The Dark Knight (2008)

Christopher Nolan

Christian Bale - Bruce Wayne/Batman
Heath Ledger - The Joker
Aaron Eckhart - Harvey Dent/Two-Face
Michael Caine - Alfred Pennyworth
Gary Oldman - James Gordon
Maggie Gyllenhaal - Rachel Dawes
Morgan Freeman - Lucius Fox

Genre - Action/Crime Drama/Fantasy/Comic Books

Running Time - 152 Minutes

2012 Fred Sez - I was requested by a few people to re-review THE DARK KNIGHT since I have been reviewing all the other BATMAN films leading up to this weekend's long anticipated movie of the summer (and probably of the year), THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. So I watched it again last night (hadn't seen the film since early 2009 to be honest) and I realized that I still feel the same way about THE DARK KNIGHT that I did back in 2008 during my long journey trying to see it in theaters.

The acting is still fantastic, especially by Christian Bale, the late Heath Ledger, and the underrated Aaron Eckhart. While Mark Hamill will always be The Joker to me [
his voice is what I hear anytime I read a comic with the character], Ledger bests Nicholson by a narrow margin for giving the character the insanity and malice he deserves. You laugh with this dude while being afraid of him at the same time. Ledger would eventually win the Academy Award posthumously for Supporting Actor - and rightfully so. Eckhart is also great as Harvey "Two-Face" Dent, giving the character a ton of depth and sympathy as he slowly becomes the thing he's so against of becoming. It's kind of sad that Ledger overshadowed Eckhart due to his performance and his tragic death, but Eckhart deserved attention as well. Christian Bale is probably the only actor to balance both Bruce Wayne and Batman right, although the "Batman voice" is a bit much in this film.

Christopher Nolan directs an incredible middle act for his trilogy, with great editing and cross cutting, solid framing and composition, and gritty photography. I also love the tension and suspense that Nolan builds in this film. And while the film is more drama than action, Nolan handles both really well. Definitely feels more comfortable here than it did in BATMAN BEGINS. I can't wait for his visual eye on THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

The story by Nolan and David S. Goyer is perfect for a second act in the trilogy. The characters, while not having the same origins as they do in the comics, still play true for the most part, especially in the context of the story. I love Bruce Wayne's arc in which he's looking for someone more "
worthy" to play Gotham's hero (he sees Harvey Dent in that role), not realizing that he's Gotham's only hope as Batman. I love how similar and different he is to The Joker, who is the perfect foil for Batman and portrayed excellently in this film. While the 1989 version was funny and more of a clown (which worked for that movie), this version is more sinister and a real threat. The interactions between Batman and The Joker really give the film bite. The Rachel stuff with Bruce and Harvey is great and the tragedy of the love triangle sets up the final act well. I love how you're never sure who is a good guy in this film and who are traitors for the mob. THE DARK KNIGHT still feels like a crime drama more than a comic book film, and I actually like that because it stands out from the other films in the franchise.

It may be overrated, but I still think THE DARK KNIGHT is the best BATMAN film (
to be released so far) overall - even though I still find BATMAN RETURNS to be my personal favorite. After four years, it still holds up perfectly well and I look forward to the final installment of the trilogy this Friday Night. I should have a review for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES sometime this weekend. But for now, read my 2008 review for THE DARK KNIGHT.

In 1939, Bob Kane created one of the most popular and bankable superheroes of all time - Batman. Darker, grittier, and more detective-like than Superman, Batman took the world by storm. Over the years, we've seen many incarnations of Batman. In 1943, Lewis Wilson played Batman on television although it was short lived. The more popular late-1960s version of Batman, starring Adam West, became a pop culture phenomenon with its campy sense of humor and lightheartedness that was missing from the omic book. Because of this, Batman started in some animated shows, most particularly Super Friends.

