Friday, 25 July 2008

The Dark Knight


A challenge to its beginnings which falls short on greatness...

Following the events of Batman Begins, Gotham City is undergoing a crime reformation under the enthusiastic optimism of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), the new district attorney who is more easily recognizable as a public figure for good, then Batman (Christian Bale). But as events seem to be going right for Dent, Batman and James Gorden (Gary Oldman), they are caught off guard when an essential and psychopathic killer known as the Joker (Heath Ledger) decides to wreck havoc upon Gotham.


Nolan's vision of Batman has been one which moves away from the expected superhero environment, to a context which bases itself in reality as far as possible. With The Dark Knight, Nolan goes one step further and creates a gritty crime thriller with little emphasis on the fantasy associated with comic books. In fact, this becomes one of the few problems with the film, though one which could be easily overlooked. Whereas Batman Begins attempted to keep some supernatural elements within its context, as referenced by the League of Shadows, The Dark Knight does not have any mystical nature to it, but relies on the grittiness of a contrived world. But beyond this, the story is a huge success, creating a well formed synthesis between the superhero and crime thriller genres. There's enough plot, enough characters, and enough twists to keep you guessing, and with an engaging flow, the film doesn't feel its 152 minute runtime. But this runtime is perhaps not long enough: the biggest flaw with Nolan's attempt to tell so much story is that a plot development occurs later on in the film that really never feels complete, and almost tacked on. This plot does add to the thematic approach of the film, which is one of the films greatest achievements. No longer is the viewer asked to embrace the clich├ęd notion of power and responsibility and instead focuses itself on ethical propositions. Moral dilemma face every character, bar the Joker, and each is forced to make decisions that go against what they believe in. It is this depth to the characters which really makes for a compelling social case study. However, as much as every scene seems to fit so nicely into the film's flow, that isn't to say that the film itself surpasses Batman Begins. Batman Begins proved to be a better balance at telling a story, whereas The Dark Knight did not. In fact, the biggest concern with The Dark Knight, is that the film ultimately feels without enough direction by the time the credits role. There is no main objective to the film, just a series of events which lead to an intriguing, though abrupt end.


The level of acting ability is astonishing, equaling Batman Begins. It is very rare to see such a film receive such a great cast and each actor is used to almost full effect. Bale reprises his role as the conflicted Bruce Wayne/ Batman and does so with greater ease then before. However Bale never seems to get Batman's gruff voice entirely correct. Whereas in Begins Bale was a naturalness to the voice, it sounds as if he is forcing it in The Dark Knight. He sounds better in the latter half of the film, but regardless its a minor problem at best. Another minor problem is the complete lack of Dr. Crane/ Scarecrow. Being a interestingly developed character in the original, he is now limited to around 2 minutes in the beginning arc. It's disappointing to see a character with so much potential be marginalized as so. Another character who doesn't have his potential realized is Harvey Dent. He undergoes a great transformation, and his emotional struggle is well executed, but by the films end, this well built character suffers from underexposure or just a lack of runtime. An interesting role comes in th form of Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel. Maggie replaced Katie Holmes, who I believe wasn't all that bad but merely overshadowed by a wonderful cast. Maggie sadly doesn't fare any better: it's clear everyone else is more in their element then she is. And of course there is Ledger as the infamous Joker. Much has been said about his performance and how it is Oscar worthy. I'll say that I agree that his acting is incredible, with some intriguing nuances. Unlike the rest of the cast, Ledger is very much a lively actor expressing himself through body movements. But while I loved his role, Ledger lacks the maturity to really excel himself to the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be blood, for example. Nonetheless, not getting a lead an Oscar nod would be very much a slap in the face to an actor who was clearly beginning to peak.


Besides some minor suggestive material, and exceedingly low use of language, the film does indeed sport an array of violence. This incorporates lots of hand-to-hand combat, firearm usage, some upsetting off-screen moments, and one rather violent scene involving a pencil. Its blood free but still nonetheless deliver quite an impact.

Regardless of whether you you believe Spiderman, Batman Begins or the recent Iron Man to be the benchmark of superhero movies, there is no denying that The Dark Knight excels in the genre. It is an excellent example of good directing, acting and story advancement, but what makes The Dark Knight a superb superhero movie is not that it is able to recreate its comic book form so aptly, but that it makes a great cinematic piece. Whether you are a fan of superhero films or not, The Dark Knight deserves attention not only for building upon the success of Batman Begins, but for shattering the preconceptions of superheros in cinema. Does The Dark Knight surpass its former incarnation? For better or worse, both are on equal terms.


9/10

Screen date: 26 July 2008
Release date: 26 July 2008

8 comments:

newevidence said...

While I'd agree that both the action and the acting were excellent, equal in standard to Batman Begins, I would argue that the film was at least 30 minutes too long. You did mention the fact that the storyline is basically a number of events stringed together in some semblance of a plot, but you go on to say that you felt time did not drag and that it could have been even longer.

If first half hour could have easily been cut from the film, with the start of the main story beginning earlier one, movie goers might feel they got their money's worth. The action would have been continuous this way, having the audience on the edge of their seat the entire film instead of wondering what in the world was actually going on.

Still, you reviewed the film fairly, even if the score might be a little too high.

Anonymous said...

Very perceptive indeed Mr. Dwyer. An informative and enjoyable read...

Anonymous said...

Two-face should have been his own movie...especially considering it would have taken months to recover from such an injury. How he managed to not have any swelling or brusing or even bleeding on any part of his face is beyond me.

Bianca said...

Well scripted review...

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm going to!

CruizD said...

Thanks, you must definitely go see it ASAP!!!

But I agree that Two-Face should have been given more screen time, he really deserved it.

Whether the film should have been shorter... well I can see why people would want this. Personally, they either should have cut out Two-Face, or made the film a tad longer. :D

movie junkie said...

i still wish Katie Holmes had stayed on board as Rachel Dawes for the Dark Knight; it was like the time spent getting familiar with her character in Batman Begins was wasted...

CruizD said...

Yeah i know what you're saying movie junkie... especially when you take into consideration how different Maggie's Rachael was.

The Dark Knight Cast said...

I must say that this is the best film of the year. The Dark Knight belongs to a category where no comic adaptation could enter before.