johnlink ranks THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

I can’t believe that I have not seen this since it hit theaters. I remember what everyone else does: It’s amazing. Heath Ledger is incredible. The action is extraordinarily shot. Christopher Nolan knows how to make a super hero movie. Batman’s voice is really odd.  But all 2.4 people who read this blog on a regular basis want their ranking, right? So here it is…

I watched THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) on 7.13.12. It was my second viewing of the film, and first since ’08. Though I watched pieces of this movie non-stop during its run. I must have seen the last scene a couple dozen times.

Parts of this film are absolutely stunning. Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker is the best villain in a comic book movie ever, and there is a wide gulf between he and whoever you may want to put at number two. Any negative aspects of THE DARK KNIGHT are almost completely wiped out by the presence of Ledger’s Joker.

Some of the action sequences in this are top notch. The Hong Kong jump is awesome to watch. Most aspects of the chase with The Joker trying to kill Harvey Dent (Aaron Ekchart) are exhilarating. But whereas Nolan was very careful with creating a real-world feel to the first film, the second film gets fairly out of hand when it comes to realism. The fall Batman and Rachel take from Bruce Wayne’s penthouse was not shot well, and it appears as though they never slow their decent before landing safely. The flipping semi-truck feels forced. The sonar tech used at the film’s climax feels like a gimmick.

None of these are death blows to the film, not by a long shot. But I can’t help but wonder if a little less boom in the action would have made a great film even better, because most every other aspect is solid. The acting is grounded in Ledger and Ekchart’s addition to the cast, even if Bale as Batman/Wayne becomes a supporting character at times. Morgan Freeman is better utilized in this second film now that he runs Wayne enterprises. Michael Caine is still perfect as Alfred. I do prefer Katie Holmes over Maggie Gyllenhaal, who takes over as Rachel Dawes for the second film, but Gyllenhaal is not bad.

I’ve always said that I prefer BATMAN BEGINS over THE DARK KNIGHT. Having watched them again after taking a few years away, I can reaffirm that. In fact, I put BATMAN BEGINS on my list of favorite films, and I think THE DARK KNIGHT is on the cusp, but does not quite make it. Ledger almost gets it there single-handedly, but where the script is one of the first film’s major strengths, some silliness works its way into the second film (I can’t, for example, believe I heard a police officer speak the line ‘Have a nice trip. See you next Fall”). Much more coincidence impacts the script this time around. Joker has every single thing planned out to a ridiculous point. How, I wonder, did he know to which hospital they would bring Dent so that he could rig it up with so many explosives so quickly? It’s that sort of comicy over-reach which makes this film not quite as good as BATMAN BEGINS.

The look of the film, ironically, is much more grounded in reality. Where the first film’s Gotham City felt like a dark fictional city split in two, THE DARK KNIGHT uses Chicago as a stand in. While I have some criticisms at just how fictional Gotham felt in the first movie, I think I actually prefer the look of that movie to the look of the second. BATMAN BEGINS comes across as nearly a film noir. Dark shadows, all night time, all brooding. THE DARK KNIGHT plays more in the day than in the night. Only one scene, the Joker/Dent chase, uses the ‘underground’ of the first film. I hope that THE DARK KNIGHT RISES returns to its roots.

I also don’t really have an issue with the voice. I remember this being a major talking point when the film came out. Yes, some of the end scenes over-effected Bale’s voice so that it sounds almost inhuman. But it’s not nearly as bad as I remember everyone thinking it was.

Look, I really enjoy this film. I perhaps had a loftier memory of it than I should, and there is no doubt that this film packed a major punch in theaters. I really love the way Dent becomes Two-Face, and I like how they utilized his coin. I liked the mirroring of the scenario the Joker puts Dent and Rachel in with the villain he becomes: a fifty-fifty chance at life or death (though the coincidence in the explosion bit was also absurdly perfect for what the plot needed). The ideas in the script aren’t all bad, in fact they are more good than bad, I just wish they grounded themselves more.

Ultimately, this is still a top five all time comic book movie. I personally feel BATMAN BEGINS is better, but I wouldn’t hold it against anyone who prefers this film. I can’t say enough how much Heath Ledger’s performance elevates this film to the next level. Like many artists who died too young, we’ll never know what we miss by not having him alive to provide a major performance every year or two.



Another point for the music here. I love the way the score flows from scene to scene, not scoring each moment as separate, but rather using the score to weave together Gotham City. It serves to point out that the characters, including Batman and Joker, are more pawn than king.



~ by johnlink00 on July 14, 2012.

One Response to “johnlink ranks THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)”

  1. […] Here is the Link to TDK […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: