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The second film in Christopher Nolan's Batman film trilogy released in 2008.

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Darkness Falls

  • Mar 27, 2011
  • by
Rating:
+5
I love it when a filmmaker takes a well-known character and gives him a reinventing makeover. Director Martin Campbell found success twice giving James Bond the badly-needed breath of new life, first in Goldeneye and again in 2005's outstanding Casino Royale. It was also in 2005 that Christopher Nolan, best known for his cult indie film Memento, accomplished this same feat with Batman. Batman needed it. I admit I've always been fascinated with the Caped Crusader. But the movies tore him from his origins as a brooding vigilante warrior. The closest Batman came to Bob Kane's Detective Comics character was in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie. Burton later helmed Batman Returns. Both movies had a distinct comic-book-like appearance, but that was as far as it went. After Burton did his best to honor Kane, the franchise was handed to Joel Schumacher, who basically threw away Burton's comic approach for a neon-bathed version of the Adam West television show. I enjoyed Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Batman and Robin even managed to board a pre-Oscar George Clooney to do his best Adam West imitation while adding a handful of cartoon sounds. The Schumacher movies worked well if Schumacher's goal was to turn Batman into a movie trivia punchline.

We all know what happened afterward. For years, Batman was a forbidden utterance among movie producers. Then in 2005, Christopher Nolan not only reinvented Batman, but he did something Burton and Schumacher both failed to: Nolan gave Batman his very own identity, one just as unique for Batman as the comics and Adam West show were. Now in The Dark Knight, Nolan lives up to the promise seen in Batman Begins. In The Dark Knight, the character of Batman is not only expanded, but another character – The Joker – is given a worthy vehicle thanks to the believably psychotic effort of the late Heath Ledger. The TV series Joker was a clown. Jack Nicholson's Joker was a cartoon. Ledger's Joker is a scary, twisted, disturbing manifestation of malice. His makeup smeared, The Joker haunts The Dark Knight without mercy. He forces people to make impossible moral decisions, uses knives to make threatening taunts, and knocks off his own foot soldiers just because he wants a bigger share of the bounty from his own organized robbery.

Nolan's Batman does not go off into the sunset. In this way, The Dark Knight is appropriately deferential to the animated TV series in which Batman was a lone wolf who was more or less a vigilante. In The Dark Knight, Commissioner Gordon has to make excuses to use the Bat Signal. When the movie begins, we learn almost immediately that Batman has inspired people, but not to the effect he had hoped for. The people who love Batman show their love using the sincerest form of flattery. That is to say, there is a legion of not-Batmans wandering around in Gotham City laying down the law in ways the real Batman abhors. (Read: They use guns.) Batman is definitely dark, but the people see him as something less than a knight. Instead, the city look to a new District Attorney named Harvey Dent as their White Knight. Harvey is an idealist and when he preaches his clean-up act and then delivers over 500 known criminals in one setting, even cynical Bruce Wayne hops on the bandwagon.

Unfortunately, there's a new king in town who calls himself The Joker, and his lust for chaos is such that during the movie, he insists that Gotham City will come under his control by midnight and people believe him. One shot of the movie shows Wacker Drive (well, an unknown street; after all, The Dark Knight is set in fictional Gotham City, not real Chicago, where much of it was shot) flooded by cars with people evacuating because they don't want to be there when The Joker takes the reins. Why does he want control? The gist of it is that he wants to show how anyone can be brought down to the level of a common crook, but a better explanation is also offered: He just likes to watch things burn. Joker's aura is a dominating one. If you've ever believed clowns are agents of evil, The Joker is Lucifer.

Along the course of the movie, The Joker manages to make Batman and Dent stare into their dark doppelganger images. He gets Bruce Wayne to question if being Batman is worth it, and the ultimate result is that we begin to see Batman as the denizens of Gotham City do: Not as the White Knight, but merely as a protector. But Dent, the real White Knight, is also put to a surprise test. Dent is an idealist, but puts an overwhelming belief into luck and often flips a coin to determine his course of action. He also appears to harbor a secret anger at the world around him, as seen in one scary scene in which he has a chance to shoot a criminal. Eventually his anger and belief in luck – or perhaps fate – both boil over with chaotic results to his psyche.

