Friday, 25 July 2008

The Dark Knight

“Let’s put a smile on that face....”

Thank you Chris Nolan, Jonathon Nolan, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gwylyhall and everyone else involved, for creating the greatest “super-hero” films ever told.

Referring to The Dark Knight like that sounds a bit wrong, to say it’s the best Batman film would be an injustice, to say it’s the best comic-book film would be an injustice, to be quite honest this is just one of the best films ever committed to celluloid. Period.

This film is incredible, it contains so many strong story-lines that interweave and all pay-off, so many well developed characters and an abundance of intense scenes that keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

Due to this the film is structured almost like a 2 and a half hour trailer, but this is not a criticism. There is so much jammed into the film and it moves at a very brisk pace, that this is the only conceivable way it could work. The musical score is constantly flowing with the film and pulls you in all the way to the end. Unlike Spider-man 3 with similar amounts of storyline and which ended up being a schizophrenic mess, The Dark Knight holds everything together and is consistently strong. Not an ounce of dialogue is wasted, everything said either advances the plot or a characters motivations.

Whereas Batman Begins was very much centred on Bruce Wayne this is more of an ensemble piece, with Bruce Wayne, Commissioner Gordon, the Joker and Harvey Dent all pretty much sharing the screen time. Of which Harvey’s story creates the emotional arch and back-bone of the film.


Heath Ledger is insanely good in this film, he inhabits the Joker to such a point that you never once see Heath Ledger. You believe the Joker exists as his own person, his mannerism, his voice, his motives create one of the best screen villains ever seen. Partly due to the script and partly due to Heath’s interpretation, every second he is on screen, you listen, you take note, you don’t want to miss a second of his performance. It’s magnificent and very bitter-sweet, to realise we will never see Heath act again is very depressing, but this is a triumphant last outing. Rest in Peace.

As good as Ledger’s performance is, the rest of the cast all deliver equally strong, (it’s just the Joker obviously as the screen grabbing antics) especially Aaron Eckhart, he plays Harvey Dent perfectly with charisma and charm and then by the end his turn to Two-Face is manic, heart-breaking and genuine. If your fiancé had just been killed and you’d be left burned and permanently scarred you’d probably do the same.

Christian Bale is excellent as the three sides of Bruce Wayne, his public persona, the behind closed doors “real” Bruce and of course Batman.

The rest of the cast all do brilliantly, there just isn’t enough time to write about everyone.

The film is intense from start to finish, with several key sequences where a few crossing story lines all climax to equal several “Oh shit, I can’t believe that just happened” moments. The initial attack on Commissioner, the judge and Harvey, then the Mayor assassination attempt, the race to save Rachael or Harvey and Joker escape, the 60 minutes dead or blow up hospital sequences. All bring heart-pumping suspense to the film.

Then you’ve also got an incredible car chase which culminates with a semi-truck doing a full flip over itself, the opening Bank Heist, the Joker’s pencil magic trick, Joker’s escape from Gotham Police Station, Two-Face’s revenge, Batman dropping Sal Maroni to ankle crunching landing, the Hong Kong sky scrapper, and many more.

Then there is the Interrogation scene which is incredible, from the intro with the Joker in the dark, to the reveal of Batman and their ultimate encounter, 5 minutes of absolute perfection.

Two-Face is excellent too, he looks terrible (in a good way), burnt skin, no eye lids and a hole in his cheek so you can see the insides of his mouth, a marvel of CGI and prosthetics. His revenge is justified and believable and he’s used well. Having Harvey’s story build the foundation for the film, and it makes sense they killed him, like a tragic Shakespearean play.

The only two slight issues I had was when the Joker pretends to be dead, one shot gives an unsettling reminder of Heath Ledgers demise.

The second being the Ferry game at the end, whilst a good idea it doesn’t quite pack the same emotional impact as the rest of film as it involves random citizens we’re not invested in.

Those things aside everything else is brilliant, the musical score is exceptional, pulsing throughout the film and giving each character their own themes, the Joker’s is particularly unnerving.

The fight editing as also been tidied up so now you can see exactly what’s going on.

Everything feels real, not like your average super hero film. Batman is just a man in a costume, Joker is a psychopath that wears make-up and Two-Face is really just a vengeful burn victim.

It’s so good, I don’t really want another one. It’s Part One and Two of a huge film. They couldn’t compete with another. No Joker, no back bone from Harvey, no central love interest to kill off, no comparison!

Though it does also feel like a middle, as it follows directly on from the Begins end sequence and could lead to a introduction of a third with Batman being hated by Gotham until a threat exists requiring Batman to rise again allowing for the title of “The Dark Knight Returns.” But I have no idea what sort of idea could possibly compete or top this one. You could maybe add the Riddler, the Penguin or Catwoman. But to keep it realistic as they have with the previous villains would be very hard. The Riddler could potentially be the easiest to make “real” but could also end up being very familiar to the Joker in this film, setting up games to play with Batman.

If they made a third it would have to centre on Bruce again, which would be a nice way to end the trilogy and make symmetrical with the first Bruce-centric adventure.

Enough talking about “unneeded but inevitable sequels” get out and see this film, it is incredible and is by far the best film of the year so far, and I very much doubt anything could equal or better it.

It is so good it is already in my top five films of all time.



Shaun said...

good review! ive just come back from seeing it a second time tonight. first time i watched it i was thinking 9.9/10 but now i am thinking 11/10 like you.

what a fucking film. how can nolan top that is my question though?

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