Archive Review - The Dark Knight

Below is my review for The Dark Knight, the second installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy.  It was written back in the days when myspace was the prominent social networking site (and was actually the penultimate review posted there before I deleted my account).  Before cutting ties with myspace completely, I archived all of the review posts that I had made.  So, as a companion to my review to the newly released The Dark Knight Rises, I share with you my thoughts from four years ago (edited only to fix grammatical errors, the content remains the same):

The Dark Knight (PG-13), 2008, 152 minutes - I'm not sure that I remember the last time that a movie has received this much hype for this long. The last six months have been filled with non-stop buzz and anticipation for this latest installment in the Batman franchise. Unfortunately a lot of that chatter has revolved around the all-to-early passing of Heath Ledger back in January due to an accidental prescription drug overdose. The amazing thing is, The Dark Knight delivers on all fronts.

Christopher Nolan builds off the characters and plotlines set in motion in his 2005 Batman franchise reboot Batman Begins. This time around the city of Gotham itself isn't as dark and claustrophobic as it has been in previous installments but this actually helps ground this comic book based flick in what could be actually pass as the 'real world'.

The cast as a whole does a great job. From Michael Cain's always insightful Alfred Pennyworth, Maggie Gyllenhaal's Rachel Dawes (more believable than Katie Holmes in Begins), Gary Oldman's Lt James Gordon (now commissioner), Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent (a pleasant surprise), Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox (Q from Bond anyone?), and Christian Bale's hard core Batman to Ledger's absolutely unflinching and unhinged take on the Joker. This isn't the Joker our parents grew up with (Cesar Romero from the classic-but-cheesy-as-hell Adam West Batman tv series), or even the Joker that we grew up with (Jack Nicholson's slightly psychotic yet still campy version from 1989's Batman). No, this is an entirely new Joker. Well, maybe not entirely new, this type of Joker has been seen before in the pages of 'The Killing Joke' (graphic novel by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland) but never before on screen, and it's quite chilling. He's completely anarchistic and is out to show the world that there's a fine line between what is considered acceptable and what is not. He tells his 'origin story' 2 or 3 times, weaving a different yarn each time, adding even more mystery and chaos to his character.

Bale provides a solid portrayal of Gotham's Dark Knight as he struggles to come to terms with what must be done to stop a societal threat such as the Joker. He also becomes only the second person to portray Batman more than once behind Michael Keaton. And while I may be partial to Michael Keaton's Batman (let's face it, we're always partial to the first version of something we see), I may be able to be convinced that Christian Bale has officially taken the mantle as the Batman.

The Dark Knight portrays Batman's shift from being loved and looked up to by the citizens of Gotham and that works closely with the police department to being criticized and hunted all in the best interest of the city while also showing the rise and fall of Harvey Dent (Two Face). Much like Batman Begins, a self contained story is presented while leaving room for a follow up without leaving a major plotline unanswered.

***** stars - I'm not a big fan of the growl Bale tends to put on when he's Batman but I can see why it's done (adds to the intimidation factor of an already intimidating character) so I would normally go 4 1/2 stars, but Heath Ledger's Joker is scary good (which makes up for the growling and then some) so I'm rounding up. This isn't only the best Batman movie to date, it may be the best comic book based movie up to this point as well.


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