Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

The Dark Knight

Review by Mark Lengieza 

It really is quite a coincidence that my first review comes from the latest summer blockbuster sensation: The Dark Knight.  I’ll preface this by saying my favorite film has been for many years Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  Well folks, I think it may have finally been dethroned.  Trust me, that itself is saying a lot.  The Dark Knight is quite possibly the greatest film I have ever seen.  Here’s why. 

I am an action junkie, and The Dark Knight does not disappoint in that area.  The action sequences are there throughout and they are spectacularly executed.  That would be enough for this film to be great for me.  However, this film is so much more than just another summer blockbuster superhero movie.  It is a masterpiece of film.  Christopher Nolan is the next Steven Spielberg (and I don’t say that lightly, either). 

The plot sizzles from beginning to end, with twists and turns that will leave the audience on the edge of their seats and cheering along the entire time.  Batman is simply not your typical superhero.  The Dark Knight is, as the title so accurately indicates, a dark film, with a dark hero.  The characters are set up to be deep, sometimes disturbing, creatures that wrap you around their finger and play with your emotions.  The character that does this best, is not The Dark Knight himself (although Christian Bale is the perfect Batman), it is Heath Ledger’s masterful portrayal of Batman’s arch nemesis, The Joker.   

While watching The Dark Knight, one thought kept coming back to me:  Why did Heath have to die so tragically young?  This is one of the greatest performances I have ever seen by anyone in any role.  Heath is The Joker.  He is so maniacal, so twisted, so utterly disturbing, yet at the same time, his sense of humor is infectious.  I don’t know how this is even possible, but Ledger somehow pulls it off.  He really stole the show.  I think a posthumous Oscar nomination is a near guarantee, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he won.  He is just… that… good.  Although I must also throw a word in about Aaron Eckhart’s wonderful portrayal of Gotham District Attorney Harvey Dent.  With performances like these, you almost forget you are watching a summer blockbuster. 

I really can’t come up with many flaws with the film.  If you are concerned about the length, don’t be.  You will most likely come out of the theater saying that it wasn’t long enough.  I know I just wanted to watch it again (and trust me, I will, probably three or four more times in theaters).  Every character in the film is superbly acted, the shots are epic, the action is terrific.  I wouldn’t have removed a single scene.  In my opinion folks, this is a perfect movie.  I know that a third one will be made, but I don’t know how this can be topped.  I said it may be the best film I have ever seen, and I will make that decision upon repeat viewings.  All I know is, right now, as I’m writing this review, I want to go watch it again.  Take that into consideration when choosing between The Dark Knight and any other film that is currently in theaters.  (And if you were even considering Space Chimps, well… we might not get along very well) J.    

A very obvious 5/5 stars.


Review by Stuart Bland 

"You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain". Morality, in all its ambiguous nature, plays a key role in Christopher Nolan's follow up to the immensely popular Batman Begins, which, despite only drawing in $200 million at the U.S. box office, was able to drum up enough support through word-of-mouth and its DVD release to make its sequel the most anticipated movie of the year. The Dark Knight, like its predecessor, explores the dark, gritty world of Gotham City, but taking what was already a superbly crafted world, is expanded upon and matured into what could quite possibly be one of the most impressive pieces of film ever created. 

While great comic book films of the past (such as Spider-Man 2, and, more recently, Iron Man) are generated as crowd pleasing polished superhero films, Nolan has taken The Dark Knight a step further. His vision of Gotham is an intriguing, stylistic and ultimately realistic world, layered up with characters who are real and a storyline that is relevant in this post-9/11 climate.
Shifting genres slightly, Nolan has made The Dark Knight a little more into a crime story, which is more epic than before and in the vein of Michael Mann’s outstanding Heat. Shot partially in IMAX, and photographed beautifully by Wally Phister, Nolan tackles issues that are often disregarded in comic-book movies, themes that are deemed too serious or too important to be dealt with in such a fantastical world. Making no apologies for being so brutal and elaborate, what results is a movie which portrays menace, suspense and tension far beyond the reaches that any R-rated movie could ever hope to achieve without a single shot of blood-letting violence. The film is truly terrifying, an honest and brutal look at how twisted and unsettled a world can become when engulfed in terror. 

The Joker is the protagonist of this terror. The driving force behind the sequel, Nolan saw him like the shark in Jaws, a terrifying menace to society who, “…has no character arc, no development. He just cuts through the water”. His commitment to anarchy and intention to do harm for its own sake and his own entertainment is a devastating concept which Nolan saw as the perfect response to the figure of heroism of Batman Begins. Taking influences from Frank Miller’s “Batman” and Alan Moore’s “Killing Joke”, Heath Ledger has created a truly iconic figure of evil. 

