Written by Shiggins
With The Dark Knight, one of the highest-rated and most-beloved superhero films of all time, finally reaching its 10th anniversary, I decided it was a great time to go back and check it out! The second of the "Dark Knight trilogy" by Christopher Nolan (Inception, Memento), The Dark Knight was considered to be a game-changer for all superhero films. It got tons of awards, made over $1 billion, and is still talked about to this day. After ten years however, how does it hold up?
Note: Mild spoilers, but you've probably seen the film already so who cares.
The Dark Knight is all about how Bruce Wayne/Batman, played by Christian Bale, is having to face off against an alliance of criminals and thugs, but all of them are working for or being manipulated by the terrifying Joker, who just wants to watch the world burn. As the Joker continues his reign of destruction, Batman must work together and depend on the people around him, including his butler Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, and new District Attorney and friend Harvey Dent.
The impact that this film has had on superhero movies is clear, even to this day, as we constantly see the DCEU trying to emulate the tone and style of this record-breaker. And you can clearly see why, as The Dark Knight was a rough, dark, gritty film that still holds a place in all our memories, with some surprising levity and wit to keep it from going dark 24/7. This was the first time we saw a live-action Batman properly break bones, or the Joker take on such a terrifying psychopath-like persona with knives and gasoline. The Dark Knight has a clear identity with its visuals, and no other film has been able to replicate it. No matter how hard they try to force Superman or Batman to have it again.
The themes presented are still as relevant today as they were in 2008, with moments of grey mortality and limitations showcasing a Batman who wants to do the right thing but is constantly being tested. We all know that tons of people could be saved if Batman just out-right killed the Joker, but that isn't his character and it all makes sense. And the heartbreak that he feels when the Joker commits horrific acts later on is clear and relatable. Should he cross the line? Break the one rule he has? Is Batman even the right choice? What if Harvey Dent, Gotham's "white knight", is the hero that Gotham needs and deserves? Does Gotham even deserve to have a hero, when its full of criminals and thugs?
These themes would fall apart if it wasn't for the strength of the screenplay by Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathon. While this film does have its somewhat-campy moments here or there, something that is impossible to avoid in a comic book movie, The Dark Knight knows exactly where to talk and where to fight. And the writing makes sure that both are equally as engaging and important to the story and characters. I could watch Joker breaking into the party and interrogating people for hours!
And that brings us to what everyone remembers the most; Heath Ledger's Joker.
When it was announced that Heath Ledger would be playing the Joker, fans went nuts. "He could never portray the character well. He was in a Knight's Tale and Brokeback Mountain! If this was 2018, we'd be blaming the SJWs by now!". Sadly, Heath Ledger passed away on January 22nd, just 6 months before the film was released to the public, and so the film got a massive amount of media attention and did amazingly well in the box office. Over the years, this has caused a lot of cynics to wonder if the passing of Ledger is why we're all so warm towards his portrayal of the Joker and the movie itself.
Personally, I find that a bunch of bollocks. I'm not the type to sugarcoat my opinion. I thought The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was rubbish after all!
Heath Ledger's Joker is a very different portrayal from previous live-action performances, as both Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson focused more on the "Clown" section of the term "Clown Prince of Crime", and Ledger focused more on the "Crime". This Joker's humour is dry, dark and disturbing, especially when he invents stories about how he got the scars on his cheeks that form his classic smile. "Do you want to know how I got these scars?"
And while it is different from other Jokers, I think this version is done perfectly. The humour and murder are balanced out perfectly, creating a villain that is always intimidating despite his purple suit and silly one-liners. Ledger's delivery is full of madness and mockery, showcased in the great interrogation scene that, to me at least, is the film at its strongest. Line after line, bouncing against Christian Bale's Batman, and keeping me at the edge of its seat. No matter how hard Batman hits him, no matter what he says or does, he can't break the Joker!
Speaking of Christian Bale, we shouldn't forget how great the rest of the cast are in this film are. Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gyllenhaal (replacing Katie Holmes from the last movie), are all at the top of their game. I've seen plenty of A-list actor refuse to give a credible performance because they don't respect comic book movies, so seeing everyone here give it their best is one of the reasons this film did so well and still does to this day. If only they hadn't made Batman's voice sound so silly...
The final star of the film is the action. Batman, much like his comic and video game counterparts, is constantly fighting with his clever gadgets and cape, bashing goon after goon and constantly coming up with new ways to keep fighting to the end. The highlight action scene, easily better than the climax itself, involves the Joker driving a truck and Batman on his bike.
As for the climax, since you're probably wondering, I found it rather disappointing when compared to the truck scene. On an emotional level, provided by the tertiary characters on the boats, it's fantastic and really shows the true heart of humanity. On a combat level, it was thrilling but lesser than the truck.
The only true negative to this film, for me at least, is the length of the film. Looking back on it, the film could have finished the plot of Harvey Dent slightly earlier to save time, since viewers are still experiencing the afterglow of the climax when the ending to that story is getting resolved. Lasting just over 150 minutes, The Dark Knight is a long and epic film, but not everyone is open to that.
In brief, its easy to see why this is considered one of the best comic book movies of all time and still holds up so well to this day. The action is intense, the performances are literally Oscar-worthy, and Heath Ledger's time as the Joker is one that will most likely never be forgotten in our lifetime. A thought-provoking, engaging story that encouraged comic book movies to reach new levels, and one that can't be replicated easily, no matter how hard Warner Bros try.
Film Rating: 9.5/10
Best Performance: Heath Ledger as the Joker.
Best Part: The interrogation.
Worst Part: Batman's voice.
Born under the stars of the Dark Gods, Shiggins owns the power of the Great Eye and is utterly magnificent in his omniscience. If you dare to discover more about someone as great as him, then go ahead. And to all my friends and family members, YOU are wrong and I should be disappointed! Not the other way round!,. You can find out about him or ask him stuff on ask.fm/shigginsishere or go to his tumblr page http://otakugajeel.tumblr.com/