Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

December 4, 2020

The Dark Knight review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 4:47 pm

Jul 18, 2008

Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gylenhaal, Michael Caine

Director: Christopher Nolan

Watching The Dark Knight on a big screen is an experience comparable to few other pleasures one can think of immediately. I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt this satisfied coming out of a film. What’s genius about director Christopher Nolan’s latest Batman installment is that it’s not only a spectacular comic-book movie, but also one with an intellectual heart. It’s not all chases and explosions and action scenes — although there’s lots of that — it’s also a really smart film about characters with edge and a plot that actually seems to make sense.

Christian Bale slips into the batsuit once again to play the Caped Crusader who thinks of hanging up his boots when he becomes impressed with District Attorney Harvey Dent’s crime-fighting resolve. But when clown-faced psychopath The Joker shows up, Batman realises retirement is a long time away.

In addition to new characters like Harvey Dent (played superbly by Aaron Eckhart, by the way), all significant characters from Nolan’s previous film Batman Begins return for this new adventure. Police lieutenant Jim Gordon (played by Gary Oldman), Bruce Wayne’s faithful butler Alfred (played by Michael Caine), Wayne’s go-to guy for fancy gizmos Lucius Fox (played by Morgan Freeman) and assistant DA and Wayne’s love interest Rachel Dawes (played this time by Maggie Gylenhaal) are all back and have respectable roles to play here, but The Dark Knight is ultimately about Batman and The Joker. It’s a much darker film than any of the previous Batman movies, and it goes into directions that few comic-book films have taken before. Much of that edginess comes from The Joker and his sinister plans. Not merely content at killing his enemies, The Joker chooses to psychologically torment his rivals by forcing them to question what they stand for.

Inheriting the character completely, delivering a text-book performance that is hard to forget even days after you’ve watched the film, the late Heath Ledger IS The Joker. The greasy hair, the make up-smeared face, the red scar of a grin, the tongue snaking out of his lips, and that sloshy voice – not only is this Joker a complete contrast from Jack Nicholson’s largely comic take on the same role in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film, but Heath Ledger as The Joker is undoubtedly the finest, most menacing villain in any comic-book movie yet.

For those interested purely in the spectacle value of the film, there’s enough to keep you excited. Cars explode, jails and hospitals are blown up, bombs are put in people’s mouths, even left in their stomachs. There are some fantastic chase sequences, and there’s one particularly jaw-dropping scene in which a massive truck flips in the air like an Olympic diver. There’s also the Batmobile which transforms itself into an armored tank and even a turbo motorcycle.

Naturally all this means it’s a long film — 2 hours and 32 minutes to be precise — but it’s unlikely that you’ll complain because you’re sucked into the drama pretty early on. Allowing Ledger and The Joker to steal this film from under his nose, Christian Bale as Batman takes a backseat during this ride. But Nolan gives him that one magnificent scene which makes up for whatever complaints Batman might otherwise have. In this scene, we see Batman leaping off a Gotham skyscraper, swooping down into the night, his bat wings rustling in the air as he descends on the city he’s here to protect. It’s one of the most fantastic scenes you’ve seen in film for a long, long time. And this is a fantastic film.

I’m going with four out of five and two big thumbs up for The Dark Knight — go with a big bucket of popcorn and prepare to have a great time. It’s for the pleasure of watching films like this that reclining seats and giant screens were invented.

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