The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight
2008. Directed by Christopher Nolan.
Considered by many to be the greatest comic book film ever created, The Dark Knight is a sprawling crime epic and a meditation on the illusion of control wearing the mask of a superhero outing.
The Batman faces off against the mob, allowing the Clown Prince of Crime, The Joker to rise in power. With little time to spare, The Bat and Commissioner Gordon form an alliance with the white knight prosecutor Harvey Dent in an effort to bring true justice to Gotham once and for all.
The 2000 pound elephant in the room of this film is Heath Ledger's all in legendary portrayal of one of the most iconic characters ever imagined. Ledger's anarchist take on the Joker was pure brilliance and elevated this film heads above it's predecessors. One of the constant complaints about the superhero films that are crowding the box office every month is the lack of depth in the villains. The Joker in this film is a presence. An unstable cocktail of psychopathy and criminal genius that seeks to undo the very idea of order, breaking all the rules to create a moral wasteland....or is he? There are plans within plans and yet no plans. One of my favorite aspects of Ledger's performance is how he was able to shift from a cool as ice criminal to an unstable, guttural monster in an instance. There will be other Jokers, but I suspect it will be a very long time until this particular incarnation is eclipsed.
Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Maggie Gyllenhaal all provide excellent supporting roles, but make no mistake about who's movie this is.
Wally Pfister is in top form behind the camera. Using custom built IMAX rigs, The Dark Knight presents a Gotham that is alive. From the breathtaking panoramic scenes of a gargoyle like Batman watching his city, a funeral parade, and a bank heist, every scene has an electric charge that fills the theater. The Hong Kong and Prisoner Escort sequences are some of the most jaw dropping action set pieces ever filmed. It's not in the action, but the presentation. This films flows with an elegant proficiency that cannot be denied. Supported by Lee Smith's editing, The Dark Knight becomes an epic film in the grandeur of it's delivery.
Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's score is a melodic chameleon, evoking the Batman's triumph and urgency of the story in one scene and then cascading into a tension wound, never ending jack in the box at the slightest mention of the Joker or his subjugates. Richard King won the Oscar for his sound editing and it is truly a masterpiece of the craft, balancing the chaos of the action and the whispers in between with reverence. The final piece of the puzzle is Nathan Crowley and Peter Lando's art direction. Every set piece is meticulous and organic, fitting into the world of Gotham seamlessly and with deliberate intent.
If there is a weakness, it's in the final act, as Nolan and Goyer's script seems to run out of steam after the aforementioned confrontations. The Dark Knight sets the charge in it's first act, and explodes prematurely, leaving the denouement as a lean summation and an abrupt warning about surveillance, so much so that the ultimate purpose of The Joker and Batman's relationship is an afterthought.
Available now for digital rental, The Dark Knight is vintage Nolan in every aspect. His command and vision are present everywhere and it's hard to deny his talent, even if there are some even edges. Between Ledger's transcendent performance and the hugeness of the film, you won't notice them anyways.