The Dark Knight ★★★★★

It bothers me a little that the popular sentiment surrounding The Dark Knight is that it "transcends mere comic books" or "is more than just a superhero film". The reasons for this, no doubt, are derived from the ambitious approach Nolan took to the film. Approaching the Batman character from a deeply political, rigidly philosophical and grandly complex perspective; littered with images of duality, musings on the notion of heroism and rich commentary on post 9/11 America. Unexpectedly, it's observation of the deterioration of hope in Gotham felt enormously poignant, uncannily so, even, in the shitshow that is 2018. And in that timeliness, is the core idea that sticks, I think, at least for me at this moment in time. Batman, the Joker, Dent, Gordon...every major character in TDK is plagued by a constant search for the remedy to troubled times. Wracked with guilt (or sadistically devoid of it) and driven by a rigid, uncompromising world-view.

In summer 2008, eleven-year-old me was visiting extended family in Baltimore. Unannounced, an uncle surprised me with tickets opening night at some really cool Egyptian-themed cinema in Baltimore. I remember the unique excitement of a) seeing a movie about my favorite superhero and b) seeing a "movie for grown-ups" late at night. I'd seen the commercials, witnessed the marketing push for Ledger's terrifying Joker. I can't recall being more excited or anxious for a film as the lights dimmed in the cinema. And ten years later, that experience remains special to me, as a sort of...legitimizing, empowering moment. The movie took Batman seriously; agonizing over ideas and philosophies that completely went over my head. Joker wasn't the goofy trickster I knew; instead a terrifying omen for the darkness in the world. Batman wasn't a playboy by day and badass crime-fighter by night; he was a man being crushed by an overwhelming guilt and self-imposed burden to protect a city that hated him. The film glimpsed a depth in the sort of thing I adore, and that remains an essential part of my heightened appreciation for so many different "geeky" properties since.

This goes back to my first sentence, and why I take issue with the greatness of TDK somehow de-legitimizing it's source material. Growing up with this movie and exploring the comic book world of Batman along the way; it's obvious the movie's greatness can be glimpsed in abundance also in the comic books; even the most juvenile renditions of them. Perhaps they're more colorful, "loud" and boisterous then TDK, but the ideas are very much still there. The blurred lines between good and evil, the weight of heroism and the fascinating push/pull between a hero and his/her villains. What Nolan offered, better than any director ever has, is *his vision* of Batman.

An underrated scene in this movie comes just before the third act, when Gordon's wife is being informed of his supposed death. Batman crouches in the shadows, silent and standing witness to this. As far as the narrative is concerned, Batman doesn't need to be there. But he is, and I think it's enormously important that he is. Barbara screams at Batman, blaming him for bringing this upon her family as Jim's son silently looks on. It feels as though Batman is making a point to face the consequences of his crusade, to witness the tragedy his actions had wrought. It's a moment that epitomizes what Nolan's Batman is, I think, in that he's a hero who makes a point to not shy away from the darkness that accompanies his being a hero. A hero willing to bear the burden of a city, ready to give whatever it takes to preserve the "soul of Gotham". I know Nolan has his detractors, and TDK has it's naysayers. But this, along with several other Nolan pictures, feel like every bit the masterpieces mainstream audiences have declared them to be. Nolan is a serious talent, one of today's great filmmakers. Watching his work remains one of life's most consistent, enchanting pleasures.

Anyways, happy 10th to one of the greats.

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