Early on, the surprising issue of age is brought to the attention of Bruce Wayne. During a night out with Harvey, Rachel Dawes, and a ballerina from the local ballet, Dent casually mentions it and the idea begins to haunt Bruce. He is confronted with the fact that no matter how successful he is as Batman, he will not be able to keep up the gig forever. This effectively lends a little more depth to the Bruce Wayne character, who is still keeping up his ways as a sort of reluctant playboy. Christian Bale, the newest and already longest-tenured Bruce Wayne/Batman (a title he shares with Burton Batman Michael Keaton) brings a remarkable depth to his role as Bruce. While he publicly wears an I-may-be-a-rich-playboy-but-I-can-still-beat-you-up grin and flaunts call girls who would make Eliot Spitzer jealous, Bale manages to convey Bruce's lavishness as a mask.

The development of the relationship between Bruce and Rachel takes a step back because Rachel is dating Harvey Dent. She still has feelings for Bruce, but in The Dark Knight, she is confronted with questions about what could possibly happen between the two of them. Rachel is still pretty much the same plain-Jane idealist she was in Batman Begins. While Rachel is given a bit more thoughtful depth in The Dark Knight than she was in Batman Begins, she is still a plain-Jane role who fit plain-Jane actress Katie Holmes well. Maggie Gyllenhaal tries her very best to bring a sorely needed fire to Rachel, but being the blandest character in the movie, her role is almost an insult to the talented actress playing her this time. The movie would have been just as good with Katie Holmes, who bailed out to make the forgotten Mad Money, another dubious chapter to her mostly dubious movie career. Gyllenhaal's boarding is a fact. It's neither a blessing nor a curse.

The Dark Knight's pacing is a little bit slower and less frantic than that of Batman Begins. If Batman Begins had a single weakness, it was its appearance as a quick-cutting montage during points. This was because of the focus on Bruce Wayne's childhood and recollections of how he became Batman. But The Dark Knight isn't giving us a past to deal with this time. There is just one story to move along and develop, and so Nolan takes his sweet time, even playing with our minds at some points. His careful craftsmanship and steady pacing leave us with many well-formed scenes which grow and leave us with the greatest possible impact. It helps that The Dark Knight has the benefit of some of the most outstanding dialogue heard in a superhero movie since, well, possibly ever. The well-written scenes do a lot to wash out the nasty aftertaste of Arnold Schwarzenegger's bombardment of cold puns and George Clooney's cocky posturing from Batman and Robin.

The Dark Knight is the best movie I've seen so far this year. It is better than Wall-e, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Iron Man, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. It gives us a combination of near-perfect craftwork, well-written scenes, memorable characters, one of the great villains of any era, and an ending which is bleak but not outside of the realm of Batman. In an era in which superhero movies are so commonplace that they were parodied in an earlier movie this year called Superhero Movie, The Dark Knight has reclaimed his rightful place as the greatest superhero of them all.

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March 27, 2011
Great review, well written. I'd like to see the DVD set and see if the film is any longer than it was at the theaters.
March 28, 2011
It was long enough as it was, but somehow I don't find myself wishing it was any shorter. About halfway through it suddenly hit me that this was a movie I was going to try to review. I had forgotten that because it's so absorbing.
 
