Review: The Dark Knight

dkContent Warning: Menacing Violence and Thematic Material

After watching Batman Begins for the first time I was beyond excited to see the second part of Christopher Nolan’s masterful Batman trilogy. I remember, at the end of Batman Begins, seeing Jim Gordon hand Batman a joker playing card and freaking out. Knowing how Christopher Nolan has a tendency to make his movies as dark as possible, I knew he could take the Joker and make him as violent, insane, and smart as possible. He did just that.

The Dark Knight is strong right from the beginning. It opens with a bank robbery. A small group of extremely well-organized criminals each do their part in the robbery, but while they are working they are talking about their boss who seems to be the Joker. One by one they start killing each other off while working to eliminate shares in the money they steal, and at the end the one who is left standing turns out to be the Joker. His first words will send chills down your spine. As a bank manager (a cameo appearance by William Fichtner of Black Hawk Down and The Lone Ranger) is wounded, he taunts the Joker by saying that criminals in this town used to stand for something and asks him what he believes in. The Joker slowly approaches him and, after shoving a grenade in his mouth, says, “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you…stranger.” He then pulls off his mask and smiles before he walks into the getaway bus and drives away. After this strong of an opening, I knew this was going to be the best Batman yet.

As with its predecessor, The Dark Knight also has many meaningful quotes and life lessons that shine a glimmer of hope into what seems like constant darkness, my favorite of those being a conversation between Alfred and Bruce. At a time in the movie when it seems like The Joker has won and that all hope is lost, Bruce is out of ideas and close to throwing in the towel. He asks Alfred, “What would you have me do?” and Alfred simply replies, “Endure, Master Wayne.” To me, this is the crowning moment of the movie and deeply resonated with me from a Christian perspective. A lot of times in our walk, we face a period when we feel like all hope is gone. We feel like the only thing we can do now is give up. At this time, we cry out to God and ask him, “What would you have me do?” and he simply replies, “Endure, child.” We must endure through the trials and temptations that test us most; only then will we become stronger.

dk3Christian Bale (Batman Begins, The Prestige) returns to the role of Bruce Wayne and improves upon his performance in Batman Begins. He brings the sorrow, pain, and anger inside of Bruce Wayne’s heart to the forefront and does it almost flawlessly. Michael Caine (Batman Begins, Now You See Me) plays Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred. His charming, caring, and charismatic performance truly shows the love he has for Bruce. He was perfectly cast for this role. Heath Ledger (10 Things I Hate About You, A Knight’s Tale) plays the antagonist in the story, The Joker. Heath turns in an Oscar-winning performance and steals the show with his acting acting. I have never seen someone get so into a role. He really makes you believe he is an insane killer. Gary Oldman (Batman Begins, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) plays detective Jim Gordon. As with Batman Begins, I still feel that he is not the right person for the role. Though he does give a good performance, he still does not have the gritty personality. Aaron Eckhart (Battlefield Los Angeles, Rabbit Hole) is another newcomer to the trilogy and takes on the role of Harvey Dent/Harvey Two-Face. Eckhart gives perhaps the best performance of his career in this film by having to play both a good guy and a bad guy, and he flawlessly transitions from one to the other. Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart, Donnie Darko) replaces Katie Holmes for the role of Rachel and does much better at the role. She brings Rachel’s strength to the forefront and does a great job at it. Morgan Freeman (Oblivion, The Shawshank Redemption) Plays Lucius Fox. Freeman’s screen presence is so strong that, even with a small role like this, he can still give a fantastic performance.

Christoper Nolan (Batman Begins, Inception) returns to helm the second part of the Batman trilogy. This time around, he brings his signature dark and ominous filming style to the movie and truly makes it seem like all hope is gone. He is a director who is at the top of his game and is quickly becoming the best out there.

And finally, the score of this film is also fantastic. It’s hard and heart-pounding during the suspenseful parts ,and soft and sad during the emotional parts. It fits a Batman film well.

Positives

+ Improvement over Batman Begins + Powerful acting + Great directing + Fun until the end

Negatives

- Violence will be too much for some - Very dark and menacing

The Bottom Line

The Dark Knight is a fantastic movie that improves upon Batman Begins in every way possible. Despite some menacing violence, it is definitely worth two-and-a-half hours of your time.

