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Movie Review | The Dark Knight

Batman (Christian Bale) rides to the rescue in The Dark Knight

Movie Summary: When the menace known as the Joker emerges from his mysterious past, he wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham. The Dark Knight must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice. (IMDb)

Before I gush over how great The Dark Knight is, I just want to provide a little context about where that praise comes from. Yes, I own copies of The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns, although I don't fetishise them in the way some fans (and a certain film director) do.

I think Batman: Arkham Asylum is genuinely one of the greatest video-games ever made. I own the very big and heavy Absolute editions of All-Star Superman, Kingdom Come and Watchmen - and I think each one of them is utterly sublime.

Saying all that, it would be easy for someone to dismiss my opinion as that of a DC fanboy. Except... I own thousands of Marvel comics and graphic novels, I utterly love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and am beyond desperate to play the new Spider-Man game at the end of this week.

I've never understood the rivalries between fandoms rather than simply enjoying what you like and letting other people have fun with whatever makes them happy. But I just wanted that context of liking DC, but massively preferring Marvel.

And considering my adoration of most things Marvel, I think it's fair to say that you can trust me when I say The Dark Knight is absolutely magnificent. Seeing it in IMAX recently only confirmed that the movie is as brilliant as I've always thought.

I'd always thought it looked incredible, as pretty much every Christopher Nolan film does, but finally getting to see the IMAX scenes in the proper format was absolutely mind-blowing. As much as the movie commands your attention on any size screen, it completely sucks you in when the aspect ratio shifts and the gigantic IMAX screen pretty much swallows you whole and drags you into the movie.

The sound is great as well, and I've not been a fan of the sound mixing in some of Nolan's film regardless of the artistic intent. But there's no issue here, and it all works, especially when complemented by the phenomenal Zimmer score.

I know there are a lot of people who love what Zimmer did for Dunkirk - I was not one of them - and his score in The Dark Knight pretty much cements my belief: there are any number of scenes in this film that are made more intensely nerve-shredding than anything in Dunkirk, because the film and score allow for the audience to catch their breaths before driving them back to the edge of their seats.

Helping in that regard is the magnetic and memorable performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker, mainly because he's responsible for all the tension in the first place. While his performance is magnificent, I think that enough has already been said in praise of Ledger and the Joker.

The Joker (Heath Ledger) waits for his rival in The Dark Knight

Instead, I want to laud the performance of Christian Bale, who does such great work here and yet it goes almost unnoticed thanks to Ledger's larger-than-life character. In a lot of ways, Bale's Batman suffers in a similar manner to Chadwick Boseman's performance as T'Challa in Black Panther.

Stoic characters like Batman and Black Panther tend to be overlooked in regard to the actor's performance precisely because of their near-emotionless facade. Yet neither The Dark Knight or Black Panther would be improved if their title characters changed their behaviour - in fact, such a move might actually make both films worse.

Bale is so, so good here, with body language and the smallest changes in expression conveying so much more than most people think that it's a shame how good he is here is overlooked so often. Ledger was undeniably worthy of his unfortunately posthumous Oscar, but Bale should have been given serious consideration for his efforts too.

And it's not like the supporting cast is slacking either - every single person is utterly committed to their performance and I genuinely can't think of a single weak display from anyone. Sure, there are people to dislike, but you're supposed to dislike them. It's a near flawless combination of casting, material and performance from top to bottom.

The only real criticism I have of the film is Joker's apparent omniscience, knowing exactly how things are going to turn out despite there being no way he could possibly anticipate a lot of what happens. Ledger's performance and the movie's intense drive forward mean it doesn't really get in the way while watching, but there are more than a few things that will bug you afterwards.

And, as a fan of both Marvel and DC stuff, I want to gripe slightly about the fact that the movie does seem a little embarrassed about its source material, stripping down everything fantastical as much as it possibly can - there's no way this Batman could exist in the more recent DC films. But that's a minor niggle from a fan rather than a genuine criticism of the movie.

There is also the undercurrent of when The Dark Knight was made, when the 'War on Terror' was raging at its peak. Batman's view of him - the rich white guy - knowing better than everyone else and breaking the law to prove it, while dipping into ethically-muddy waters really doesn't help either, but Batman has always been that kind of character, so it's again a little tricky to blame the film for that.

The Dark Knight feels very much of its time, and is more than a little morally dubious from what you'd hope to see from a hero. And none of that stops it from still being a truly great film that is utterly riveting to watch - and a hundred times so in IMAX. This is the best film featuring Batman that has ever been made.




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