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

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Does NOT live up to the hype!

  • Jul 23, 2008
  • by
Five minutes in to THE DARK NIGHT, I'm asking myself, "What's happened to Gotham?!?!" In BATMAN BEGINS, the city was almost a character itself. Dark, glossy, seedy. It had islands and elevated subways. It felt like SIN CITY on a huge budget. Now it looks like downtown Chicago, or LA or Toronto. An "ordinary" city. I knew then that director Christopher Nolan and his gang were going to try to make Batman realistic...to make him a part of OUR world.

Big mistake.

I'll acknowledge right here and now that I'm not a huge "comic book" fan. I pretty much see all the movies...but I never drool in anticipation of them either. With the recent exceptions of the surprisingly entertaining IRON MAN and the fabulously inventive HELLBOY II...there hasn't been much that's gotten me excited in this genre. XMEN and SPIDERMAN (and the sequels) were mostly fluffy entertainment. Not that there's anything wrong with that...it's fine.

But prior to seeing DARK KNIGHT, I've been hearing from critics and co-workers alike that this was a movie unlike any other. One friend said, "I think it may be the best movie I've EVER seen!!!," and his eyes were aglow with fervor. So I guess it was my mistake waiting until Monday after opening to see the film. I tried to resist the hype and the expectation of a life-changing event...but clearly I bought into it some, because the movie was a pretty significant letdown.

Not only were the settings mundane (heck, Batman even goes on a little sidetrip to Hong Kong!)...but I found several key plot developments to be difficult to buy into because the characters hadn't earned my belief. I don't want to spoil much of the plot, but suffice it to say that I never really saw that Harvey Dent passionately loved Rachel...and thus subsequent events in his life simply didn't ring true psychologically.

Let me backtrack. The plot...or at least the skeleton. Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, has turned Gotham into a much safer city. Criminals are on the run. Regular citizens (some dressed as Batman) are fighting back and trying to reclaim their city. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) is the new DA, and he appears to be honest about his desire to root out crime. Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) is still virtuously carrying on HIS fight against crime. In fact, Bruce Wayne is actually thinking of hanging up the old batsuit and throwing his support behind the new DA, so that crime can be fought out in the open.

Enter The Joker...a maniacal evil-genius with a grotesque face and an even more horrible penchant for murder and mayhem. Always once step ahead (or two or three) of anyone trying to stop him, and apparently without any motive other than to bring about chaos...he begins to unravel all the plans of these noble men.

A complicated series of plot developments ensues...some quite exciting to watch. Midway through the film, we're treated to a lengthy car & truck chase, followed by Joker's brief but memorable incarceration. Those few scenes, when he's interrogated by various "forces of good" while clearly all the while hatching a scheme to cause even more death and destruction, are thrilling, tight and have several terrific payoffs all at once. It is worth the entire 2.5 hours to enjoy those 20 minutes or so.

Much has been made of Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker. It is certainly an inventive and even compelling performance. But he's an outrageous character in a world that Nolan is trying so hard to make feel like our own. Ledger is playing on a different wavelength from his fellow actors. What makes me admire his performance is that Ledger, at least, understood how this story SHOULD have been placed tonally. Joker is "askew" and the film should have been too. The Joker never changes throughout the film...he's always evil and maniacal...thus, the performance doesn't quite deserve the accolades heaped on it. I know Ledger's untimely death was tragic...but I think it has clouded the eyes of some to the performance. (Before you send hate mail...the performance IS very good. He's a treat to watch, and when he dons a nurse's uniform, he truly takes this role into another level. His glee is palpable, as is his menace.)

Sadly, almost all other performances are off the mark. Christian Bale is boring as Bruce Wayne (and makes Wayne quite unlikeable) and the voice he's chosen to use for Batman is SO distracting. Maggie Gylenhaal (who CAN be quite luminescent and wonderful), is terrible and annoying. Gary Oldman (another fine actor) has a silly accent and not much else to offer. And poor Aaron Eckhart. Here's a guy who can be PERFECT in the right role (think THANK YOU FOR SMOKING). If you need a smooth, glossy, faux sincere politician...this is your guy. If you need a lovestruck, insecure man...he can't pull it off. And if you need histrionics or thunderous theatrics...he's completely out of his league. Michael Caine is enjoyable in a much reduced role as Arthur, Wayne's butler and moral compass. Morgan Freeman is featured a little more...but mostly looks dewy-eyed at Wayne. (You know who DOES get where the tone of this movie should be? Eric Roberts, in his smallish role as a local mob leader. He overacts just a smidge...and it's just right!)

I believe Nolan is trying to make the film a rumination on how fine the line between righteous action and fanatical action are. How good intentions can turn sour so easily. It might be a stab at "anti-terrorism" fervor...the very tired question of "are our actions to root out terrorism just making us into our own brand of terrorists." But the efforts to illuminate this philosophical musing sometimes lead to some dead-ends dramatically.

I'm still giving the film 3 stars...because it dares to try a lot. It isn't afraid to make a very complex story, both psychologically and in terms of plot. It doesn't talk down to the audience. But in attempting so much...it misses more than it hits. Yet it has the great Joker sequences in the middle, incredible special effects for the character of Two-Face, and it does feature Nestor Carbonell as the Mayor of Gotham. Why is that good. Because once upon a time, Carbonell was featured in the live-action TV series THE TICK. His character? Batmanuel. The circle of life, kids!

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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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About this movie


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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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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