 

9.3

Erik Daniel

2 Comments

  1. Daniel Rodrigues-Martin on September 26, 2014 at 6:42 am

    Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy as a compendium of films avoids some of the finagling Tim Burton engaged in in Batman and Batman Returns (Burton’s films engaged in artistic license; Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Batman & Robin were a bit more…liberal). While each of Nolan’s films are excellent in their own right, the second installment stands above the first and third much how The Empire Strikes Back stands above A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. TDK is not only the greatest superhero film of all time, but it is a first-rate crime drama and an ethical meditation on the implications of suspending civil liberties for the sake of security in the face of a foe who will be stopped by nothing short of force of arms. In the vein of our postmodern era, the film refuses to provide us trite answers to these burning questions that are especially relevant in a post-9/11 America and a Middle East being overrun by ISIS. Batman does provide us answers, though. Batman maintains hope in the people of Gotham and is ultimately vindicated at Gotham Harbor, but the Joker’s anarchistic thesis is never neatly answered, and the villainizing of the caped crusader over the death of Harvey Dent, which carries forward into the The Dark Knight Rises, is perhaps the Joker’s last laugh. The truth Batman stakes his faith on (namely, the collective will of the Gothamites to do something noble for the first time in the movie) ends up turning him into a hunted criminal, for he himself rightly understands that the people of his beloved city are so fickle that finding out Harvey Dent did something bad may very well turn them into amoral followers of the Joker’s philosophy. If Batman knew this enough to let himself be martyred, did the Joker really lose?

    Tangentially, Nolan’s Batman series is one of the few series in which the collective effectively functions as a character. There is Batman, Alfred, Fox, Rachel, Gordon, Dent, Joker, etc, but there are also the Gothamites. They are a microcosm of us all. “No more dead cops!” they shout at Harvey Dent during the press conference where he falsely reveals himself to be Batman. This outcry is so authentic that it almost seems cut into the film from a real press conference. We are so willing to suspend due process and brush aside civil liberties when we believe we are facing insurmountable giants.

    At the end of the day, I’m not sure Batman was correct in maintaining hope in humanity. I think the Joker was correct. The Joker tells Batman during the interrogation scene that “When the chips are down,” the so-called “civilized” people of modern society would eat each other. History has provided countless examples of altruism, but altruism survives because of hope. This is Batman’s retort on top of the skyscraper. The Joker’s is this: “You’re right…until their spirit breaks completely.” Hope motivates so long as it is seen as attainable. Without the promises of hope, can altruism truly exist? The frightful truth of apocalyptic fiction is that deep inside of ourselves, we know it can’t.

    In a world without Christ, there truly is no hope. It would be, as the Joker maintains, only a lie we tell ourselves so that we can sleep. There is no place for God in the Joker’s amoral, anarchistic atheism (though it’s never succinctly stated this way in the film, it absolutely bleeds out of him) and so he comes to the only logical conclusion: hope is a lie, order is false, and life is meaningless. So why not have some fun and turn Gotham on its head with a couple of bullets and some gasoline?

    This is an interesting point theologically. We learn from Genesis 3 that death follows sin. We learn from Romans that the sin of one man infected us all, and the righteousness of One justified all who would believe in Him. If our world was a world without Christ, the Joker would be right. But we don’t live in a world without Christ. And so our hope is not lethargy, because it is rooted in something infinite and unimaginably greater than what we now know.

    Nolan’s series is inspiring on multiple levels. As it relates to my own fiction writing, its greatest influence is how it raised questions and provided competing solutions. I think in art, we need that. We should strive to create characters who fundamentally disagree with each other on what is wrong with the world and how to right those wrongs. Will working within the bounds of law and order really yield desired results? And if we choose to go beyond the rule of law, how far should we go? What are we sacrificing in the process?

    How many people have to die before we achieve success?

    A brilliantly-plotted, brilliantly-written, brilliantly-acted film.

  2. Casey Covel on September 24, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    You know, I still haven’t seen this yet? It’s on my movies-to-watch list, and you’ve definitely captured my interest with your review.

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