Ranking alongside the best villains of cinematic history, Ledger’s performance is stunning. Unlike Jack Nicholson, Ledger actually becomes The Joker, rather than just acting it. Smeared in white paint, which deteriorates throughout the movie at the same rate as the City of Gotham around him, he portrays a truly menacing and psychotic figure, which is further escalated with his horrifically scarred face and his incessant licking of his lips. 

Yet, how does such a man become such a central figure within the criminal underworld? While initially labeled a clown of no interest to the mob, he eventually, through their desperation for a figure that can bring down Batman, is employed in a fashion that appeared reminiscent to the situation Germany found itself in when Adolf Hitler was appointed to the government. Maybe this was a reference for the insane and psychotic nature that Nolan was looking for in Joker’s character, and how desperation can drive people to a figure they would not normally turn to. Nevertheless, what results is a cat-and-mouse game between the two ‘freaks’ of Gotham City, in which the moral divide is often blurred.

Added to the game is Harvey Dent, the new District Attorney who has sought to stand alongside The Batman and rid the city of its rotten core. Labeled “Gotham’s White Knight” and with a public image in complete contrast to that of Batman’s, he is seen as the face of Gotham’s heroic fight. However, he too faces a moral struggle that often blurs the line between hero and villain, which pushes him to his very core. 

Both Dent’s and Batman’s morality is a very human dilemma, with negative urges for violence suppressed through a desire for good. The Joker attempts to exploit the two men’s morality for his own pleasure, while simultaneously bringing Gotham City into chaos. The on-screen battle between the three is fascinating, and while Nolan has made significant attempts to balance the story so that Batman maintains his presence as the main character in the movie, Ledger steals every scene he is in. 

Beyond the main characters, the supporting cast is impeccable. Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine play their roles perfectly and intensely, providing an ideal backdrop for the three pillars of the movie to play out their roles. The effects are handled thrillingly, making death and destruction beautiful. Whole buildings are blown apart as The Joker deals his trickery, while car chases are intricate and suspenseful. There isn’t a weak point in the entire movie. 

It took David Goyer and Jonathan Nolan to talk Christopher Nolan to return for a sequel, and while he has joked that only enormous amounts of cash would bring him back for another, it would be difficult for him to top what he has achieved here. The movie was filmed as a stand-alone, without the disadvantage of potentially saving things for another film, and it shows. Ledger’s Joker is, in many ways symbolic of the success of The Dark Knight; subtle and restrained but always on the brink of chaos and it’s a masterpiece of cinema in the making. 

5/5 stars

Review by Paul Edwards 

Remember the days of old? The days when comic book adaptations were nothing more then airhead flicks with no acting, little plot, cheesy dialogue, and expensive special effects? Well, those days are over. There is a new sheriff in town and his name is Wayne. Bruce Wayne.  

Batman (Christian Bale) has never had so much grit and gumption as he displays in The Dark Knight. Early on, Bruce surmises, “Batman has no limits.” He’s right. With a visionary and revolutionary director the comic book world of Batman gets a reality check who, without masks, paint or burns, would just be like you or me. That is what Christopher Nolan has brought to the table in The Dark Knight; these characters are real. 

That’s not the only revolutionary thing that Nolan has done. He is the first director to shoot a non-non-fiction movie with IMAX cameras, and the result is that of legend. He filmed all the major action scenes and some important establishing shots with the bulky, clumsy cameras and the effect on the film experience is breathtaking. Just imagine watching HD television, on the big screen with the best sound system the world has to offer.  

By this time, word has probably gotten around to you that this film is “dark” or otherwise not safe for work.  They are only half-right. The Dark Knight is not your bubbly, animated comedy that will leave you feeling better about yourself.  Oh no. The Dark Knight is an allegory on post-9/11 America that will open your eyes to some hard truths. “How would you deal with terrorism?”, the film asks.  Would you give into their demands or would you go and kick their butt? And that’s the greatest part of all. There is always a choice, the film tells, be it with order, chance, or chaos.  

Now take a step back and remember that this is just a comic book movie.  

And it goes even further. The relationship between the triumvirate of Harvey Dent, Batman, and the Joker shows us all the methods of how we can solve the problem infecting Gotham city; the fact that there is better class of criminal lurking around Gotham. All of them share a similarity that brings the story even closer to home. You’ll have to check it out to the movie to get the full gist of the argument but all the major players bring something important to the table and it is their fights that find out the answer that makes the ending that much more powerful.  

I would highly recommend this film, especially the IMAX version. It is the way to get the film as it’s meant to be seen. You won’t be disappointed.  

5/5 stars

Comments (1):

  • Rasgriz @ 07/30/2008 ( 10:57:21 AM )
    all reviews 5/5 and it should be. the dark knight is the best superhero movie ever made and Ledger's joker = Anton Chigurh if not better!!
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