Winner - Best Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger)

Winner - Best Sound Editing

WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2008)

Director: Christopher Nolan

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

Following on from 2005’s Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan continues with his grittier, realistic take on the superhero genre. This time, he makes it bigger, bolder, more thrilling and brings with him the Joker. Filmed on a grand scale – using IMAX cameras for certain shots, including the impressive shots of Hong Kong – the movie exudes a confidence and magnitude that drips from every frame. Whether it’s the magnificent truck flip scene or the assault on the Joker’s hideout in the third act, everything is done big – and it works.

Where Ras al Ghul and the Scarecrow were competent villains, the Joker is Batman’s ultimate nemesis and Heath Ledger’s performance is magnificent – the character and performance is a force of nature.

Removing himself from the role and becoming the character, Ledger has fashioned a psychopathic sociopath, without emotion or plan and capable of anything. He steals every scene he is in and created a truly iconic cinematic character. He received a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance, and it is truly deserved.

The cast of the film were predictably great – Bale, Caine, Oldman, Freeman, Eckhart – they almost guarantee a spectacle and this movie is no different. Bale is great as the smooth Bruce Wayne and the gritty Batman, and the movie allows him to show more emotion then simply anger. Gary Oldman brings a jaded determination to Gordon, an honest man in a dishonest city. Eckhart – similarly to Bale – shines as the dashing hero to Gotham City, and seems to enjoy being able to let loose towards the end. As an ensemble cast, everything here clicked.

The action scenes are a marked improvement from Batman Begins, and not just bigger either. The fight scenes flow better and clearly have better editing (as you can actually see what’s happening) and the actions scenes are unflinching – the bank heist, the Hong Kong skyscraper brawl, the car/lorry chase, Joker vs Batpod, the hospital scene – the list would go on. Not simply in there to fill in the gaps and the quota for an action/superhero movie, the action scenes add to the movie and elevate it higher. The sound editing also received an Academy Award and again, fully deserved as the effects and sound crash out of the speakers and become an immersive experience along with the visuals.

To call The Dark Knight a superhero movie almost feels wrong – yes the hero stills flings himself about dressed as a leather bat – however, Batman here feels more grounded (the gliding scenes aside) and almost more spy-like at times, armed with Bond-esque gadgets. The villain isn’t blessed with superpowers or a flashy suit – he looks like a chic hobo and is armed with brains and a fearless desire to bring chaos. The rest of the villains (the mob and small time gangsters) are armed with the guns. There’s nothing extraordinary here for the majority of the movie – there’s bazookas, helicopter traps, and the phone hacking (which is probably the most outlandish moment) – but there’s no Superman flying, no laser eyes or other superhero traits – thank god.

Batman still has his raspy voice, and is in need of some throat sweets – it’s the one blight on his character, a voice that can at times sound ridiculous. The phone hacking/GPS idea is the one aspect of the movie that falls flat for me – it’s inventive yes, but I feel Nolan could have come up with a more imaginative, or even realistic, plot point for a conclusion. Some parts of the movie require you to suspend belief – the Joker’s jailbreak scene and Dent/Gordon’s plan to capture Joker after the chase – however they’re executed well enough to be successful.

The Dark Knight is a big movie in all aspects – scale, cast, performances, script, sound, action – and it delivers on all counts. A masterful superhero/crime/action movie topped up with an iconic performance by Heath Ledger.

Why so serious? Because The Dark Knight is bloody brilliant.

October 19th 2016

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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