The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

"He's not our hero; he's a silent guardian, a watchful protector... a dark knight."

Okay, okay, I get it... the last thing the world needed was even more discussion of The Dark Knight; after all, if you take into account both its critical acclaim and massive, unprecedented commercial success, with it being the first superhero movie to break the $1 billion mark worldwide, and the best reviewed superhero movie of all time on Rotten Tomatoes, it's probably THE most important, influential blockbuster of at least the past decade, if not even longer. Very few films have so throughly dominated the cultural zeitgeist for so long, not just in 2008, but ever since as well, but, still... even given all of this acknowledged, overblown hooplah, I still wanted, needed to revisit this movie regardless.

Like so many other people, it made a huge impact on me upon its release, basically hypnotizing me in the theater and instantly becoming one of my favorite films, but despite that, I was still reluctant for a long time to watch it again it, since I was afraid it wouldn't hold up as well, and I wanted to preserve that great memory of the one (and only) time I saw it for as long as possible. Fortunately, I'm extremely happy to say that, despite a couple of minor flaws making themself more apparent this time around, The Dark Knight has held up absolutely superbly, remaining an incredibly ambitious, audacious effort from Christopher Nolan, and cementing its status as not only my #1 superhero movie, but also one of my favorite films of all time, period.

First off, though, I'll discuss the newfound problems that I discovered with the film upon my most recent viewing, chief among which is the film's habit of relying on clunky, blatant exposition delivered through incredibly unnatural-sounding dialogue, where the characters spoonfeed us the Nolan brothers' rather naive, black-and-white moral outlooks (at one point, a character literally says "This city just showed you that it's full of people ready to believe in good"... just, ugh). The characters just too often talk like they're actually aware of the presence of the audience that they're currently lecturing to, and sound like no real person ever would, a problem that could've easily been fixed with just a little more polish on the writing side of things.

In addition to that, the film doesn't always pace itself the best when it comes to its editing and overall structure, sometimes rushing through certain moments and scenes by cutting away too quickly, instead of giving things room to properly breathe, along with having an overly compressed overall timeline, with too many events happening one on top of the other on top of the other at times. And finally, the film's inclusion of a certain legally-dubious surveillance system feels like an unnecessary, half-baked nod to the common perception of a post-9/11 "surveillance state" (as if this movie needed any more echoes of that event), which mostly skirts the issue of the spotty "righteousness" of Batman's particular breed of vigilantism, and continues the bad habit of the The Dark Knight trilogy for including random, poorly-integrated technological McGuffins into their storylines.

Still, even with those moderate flaws, there's still more than enough greatness contained within The Dark Knight to render it an absolutely amazing film on the whole, and first and foremost among its many strengths has to be the tremendous overall scope and relentless intensity of the entire affair, right from the beginning of its Michael Mann-inspired opening bank heist, until the final, iconic note that concludes its 2 & 1/2 hour long saga.

This is not your father's Batman movie by any stretch of the imagination, rather, basically an epic, multi-layered crime drama that just so happens to have Batman in it, which does at times cause something of a disconnect between the film's relatively grounded nature and the inherently silly imagery of a grown man fighting crime while dressed as a gigantic bat, but for the most part, The Dark Knight finds a good balance between creating a unique reality that simultaneously feels plausible and heightened at the same time, with the two qualities serving to strengthen the other, as the film presents to us a more realistic version of Gotham City, albeit one that's still populated by the legendary heroes and villains of the storied Batman canon, including, of course, Heath Ledger's iconic, Oscar-winning portrayal of the ultimate Bat-baddy, The Joker.

Ledger's gleefully sadistic Joker is basically a complete force of nature here, almost always stealing the show whenever he's on screen regardless of whatever else is going on, as his hideously scarred, Glasgow smile-visage, creepy facial tics, and mocking, off-kilter line deliveries dovetale with his horrifically random acts of terror and anarchy to create not only the perfect foil to the Dark Knight, but the first Batvillian to feel like he could actually defeat Batman (in an ideological sense as well as a physical one). It's a true tour-de-force performance that gives Batman's greatest foe a far darker, more malevolent spin, completely unlike any of his other live-action characterizations, and Ledger's Joker is rendered even more disturbing by Hans Zimmer's dissonant score, which prominently featured razor blades run across stringed instruments in order to intill an appropriately sinister, unsettling musical motif for the character. Tragically, Ledger passed away before the film's release, but his Joker has still gone down in history as one of cinema's greatest villians, a fact further canonized by the richly deserved, post-humous Academy Award he won for Best Supporting Actor for his amazing performance here.

And, despite the occasionally clunky writing, the film's central conflict between, and discussions of, the struggle between order and chaos in society, the two forces that Batman and The Joker so vividly represent, give the film a real world relevance that no live-action Batfilm (and very few superhero films) have ever had before. But of course, none of the characters, including The Joker, would count for as much without Nolan's incredibly ambitious hands guiding the film, as he truly swings for the fences here and constantly hits homers while doing so, creating an epic, multi-faceted, larger than life tale, driven by a dark, tragic tone, busy (in a good way) plotting, and an absolutely propulsive overall pace, almost never slowing down, but continually ramping things up to an almost unbearable degree, with a dread-laden, almost apocalyptic tone underpinning the whole affair. This is truly an uncommonly, undeniably powerful piece of pop entertainment, and all in all, my rewatch has convinced me that the (dark) knight in shining armor of modern-day cinema is officially here to stay, for a long, long time.

Favorite Moment: youtu.be/4QYJgxkFajI
Final Score: 10

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