The Dark Knight ★★★★★

A dark cloud looms over Gotham City, crime litters the streets and corruption are sourced even from the highest of officials. A sense of fear and unease lingers upon every citizen, fearing that their next moment could potentially be their last. This was prior to the arrival of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale), who has since, along with the aid of Detective Gordon (Gary Oldman), attempted to lift this cloud and once again instil hope in the souls of its inhabitants.

The arrival of a new District Attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), has finally given Gotham the face of hope that they for so long needed, as though the efforts of its masked vigilante have stimulated progress, to have an elected official that every man and woman can identify with has provided the catalyst that not even Batman can stimulate in his hometown. With this sudden surge of progress from the government in reducing crime, mob bosses are frightened and have resorted to desperate measures to revert things back to how they were.

Enter The Joker (Heath Ledger), the antidote for the mob bosses’ problems, the supposed antithesis of our titular character, the sense of chaos that would certainly stir and barricade the progress that Gordon and his crew have been recently gaining. Little did anybody know that this man had bigger plans up his sleeve. What began with only hired as a tool to Batman’s demise, would eventually lead to the battle for Gotham’s soul, intending to break the spirit of each individual and highlight the vulnerabilities of even its most morally strong individuals — during which he succeeds in the eventual transformation of Dent to Two Face.

Though Batman Begins introduced the world to the bleak aesthetic that would come to define much of DC’s efforts in the superhero genre, it was in The Dark Knight that Christopher Nolan succeeds in shaping the deep relationship between Batman and Gotham City itself, of which the latter has shown a dramatic improvement both visually and thematically, no longer constrained of the studio lot and expanded its reach towards location shooting and thus providing a denser and naturalistic personality, regarding the caped crusader’s home as an integral character to the entire narrative. Without this integrity of Gotham City would have led to the dampening in the battle between The Joker and Batman for Gotham’s heart and soul, not realising the true trouble that plagues the city as the two titans wrestle like their lives depend on it.

Perfectly capturing the contemporary upsurge of fear and terror that surrounds terrorism, the film captures the sense of chaos that may erupt at any moment in our lives, where an unforeseeable and unstoppable force enters into our lives. Highlighting the scars that are left as a reminder of such dangers and threats existing, never allowing a moment of dormancy, hope, comfort or prolonged optimism to hover over our lives. Nolan draws from our fear of uncertainty to stop or contain such issues; unable to reason with, unable to empathise, it feels like a threat that rises above the grade of human, and it is this lack of understanding that we feel shrunk and deeply terrorised.

With such dense themes and a bleak material, Nolan manages to create entertainment through the excitement of such beloved figures adapted on screen and does so with such integrity that rises them above the mere concept that they are sourced from, true reflections of the human soul. The Dark Knight ticks the boxes that serve the demands of the fans but does so that arches beyond their expectations; finding strong efforts in areas like world-building, multi-layered character shadings, narrative ambiguity, gaps for audience engagement, awe-inspiring visuals, and a robust musical score that accentuates the personalities of each character.

This was the film that the genre sorely needed, to escape from that shell that consistently belittled the value of the genre. Nolan managed to create a riveting film by finally providing a villain that easily outshined its protagonist, and paired so with Nolan’s growing confidence, who was willing to really convey the breaking point of its characters in a manner that was heartbreaking and confronting. It seems like a cliché to state that The Dark Knight is a perfect film or a cornerstone in Nolan’s filmography, but the honest truth is that it is both of those things.

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