The Dark Knight


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

The Dark Knight
"Incredibly, The Dark Knight lives up to all the expectation, and then some."

With “White Knight” District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and honest cop Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) cleaning up Gotham’s streets legitimately, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) decides the time has come when he can finally give up Batman to be with his beloved Rachael (Maggie Gyllenhaal). However, when a psychotic villain named “The Joker” teams up with the mob, it causes the masked crimefighter to question everything he stands for…

And here we…GO. Ever since director Christopher Nolan treated us to the genre-redefining Batman Begins (which is generally held as the best comic adaptation out there), expectation has been high. However, given the tragic death of Heath Ledger, the perfectly-judged marketing from 42 Entertainment and the overwhelmingly-positive early reviews, there was a lot riding on Nolan’s cape-donning shoulders.

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Incredibly, The Dark Knight lives up to all the expectation, and then some. Less a superhero movie than it is a sprawling crime epic/psychological detective thriller, this is the comic book adaptation for those that hate comic books. Yes, it threatens to overload itself towards the end and the idiots will complain it’s too long (at 152 minutes), but this is a bold and unrelenting piece of work that confirms Nolan as a genius while putting a big smile on all of our faces.

Whereas last time was an origin story borrowing from Frank Miller’s acclaimed graphic novel Batman Year One, here the tale takes heavy inspiration from Jeph Loeb’s unparalleled Long Halloween/Dark Victory series, as the focus shifts to Batman’s escalating effect on the city. Earning the early comparisons to Michael Mann’s police classic Heat for all the right reasons (not including William Fichter’s small part), Nolan and co-writing brother Jonathon craft a yarn concerned with obsession, consequences and the effects of both on personal lives. There are niggles for those looking (how does Maroni walk again so quickly?), but this is a real world-based noir that takes the bar set by Batman Begins and raises it even higher.

Though Nolan admits there’s a lot more explosions than last time, thankfully its still dark, realistic and intelligent enough to revolve around character and plot. Sure, there’s spectacle and action for those so inclined (like an adrenalin-jacking chase-scene or a vertigo-inducing Hong Kong rooftop basejump), but it all comes second place to the story-necessary ideas and moral dilemmas The Joker relentlessly poses.

Speaking of The Joker, the movie undeniably – and somewhat inevitably - belongs to Heath Ledger. Slipping under our skin with a chilling turn, full of lip-licking and shifting-unpredictability, Ledger’s hugely-enjoyable portrayal exists at the other end of the scale to Nicholson’s overrated camera-hogger and gives us an instant classic, impossible to follow. Grabbing us right from the startingly-memorable ‘pencil trick’, the late star’s every physical tick is spot-on and the decision to present him as ‘an absolute’ with no back story couldn’t be more right. Ladies and gentle-men, he is, indeed, tonight’s entertainment.

Still, it’s hard not to be impressed elsewhere by Eckhart’s human Harvey Dent and Oldman’s pitch-perfect Jim Gordon (who looks exactly like Tim Sale’s version). Bale might be less prominent here than the last time, but his Wayne-like commitment to the cause and Nolan’s savvy means we still get plenty of pathos (a brokenhearted Bruce with cowl in hands) and iconic Bat moments (crestfallen, standing over debris) far from the Burton movies where the hero was essentially a cameo.

In a summer where Iron Man was impressive and The Incredible Hulk much better than expected, The Dark Knight tops them both. Easily. Early on Bruce Wayne remarks to Alfred that “Batman has no limits”. Going by all his other movies and now this, it seems Christopher Nolan doesn’t have any either.

Reviewed on: 22 Feb 2009
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The Dark Knight packshot
The Caped Crusader isn't the only batty one in Gotham... The Joker's also in town.
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Read more The Dark Knight reviews:

Scott Macdonald *****
Richard Mellor ***

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, based on a story by Christopher Nolan and David S Goyer

Starring: Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, Eric Roberts, Cillian Murphy, Anthony Michael Hall, Monique Curnen

Year: 2008

Runtime: 152 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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