It’s Comic Book Movie Month on Filmophilia. April sees us highlighting material that centers on comic book movie-related material. This is one of those posts.
The Dark Knight is the first Batman film not to feature ‘batman’ in the title; this may seem like an insignificant fact but Chris Nolan is heralded one of the most exciting and ground-breaking directors in Hollywood for a reason and the choice of The Dark Knight is key to his story and how we perceive not just Batman but superheroes in general. It is not until the final soliloquy at the end of the film that we truly understand the meaning behind the ominous name The Dark Knight.
Batman is busy cleaning up the streets, the mob are on the run and everything is going to plan for once in the ever-eventful Gotham. That is until The Joker starts murdering civilians demanding that Batman turn himself in to authorities. This a Joker you’ve never seen before; he’s a sociopath and more importantly a terrorist with no rules and no regard for human life. He’s out to create chaos on a scale never seen before and its down to the famous masked vigilante to find a way to stop him.
Heath Ledger‘s performance deserves every bit of praise; in one film and in one fell swoop he has created the most iconic villain of the 00′s, equal parts murderous, charismatic and terrifying. All of the supporting cast (bar the rather cringe-worthy Maggie Gyllenhaal) stump up terrific performances and though Christian Bale’s Batman is still the focus of the film, more so than the preceding Batman Begins, this is an ensemble film. Gary Oldman simply *is* Jim Gordon and Aaron Eckhart is even better as Gotham’s white knight Harvey Dent who, as most Batman fans will know, turns into the tragic villain Two-Face.
Wally Pfister has worked almost exclusively with Chris Nolan (on every film since Memento back in 2000) and this hasn’t hampered his progress into one of the best action cinematographers in the business. The Dark Knight is magnificently shot, the action is kinetic but never confusing, exciting but never excessive and the scenes shot in I-Max have incredible depth and are much more immersive than gimmicky 3D (Nolan is staunchly against it). The opening bank robbery evokes Michael Mann’s crime opus Heat and the film has more of a detective veneer than any super-hero film before it, even its (in my opinion superior) predessecor Batman Begins.
Despite this the film isn’t quite as perfect as it should be. By the end you feel there are one too many set-pieces and some could argue that the Two-Face story-line is unnecessary. They’d be wrong mind you, it’s a key part of the ideas behind the film, order versus chaos, liberty versus safety. Whilst Batman Begins dealt with the theme of fear (it was both the antagonist and protagonists chief weapon) in The Dark Knight it’s escalation and the price you pay for liberty.
Final Verdict: Cemented by one of the most iconic performances of our generation The Dark Knight raises ethical questions that mirror the War On Terror and the methods used by the United States to track down terrorists. It’s an ambitious film that isn’t a comic book film per se; merely an intelligent thriller that just so happens to be inspired by a comic book.