The Dark Knight (2008)
“Out of the darkness…comes the Knight.”
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart
Synopsis: When the menace known as the Joker wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, the caped crusader must come to terms with one of the greatest psychological tests of his ability to fight injustice.
And… here… we…go!
Arriving on a wave of unprecedented media hype, unreasonable expectation and a horribly punning title – which could equally apply to both Batman and Harvey Dent – The Dark Knight somehow managed to avoid disappointing the majority of its impatient audience. Writer and director Christopher Nolan took the comic book hero into ever darker territory with this one, investigating the duality of the human condition, the ability to commit good and evil that resides within each of us, and the inevitable consequences that accompany the unexplained arrival of a malignant force of nature which follows no rules and preaches a credo of chaos. Certainly, no one can accuse Nolan of lacking ambition.
The Dark Knight finds Gotham City enjoying an unprecedented period of peace. The combined efforts of Batman and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) have the forces of organised crime struggling to operate. However, The Joker (Heath Ledger), a new type of criminal who thrives on violent chaos and disorder quickly establishes himself as a major force for evil in the city. While the Joker’s methods are the complete antithesis of everything in which Batman believes, his anarchic antics drive the caped hero closer to adopting the tactics of the vigilante in order to combat the threats posed by The Joker, and public opinion begins to turn against him.
Gone are the days when adaptations of comic book heroes focused exclusively on the simple fight between good and evil. While Nolan darkens the tone of the Batman franchise, he also raises complicated issues which question our preconceived notions of the inviolable stability of the laws by which we live, and in which we unthinkingly believe, and the ways in which we relate to them. ‘You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,’ a line spoken by Harvey Dent to Bruce Wayne, portends the fate that awaits each of them. The Joker, who quickly establishes himself as the nemesis of both men, is depicted as an unthinking, unreasoning force of nature – much like fate itself. He’s given no reliable backstory because he doesn’t need one, and any Nolan tried to give him would only fatally weaken his character. Fate throws temptation and choice in our way at every stage of our lives, and the Joker serves to crystallise its vagaries, to give it a nudge and pressurise its targets. In fact, the Joker’s influence increases with each scene, whether he appears in it or not. His lines become sharper, almost philosophical as the plot hurtles toward its conclusion – the lengthy running time never feels a moment too long – and Ledger delivers a pitch perfect performance. It’s a showy role, for sure – relegating Batman, in fact, to a supporting one – but it’s a role that could have been catastrophic in the wrong hands.
The deeper subtext exploring the complexities lying beneath the ostensibly simple conflict between good and evil and chaos and order is played out against a succession of explosions and action set-pieces designed to satisfy the fan boy element of the audience. Nolan fills all areas of the screen with action, and gives the entire movie a sprawling, epic feel that will frequently raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Whether you’re looking for a rollercoaster action flick or a more introspective meditation on the nature of evil and fate, The Dark Knight will provide you with plenty to enjoy.
Click below for a free preview of the Kindle book, The Films of Christopher Nolan. The book, written by the author of this review, features reviews of all of the actor’s films, and is available to buy, or to read for free if you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited. You don’t need a Kindle reader – Amazon’s Kindle app works on most popular devices and can be downloaded for free from their site.