In 1989, Batman was brought to the big screen in a major way in Tim Burton's BATMAN. Starring Michael Keaton as the title character and Jack Nicholson as The Joker, the film was a massive success. So successful in fact, that three sequels were made for it, each decreasing in quality until the franchise pretty much died once BATMAN & ROBIN, one of the worst comic book films ever made, was released in 1997.

Luckily for us, MEMENTO director Christopher Nolan stepped in to reboot the franchise. Using big name stars like Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Katie Holmes, BATMAN BEGINS was released in 2005, giving the fans a Batman film that was rooted closer to the comics and one we could all be proud of. It was very successful, meaning a sequel was imminent. Nolan announced THE DARK KNIGHT for 2008, which would have Batman pitted against The Joker. Everyone was excited about the addition of The Joker...until it was announced Heath Ledger was playing the role. I'm not gonna lie - I was a little worried about that casting choice. Ledger is a phenomenal actor, but as The Joker? I really couldn't see it. That is until promotional footage and photos were released, putting faith that this might actually work better than anyone may have thought.

Then Heath Ledger passed away in early 2008. It was a shock to everyone, especially since no one saw it coming. As morbid as it may sound, Ledger's death actually put more hype on THE DARK KNIGHT, as it was his last completed film and gave the film more buzz that it probably would have gotten without unfortunate events. The buzz just got bigger and bigger, even suggesting that Ledger was so good in THE DARK KNIGHT that he was a lock for an Oscar Nomination for Supporting Actor. Everyone was curious and excited for the next BATMAN installment for different reasons, leading to a new opening day and opening weekend record for the film.

My journey to watch THE DARK KNIGHT was a frustrating one, especially after it was massively sold out in every theater for three days. Not only that, but the film opened during a massive heatwave, just making things worse. You have no idea the trouble it took me to watch this flick. I started my trek early Friday morning, pretty much WALKING the entire NYC area to find ONE theater that still had open tickets to this film. Each time, I was met with lines longer than those at the DMV and watching time intervals sell out in massive time. Maybe I should have dressed like some of the people on line. Random Jokers, Batmen, Two-Faces, and even sexy Catwomen [growl] popped out of the woodwork, getting their tickets while I was denied mine. Instead, I decided to watch MAMMA MIA!. I had to watch it anyway for FilmArcade and it was a nice diversion for two hours, but it really wasn't the film I wanted to see at that moment. So I went home, defeated and sweaty from the humidity, hoping Saturday would be better.

Sometimes there is no hope. Saturday was an even worse day than Friday. The temps were hotter, my frustration was higher, and I was thinking that I may never see this film. I tried calling people early Saturday to see if they wanted to go see the film with me, thinking that a group of us could separate and find a theater that would still have tickets much quicker than one man could do. No one wanted to go, or couldn't go. Things like work, lack of money, or even non-interest [what rock are they living under] were some of the excuses I got. So I started my trek, alone again, to see THE DARK KNIGHT. Let me just say that I wasted my time. At 12 pm, all theaters I went to were completely sold out. I even spoke to a few people who said that even ordering tickets online were useless since all the advance stuff were already taken. I pretty much sweated my ass off in the hot sun for 4 hours, gaining a tan, for nothing. I went to my cousin's house, defeated again, where I played Halo 3 - really wishing I was watching THE DARK KNIGHT.

Sunday, I was determined to see this film no matter what. At the beginning, things seemed to be similar to Friday and Saturday. Showings were sold out and I was about to give up. However, the Empire 25 theater in Times Square opened up a few more showings since people from Warner Brothers were actually there to see the public reaction to the film [or so that's what the employees at the theater told me]. So I waited on a long line, with people trying to actually skip in between people to get earlier showings [a lot of us made a stop to that]. After waiting 20 minutes on line, I got the last ticket for the 7pm showing of the film. Of course, the people that stood behind me cursed at me and gave me a lot of obscene gestures when they learned I got the last ticket. Hell, even a fight broke out between two dudes who happened to be pissed off. Total pandemonium. I had like 3 hours to spare until the film started, so I played some Rock Band and Guitar Hero: Aerosmith to pass the time at a nearby Circuit City. I went back to the theater at around 6 pm, where the line for the 7pm showing had to stand in order to be entered in. Standing in the hot sun and humid air outside the theater for 45 minutes was not fun at all, but getting a great seat at the back of the theater to watch the film with a sold out crowd was worth it.

