviewed the centrepiece to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.
Back in 2011 I was storming through my attempt to watch Empire's 500 5-star films, in which both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight feature. The final member of the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, doesn't feature because it wasn't released - and even then Empire only gave it four stars.
Reading back through my older reviews, it seems that I was convinced that comic book films were a bit of a fad that would soon die out. Contrary to my misplaced concerns, Marvel has continued to go from strength to strength, is now releasing a couple of films every year and there is little sign of the hunger for the genre abating.
Having just watched The Dark Knight again, what astonishes me is the comparative abject progress that DC have made since it's release. Only recently have they decided to cash in on the superhero mashup wave by finally launching their two most famous heroes in the same film (Batman vs Superman - due 2016), which will precede a Justice League film in 2017 - some five years after Marvel released The Avengers.
Returning to 2008 and just after the release of The Dark Knight, DC were the hottest comic creators in Hollywood. Superman Returns had been released a couple of years prior, and it seemed that DC had the jump on Marvel after their rival's seemingly strange decision to reboot The Incredible Hulk. In fact, in his review for The Dark Knight, Roger Ebert commented that "something fundamental seems to be happening" which "moves the genre into new waters" - and he certainly wasn't referring to Bruce Banner's alter ego.
At the time of writing, The Dark Knight holds a 94% 'fresh' rating on aggregator Rotton Tomatoes and, in addition to the positive reviews, the Academy was practically queuing up to hand over as many awards as possible for Nolan's outstanding direction and, even more appropriately, posthumously for Ledger's maniacal portrayal of Batman's most infamous villain.
It seemed that DC - and especially through director Christopher Nolan - had understood the audience's desire for the genre. The Dark Knight isn't just a comic book film - it's a fully-fledged action drama that transcends the old definition for "comic book film".
Gone was the almost comical late 1980's Batman and in came a brand new film noir version, harking back to the comic book's origins in the 1930's and 1940's. Gotham is darker than ever before - the Joker, with his powdered white face, appears less like a circus clown and more like a demonaic psychopath. Meanwhile Batman, seemingly feuding with the entire criminal underworld, often appears morally ambiguous.
The two characters are clearly antithetical, but amongst Aaron Eckhart's city prosecutor and Cillian Murphy's brief return as Scarecrow, one often wonders exactly which character the titular dark knight is. In fact, there are very few good ethics to relate to with any of the characters.
The Dark Knight is never simply good vs. evil, and ironically it is this multifaceted approach that has opened up the genre to Marvel's current success. Iron Man was also released in 2008, and many parallels can be drawn between Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne as complex millionaire heroes with no superhuman powers. However, it isn't until Iron Man 2, or even The Avengers, that we fully appreciate Stark's darker side and much of the credit for pushing the genre towards exposing superheroes' darker flaws has to be down to the brutal and honest character development in The Dark Knight.
I'm desperately looking forward to the next few years and the future of DC films. If there is one thing for certain though, it's that we will always be looking back at The Dark Knight with a pang of nostalgia. It was the pinnacle of a truly outstanding trilogy and, if the future of Batman - and Superman - can reach even a fraction of the success that The Dark Knight reached then DC will soon be back on track with Marvel.
My original review, from December 7, 2011:
Famously released after the death of arguably its main star (Bale himself aside), The Dark Knight cast many questions over exactly how seriously Ledger had taken his role as the psychopathic Joker. Tragedy aside, and in The Dark Knight, Ledger shows the world that it misses one of the true rising actors.
Sure, Christian Bale returns with his croaky Batman voice and Gary Oldman does what he does best by sliding perfectly into another completely different role that seems like it was made for him. But neither they nor the other impressive stars of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhart could take away from Ledger's truly awesome performance.
The Dark Knight lives up to its name in how its storyline differs from Batman Begins. It is a film full of bitterness that gradually transforms into rabid anger and, quite simply, never lets up. From beginning to end the film displays a full out war between good and evil with the audience rightly never being allowed to empathise with the Joker for a second.
Meanwhile the negatives of all of the other characters are extracted adding to the sense of displeasure which is certainly about the correct tone for the film that is in the middle of a trilogy.
Frankly, the final film can't come soon enough.
Review by wizzardSS on . Film Rating: 5/5