Movie #98: The Dark Knight (2008)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring; Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman

Academy Awards (2009):

Best Achievement in Sound Editing: Richard King

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Heath Ledger

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Achievement in Art Direction: Nathan Crowley (art director), Peter Lando (set decorator)

Best Achievement in Cinematography: Wally Pfister

Best Achievement in Editing: Lee Smith

Best Achievement in Makeup: John Caglione Jr., Conor O’Sullivan

Best Achievement in Sound: Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick

Best Achievement in Visual Effects: Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Timothy Webber, Paul J. Franklin

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“Some men just was to watch the world burn.”

Batman (Bale) and Gotham’s new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Eckhart) face off with The Joker (Ledger), a psychopath who is filling a power vacuum in the city’s organized crime.

Following the success of Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan had high expectations from moviegoers for The Dark Knight, and boy did he deliver.  Though he had significantly distanced himself from the more comic book-esque Batman films with Batman BeginsThe Dark Knight really allowed him to explore the complex layers and connections with each character.  His cinematography in this film was especially good as he became one of the first directors to use IMAX cameras as prevalently as he did.  I found this particularly effective with the night shots.

I’m not sure how I feel about Christian Bale’s performance as Batman.  He does good, but it seems like with each movie there’s something about his Batman that bugs me.  I thought his Bruce Wayne voice and mannerisms in Batman Begins were forced and incredibly artificial.  His Batman voice in The Dark Knight was way too grizzled.  He sounded like he needed a cough drop, like, throughout the whole film.  It got old and repetitious.  I can’t think of what bothered me about his performance in The Dark Knight Rises at the moment.

Though I wasn’t crazy about aspects of Bruce/Batman’s mannerisms, I think he does a great job of playing the hero who’s willing to get his hands dirty.  While cold and calculated most of the time, Bale does great in expressing Wayne’s emotions when Rachel (Gyllenhaal) is in danger, or when he sees Gotham’s white knight fall and agrees to take the blame to save Dent’s image.

thedarkknightjokerHeath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight is brilliant.  I would compare and contrast his performance with Jack Nicholson’s in Batman (1989), but I don’t know that I can.  Each performance has its own merits, Nicholson’s Joker probably lines up more with a traditional and more comic-y Joker, which was representative of his film and the time period for this type of movie.

Ledger’s performance works within Nolan’s Batman trilogy and his more modern realistic take on the franchise. His preparation for the film, which included staying secluded in a hotel for a month to perfect his voice for the film really showed through as he didn’t seem like Heath Ledger.  He became, completely and fully, the psychotic madman who just wanted to watch the world burn.  I don’t think Ledger’s performance would have had as big of an impact, and I certainly don’t think he would’ve won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, had he not died.

Greatest representation of this character.  Top notch CGI work Nolan, top notch.

Greatest representation of this character. Top notch CGI work Nolan, top-notch.

Aaron Eckhart has enormous acting potential, and I think he does as good of a job as anyone could with Harvey Dent.  Though I sometimes wonder what the film would’ve been like had his Two-Face had more screen time, I think Nolan does a good job with how he uses each side of Dent’s character.  My biggest complaint is the dinner scene where Dent does the horribly cliché foreshadowing, and Batman repeats the “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” line at the end in his over-grizzled voice.

thedarkknightrachelEach member of the main cast in this film does great.  Maggie Gyllenhaal shored up the weakest performance from Batman Begins, not that it would’ve taken much.  Morgan Freeman, though more limited in his time, maintains the calm, steady character he personifies in many of his roles.  Michael Caine works as Alfred, though he’s not my favorite Alfred, he’s still good.

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I’ve always been most impressed with Gary Oldman’s performance, and at times I feel like it was overlooked in light of Bale, Eckhart, and Ledger’s roles in this film.  He more than holds his own with the superstars of the film, and his character has to balance Dent’s white knight complex in saving the city from those who corrupt with Batman’s dark knight to do the dirty work in keeping Dent perfect.  Oldman, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated and underappreciated actors out there.

I watched The Dark Knight for the first time in a few years a couple of weeks ago.  I feel like a lot of what I initially loved about this film had lost some of its appeal.  Perhaps it’s because Nolan’s trilogy is now complete or some of the more groundbreaking aspects of this film have become more commonplace in the last six years.  Still, The Dark Knight is an incredibly entertaining film with brilliant leading and supporting performances.  Christopher Nolan created a great, complete film with this, and set the stage for a thrilling conclusion in The Dark Knight Rises.

My Recommendation: Buy it, or know someone who has it.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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