As for the film itself, I'll sum it up this way:

Best BATMAN film ever made.

Best comic book film ever made.

Best film of 2008 so far.

Feeling more like a Michael Mann film [especially during the beginning with its HEAT-like homage] and less than a superhero film, THE DARK KNIGHT was truly a fanboy's wet dream. Just like the comics and graphic novels, the film was raw, gritty, dark, realistic, and brutal in its violence. For two and a half hours, all I saw was a great story, fantastic action, and phenomenal performances from all the actors involved. Christopher Nolan, who directed and wrote the screenplay, is definitely the man that should make a BATMAN movie.

Christian Bale seemed much more comfortable as Bruce Wayne and Batman. I know the Batman voice still grates at some people, and at first it was kind of weird hearing it. But I adapted very quickly and it was nice to see an actor try and create two distinct personas instead of using one voice for both. Bale is still the only actor to play both Batman and Wayne perfectly.

Aaron Eckhart was a highlight as Harvey Dent. With his all-American looks, he definitely has the look of a hero. And he played that role convincingly well, bringing a lot of charm and subtlety to the role. And I also enjoyed the build up and transformation into Two-Face, which thankfully made me forget about that horrible Tommy Lee Jones interpretation from BATMAN FOREVER. Two-Face looked gruesomely awesome and while he was a quasi-villain, he was more of a corrupted hero who just wanted to make things right by any means necessary. Not exactly faithful to the comic version but it totally works in context of the story. Eckhart is a phenomenal actor and I'm surprised he hasn't become a bigger star yet. If he doesn't because of this film, I don't know what will.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is a much needed improvement over Katie Holmes' protrayal of Rachel Dawes. I don't have much hate towards Holmes in BATMAN BEGINS like some people do, but she definitely was the weak link of that film. But that's only because Holmes wasn't mature enough for the role of Rachel. Gyllenhaal definitely is and turns what could be a one-dimensional character into a woman with a lot of depth, substance, and a lot of spunk. Plus she had great chemistry with both Bale and Eckhart, which was a big plus.

The supporting roles from Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman are also great. Caine, as Alfred, plays the father figure very well. Freeman is also great as Batman's confidant who realizes that he can't keep going down the same path as him for much longer without compromising his ethics. And Oldman, known better for his villain roles, plays a very good hero in Gotham City's future police commissioner.

And last and certainly not least, we have the late Heath Ledger as the maniacal Joker. To say that this is Ledger's best performance on film is an understatement. Ledger captures the very essence of Batman's greatest villain, bringing a sense of sinister-ness and lunacy we'd expect from The Joker. He also has great comedic moments, which makes you feel bad to laugh at because of how evil this guy is. Ledger locked himself in a room for a month to really become the character. While that may have contributed to his death [it must have been hard dealing with the demons to become someone as evil as The Joker after the shoot was over], Ledger went out with a bang in his finest performance on screen. He is the Joker and truly a marvel to watch. He is without a doubt the best part of the film. And yes, he deserves that Oscar nomination. He's that good.

I can go on and on about this film. But everyone else has said it better and I'm sick of reading about the movie as much as I'm sick writing about it. You're probably sick of reading this, so who knows? All I can say that THE DARK KNIGHT is incredible. It's a must see. It leaves you wanting more. Everything you want in a film is in THE DARK KNIGHT.

4 Howls Outta 4


  1. Sorry Fred but i still genuinely believe "The Dark Knight" to be THE most ludicrously over-rated film in the entire history of cinema.


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