Review: The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight was quite possibly the only movie I wanted to see at the cinema last year. I saw I am Legend (which I haven’t reviewed) as well, but that was because the local book club had read the book.

As it has been with most Western movies over the past few years, I have generally gone into them without knowing much of the background at all. I never even saw any trailers for The Dark Knight, although the buzz that surrounded Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker could not have been missed even by someone living under a rock. Rarely does a film live up to the hype, but – and I think most people would agree – this one does.

After the huge box-office and critical success that was Batman Begins, a sequel was obviously to be expected. And with The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan delivers one of the best superhero sequels ever. It’s the best I’ve even seen, at any rate. The atmosphere of the film is pretty much perfect. Nolan’s Gotham is gritty and realistic – it can really be said to bear a resemblance to cities like New York and perhaps Hong Kong in some respects (I haven’t been to the latter). The make-up, the art direction, the sound and sound editing – the entire crew really deserves a mention. I’ll be honest and say I’ll have to listen to the soundtrack again before I can comment on that, but watching this film in a darkened theatre really was an experience.

Next, echoing what everyone else has already said: yes, Heath Ledger is superb. The other actors – from Christian Bale to Gary Oldman and Maggie Gyllenhael – all hold their own in their respective roles, but Ledger is really a step above them all. His Joker is maniacal, sadistic, unsympathetic…and above all, unique. I love Jack Nicholson’s Joker too, but they really are different villains, and it really is a mark of Ledger’s talents that he was able to create this character.

But what ranks this above Batman Returns in my mind is how much more personal the developments are to Batman, whilst also giving us an incredibly strong female character. Whilst Rachel Dawes (though partially based on a character from one of the comic’s arcs) was created for these films, she is significant not only in her relationships to the other characters, but also in the ideals she bears and defends.

Unlike Catwoman, who in the film seems just like another of Batman/Bruce Wayne’s lovers (no matter it is probably his major relationship in the comics) , Rachel is portrayed as being extremely important to Bruce, both as a close friend and as the woman he loves. Her choices and death also echo a message runs through the film, which Batman states at the end: sometimes the truth isn’t good enough, sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded. Though the audience knows that she actually chose Harvey Dent over her childhood friend, Bruce’s belief that Rachel would have waited for him is what is holding him up at the end of the film.

Rachel’s choice of Dent over Bruce is also significant in what it says about her character. Although she told Bruce that she would wait for him until Gotham no longer needs Batman, she comes to believe/realise that her friend may never be able to give it up. I assume some people may wonder if she really really did love Dent, as most superhero stories have the love interest awarding the protagonist their unwavering love and support. However, I find Rachel’s choice realistic, not only because the life of a superhero really leaves no time for love and family (if you think about it), but also because it paints her as a strong person unwilling to compromise her beliefs in legal law enforcement. Whilst she really seemed like a typical superhero movie’s damsel in distress in Batman Begins, it was difficult to part with the character of Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight. Her departure also makes a turning point in this incarnation of Batman, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.

If I have one complaint, The Dark Knight felt a bit too long with all the plot developments. Films and stories used to have just one climax…now they are more like rollercoasters, which can leave people like me exhausted at the end. Furthermore at just – I can’t believe I’m saying this – two and a half hours, some of the developments felt rushed. Two-Face in the comics is, after all, a pretty major villain. However, his reduced role here had a far more important purpose as a contrast to Batman, who is presented as being truly incorruptible. In hindsight, the focus on developing Bruce/Batman through the villains is another reason why this new Batman is the best of the superhero genre.

8.5/10

R.I.P. Heath Ledger. Your talent will be missed, and your work will not be forgotten.

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

2 Responses to Review: The Dark Knight

  1. Pingback: Changing of the guard part 1: The Dark Knight Rises | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

  2. Pingback: A few brief words on my first forays into the Marvel Cinematic Universe… | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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