Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008) is Older Than a Decade Now Yet Still Feels Brand New

Warning: Spoilers Ahead; ??? Viewing

You know you’ve seen a movie too many times when you can mummer nearly every line of dialogue simultaneously with the characters on screen. I have “kid me” to thank for this since the greatest Christmas present I ever received as a child was a DVD copy of The Dark Knight, which must be toasted to shreds now from how many times I’ve played it. 

It’s funny how Heath Ledger went from a teenager’s ultimate 2000s heart-throb to a comic-book nerd’s ultimate heartthrob. Every line out of Heath Ledger’s towering interpretation of the Joker (which I assume he made up a significant amount of) is unadulterated gold. 

“See, I’m not a monster; I’m just ahead of the curve.”

“All you care about is money. This town deserves a better class of criminal, and I’m going to give it to them.”

“Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair.”

I’ve started to view Heath Ledger’s Joker as just some mentally disordered individual who puts on the clown act because he has to do so in order to give himself this impressionistic label. He’ll make a terribly corny joke every once in a while (“blow this out of proportion”) or even break character with an unprecedented, straightforward statement (*sigh* “make it fast,” “LOOK AT ME.”) yet with absolutely no enthusiasm, just genuine seriousness. He uses these carnival get-ups and vibes to not only hide or contain his unspecial, traditional character as a temperamental lunatic, but it additionally makes his psychotic, mobbish nature fit into a familiarly light-hearted image (being a clown) among average citizens. He’s desensitized malicious insanity by combining it extraterrestrially with a contrasting physical presence so that his reign over powerful heroes like Batman can be accomplished much easier in the eyes of Gotham’s gullible audience. It’s easier to manipulate others over true protectors when you’ve made yourself seem like some shocking, inconceivable figure ripped directly out of a comic-book; thats why many are intimidated by Batman; because he seems more godly than human. In other words, Ledger has created the entertainment media’s real anti-villain, the ultimate manipulator who uses a fictitious, philosophical, trash-talk persona to get into the heads of anyone just so that he can spread unambiguous anarchy, as he is just one unbalanced dude; nothing more, nothing less. 

Another quality that I find to be particularly interesting about Ledger’s character is the graphic, abuse backstories that he comes up with to how he got his scars. It’s as if Ledger wanted to cover the main areas of past trauma that leads others into acquiring the worst traits of just humankind in general. From child abuse, to rejection, and to depression, Ledger goes over it all in archaic, storytelling detail that brings a pondering aspect to who The Joker could actually be. 

The directing in The Dark Knight is a vast step-up from Batman Begins. Moments like when Nolan spins the camera nauseatingly around Joker and Rachel as he intimidates her are distinct signs of the mature and experimental nature that The Dark Knight offers over its predecessor. There are so many grand motion shots too in this sequel that will often gravitate the camera from a standard mid-shot to a telling wide shot, or vice versa. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s score here is one of the most intense pieces of musical composition that’s ever had the luxury of being paired to a visual art. From the speechlessly epic opening, the sequence where Harvey threatens his prisoner, the frequently reenacted “HIT ME” action spectacle, the INCREDIBLE interrogation scene, the entire back and forth cutting of the hospital phenomenon, Batman hastily being objected to save the clown pawns, and Harvey’s hostage situation, the live-action filming, as well as Zimmer and Howard’s score, united exceedingly defies intensity expectations. 

Performance-wise everybody is at the top of their game in Nolan’s follow-up. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a major improvement over Katie Holmes as Rachel. I’ve never seen Aaron Eckhart good in anything other than this, but wowzers is he a passionate professional at playing essentially two variegating sides of an individual being that of justice and vengeance. I must furthermore though, praise the quippy comic-book dialogue that The Dark Knight is surprisingly built on, which this movie incorporates unusually well and at a measure where it’s more impressive than cringy or predictable. Lastly, Nolan’s practical effects in this near-masterpiece are sheer perfection. 

The only “major” fault that I have with The Dark Knight is how Nolan uses stilted timing to rev up the shock-value. A couple examples of this include when the dead Batman-poser slams into The Mayor’s face right as he walks towards the window, or when the judge looks up right as her car explodes, and especially when The Joker’s phone-call bomb blows up, knocking out everybody around The Joker BUT THE JOKER. Batman also saving Harvey just before the bomb explodes and only for Harvey to still burn half his face off because Batman dropped him is another peculiar writing decision that is so reliant on inconvenient timing. So yeah, a little overkill on the dramatic effect, Nolan. There are a few odd editing decisions too that bother me, as well. Other than that though, I have no other problems with The Dark Knight

So, a worthily praised motion picture indeed! A defining spectacle of the 2000s! A god-level new standard for comic-book movies! And, it has yet to be topped! Don’t forget its fitting ending too that wraps up the themes with inspiring pizazz, truly encapsulating the simplistic beauty of The Batman like we’ve never seen it before, converting non-fans to believers in blown-out, unapologetic comic-book/Shakespearian style. The Dark Knight is a defining landmark of the quintessential desire millions could ever want from a superhero. 

Side-note, by the way, I love the new 4K transfer!

Verdict: A

Christopher Nolan Ranked

“The Dark Knight” is now available to stream on HBO Max.

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