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More The Dark Knight reviews
review by . July 26, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****    In "Batman Begins", Christopher Nolan brought an entirely new vision - a much darker vision - of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) to the screen. We witnessed his origins and his even further beginnings as a crime fighter for the scum-infested city of Gotham. The same motive has driven the Batman to keep on fighting for the city all the way into this next chapter of the Caped Crusader's legacy. "The Dark Knight" begins with a heist involving the psychopath donning …
review by . November 29, 2010
This is one of the best comic book movies ever made. I like the 1989 Batman film better and I always will, but I can't really compare the two because this is great in its own way and will go down as its own creation, and defnitely as a great one.      This is a comic book movie for everyone, and marketing to children had little to nothing to do with anything. This is a movie strictly for adults, and even people who don't like comic book movies can find something they …
review by . February 21, 2011
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Christopher Nolan Does it again
Where do i begin to talk about The Dark Knight, I'll start at Batman Begins. When I first saw the trailer for this movie I said "great another sequel thats gonna be terrible cause they all are" The Dark Knight is more than just a sequel to Batman Begins its one of the greatest movies Ive watched in years. This movie is bigger and better in every possible way than every other batman flick combined. When the critics say "you will be Wowed" dont take it lightly cause you will be. The Dark knights plot …
review by . July 18, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This movie was by far the best batman movie that has been made yet. The acting was really good on all points but Heath Ledger totally took center stage as the joker. Everything from his facial expressions to his voice and the way he moved was absolutely perfect! I was also surprisingly impressed with the costumes. The joker costume was perfect, it really looked more like the costume from the comic books than previous jokers did. And the batsuit was actually kind of sexy looking, it lacked the hard …
review by . July 07, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
The Batman franchise got off to a great start in the 1980's when Tim Burton directed the first film.  Despite upsetting comicbook fans and pleasing other comic book fans at the same time, the movie was a monumental success.  Unfortunately problems arose afterwards.  While Batman Returns was not a flop by any means it was a lot darker and sexualized.  So much so that Warner Bros. gave Tim Burton the boot because they wanted a more kid friendly Batman.  See, at this time, …
review by . December 20, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Rarely has a film left me speechless, much less a comic book inspired film. Christopher Nolan's rendition of the DC comic character has. "THE DARK KNIGHT" may well be the best comic book film I have ever seen. Christopher Nolan, along with Jonathan Nolan has crafted a screenplay of nearly unbelievable proportions. The duo has taken the "Batman" mythos and has turned it into their own; what results is a film that captures the essence of the comic book and combines it to a …
review by . September 12, 2008
Finally, after what seems like an eternity of buzz, waiting, hype, and tragedy, what could easily be the biggest movie of 2008 is upon us: Christopher Nolan's second installment in his re-imagining of DC Comics' Batman, The Dark Knight. Does this mammoth two-and-a-half-hour superhero magnum opus live up to expectations? The simple answer is yes. With The Dark Knight Nolan has crafted what may be the greatest superhero film to date. In a summer where Marvel blew the doors wide open with the …
review by . December 19, 2008
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Three years have passed since audiences thrilled to the exploits of the Caped Crusader in Batman Begins and now writer/director Christopher Nolan (Insomnia and The Prestige) brings us the second chapter in the unfolding Batman saga. Rather than creating a sequel that relies entirely on action, Nolan has decided to go another route. The Dark Knight is even more intense, violent and psychologically complex than its predecessor.             …
review by . August 29, 2009
The Dark Knight
By now, The Dark Knight is known to be the best of the best when it comes to super hero movies as well as Heath Ledger's final Oscar winning performance.  What some people fail to realize about Christopher Nolan's masterpiece is that it is also the best crime drama of the decade.  Forget that Batman is in this movie for a second.  Without him you have a movie that focuses on the Mob, dirty cops, inner city politics and a mad man watching all of this unravel as he adds his own breed …
Quick Tip by . July 21, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A better Batman movie will be hard to accomplish after this DARK (the kind Batman Returns SHOULD have had) movie roared back in 08. Bale, Ledger, Caine and Oldman among the rest of the cast are great. Love the Batpod too.
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Nicholas Croston ()
Ranked #26
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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About this movie

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The Dark Knight is a 2008 American superhero film co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, the film is a sequel to Batman Begins. Christian Bale reprises the lead role. Batman's primary conflicts in the film include his fight against his arch-nemesis the Joker and his strained friendship with district attorney Harvey Dent. For his conception of the film, Nolan was inspired by the Joker's first two appearances in the comics and Batman: The Long Halloween. The Dark Knight was filmed primarily in Chicago, as well as in several other locations in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong. The director used an IMAX camera to film six major action sequences, including the Joker's first appearance in the film. The Batsuit was redesigned, with a cowl allowing Bale to move his head.

The film was released on July 18, 2008 in North America, and on July 21, 2008 in the United Kingdom. During its opening weekend, the movie brought in over $155 million, breaking nearly every box office record.
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Details

Director: Christopher Nolan
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Release Date: July 18, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: December 9, 2008
Runtime: 152 minutes
Studio: Syncopy Films, Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Studios
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