You know it’s going to get grim when the film opens with a murky bat symbol against boiling black clouds.
And THE DARK KNIGHT is grim, unrelentingly so. Christopher Nolan’s second round in the Batman saga is the most fully realized superhero film ever made and certainly the most literate. The story this time is much more complex and much more focused, unlike BATMAN BEGINS, which was really two storylines grafted together. Nolan carefully braids the main characters together in an ever tightening storyline that arrives at a stunning and, somewhat shocking conclusion.
THE DARK KNIGHT is truly a movie about monsters – the Joker, Harvey Dent/Two Face and even Batman himself – consumed by hubris and passion. Much has already been written about Heath Ledger’s Joker – he is, in turn, terrifying, brutal and funny – acts as a kind of twisted Jiminy Cricket to Batman’s Pinocchio. The Joker’s main obsession is his desire to release the monster that he knows resides within all of us.
While Nolan might have been satisfied to just let the Joker/Batman story play out, he enriches it by introducing Harvey Dent as both Gotham’s fearless District Attorney and Rachel’s love interest. In Dent, Batman senses a new hope for Gotham’s redemption. Just as with Batman, The Joker needs to corrupt Dent as well, which he successfully does, in the process releasing Two Face as his instrument of chaos.
While Heath Ledger’s performance has gotten all the attention, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two Face is every bit as good. His Dent is fearlessly courageous, while his Two Face is both horrifying and sympathetic.
Nolan explores his themes of duality, madness, sacrifice and heroism while at the same time producing some of the best action sequences ever in a superhero film. To enrich it, he filmed a number of them in IMAX which expands his canvas by making things more legible and the action more comprehensible. He even strips down Gotham City this time, eschewing the bizarre architecture of Tim Burton’s and Joel Schumacher’s films, and presents it as a normal American big city which emphasises the bizarre nature and appearance of the characters even more.
At over two and a half hours there is hardly a spare second in the film. This is testament to Nolan’s power as an exceptional storyteller, with a desire to enhance and evolve the Batman mythology.
THE DARK KNIGHT isn’t just a great Batman film; it is a great film, period. Rich in story, character and action it sets a new standard in superhero cinema. Nolan has set the bar high and we can only hope that he tops it again the next time out.
- Film Review: The Dark Knight – An Additional Look
- Cybersurfing: Two-Face Revealed?
- Film Review: Batman Begins