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Dark Knight, The
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by David Cornelius

"Not just dark. Pitch black."
4 stars

While this summer’s batch of superhero movies will likely be tagged into one lump genre, consider the diversity of styles: “Iron Man” as lighthearted action bonanza, “The Incredible Hulk” as monster movie, “Hellboy II” as inventive fantasy, and now “The Dark Knight” as ice cold thriller.

More than just another adventure about Batman punching the Joker, director Christopher Nolan treats the film like one big turn of the screw, slowly tightening and tightening the suspense for 150 minutes, stretching the fear and nervousness to unbearable levels. Nolan’s confidence is unshakable, which leaves the film purely unflinching in handling the unexpected, highly welcome amount of sheer terror provided by the villains. More than just a comic book movie, “The Dark Knight” is a work of mad art, a dance of horror, an opera of battered souls.

It is also too long and too unfocused, two issues that keep the film from becoming the masterpiece it so deeply wants to be (the masterpiece the fans are so certain that it is). Written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan (with story input from Davis S. Goyer, co-writer of Nolan’s “Batman Begins”), “The Dark Knight” is two Batman movies crammed rather clumsily into one; where “Batman Begins” was able to delicately juggle all those characters and plot threads to create a single, powerful story, “The Dark Knight” keeps shifting its attention, offering up a string of episodes that work brilliantly by themselves yet clutter up the joint once pasted together.

Most of the problems are in the film’s third act - or, more precisely, its third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh acts. Here’s one of those movies with something like five or six climaxes, and after a while, it just wears us out. The movie leaves you exhausted, not elated.

That the script jumps around so much in its last hour, from big set piece to big set piece in a disjointed, slightly forgetful manner (hey, what happened to - oh, never mind, we’re following this scene now) is, in a way, a good thing, since this movie’s incarnation of the Joker (played, as you may have heard, by the late Heath Ledger) is, in his own words, an agent of chaos, a master of anarchy who changes courses on a devilish whim. The games he sets up for Batman (Christian Bale, one of many actors returning from “Batman Begins”) are precisely the sort of thing that induce frustration and confusion. He’s the sort of madman that would quit his own scheme midway through if something else caught his fancy, and that’s precisely what happens in “The Dark Knight.”

The problem is, in the middle of all this storytelling chaos, we’re also supposed to be following the tale of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Gotham City’s D.A. who, it’s no spoiler to reveal, becomes the coin-flipping villain Two-Face. Rather than lay the groundwork for a fuller version of Two-Face’s story in the inevitable sequel, the Nolans insist on cramming Dent’s complete arc into this already busy entry. It’s a shame - Eckhart is so perfect in the role (both as the shining tower of justice and the mangled freakshow of evil; endless kudos as well to the effects and make-up crews for making this Two-Face a visual marvel) and the character is so smartly written that the character demands more time to breathe and grow. Once Dent becomes Two-Face, the script seems in a rush to get in all the key points before the credits, ultimately diminishing his impact. Worse, Dent’s big finale comes after the Joker’s big finale, which is a smart, brutally compelling piece of nervous thrills, that we’re too worn out to endure any more, especially not something so low-key that it pales in comparison to what just came before.

Yet even as a jumbled parade of epic excess, “The Dark Knight” is a remarkable cinematic experience. The film effortlessly picks up where “Batman Begins” left off in terms of its depiction of Gotham City; these are the movies grown-up Batman fans have longed to see, intelligent, mature interpretations of the superhero’s universe, with an interest in the psychology of costumed vigilantes and deformed supervillains. There is still action, of course - in many ways, the action set pieces are far more satisfying than those in “Begins,” with Nolan offering smoother, sleeker visuals - but there are also long discussions about the importance of a hero as both a symbol and a real crusader.

Kids expecting the typical Bam! Pow! stuff might get turned off (that is, if the intensely frightening Joker sequences don’t give them nightmares first), but those of us who not only grew up with the character but also enjoyed discovering Gotham’s darker side in some of the more serious comics will thrill to what “The Dark Knight” has to offer here. Just as Neal Adams and Dennis O’Neal reinvented Batman as a darker, more serious figure in reaction to the Adam West days of the franchise, and just as Frank Miller’s seminal graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns” pretty much rewrote the blueprint for Gotham City adventures, Nolan’s two films set a new standard by showing that filmmakers shouldn’t have to be locked into a four-color way of thinking.

The secret, perhaps, is that Nolan treats these two movies like real-world thrillers, albeit a real world that includes masked vigilantes and over-the-top baddies. Batman moves the way physics demands him to move, and car chases barrel through a city that feels like a real city, not just the inside of an art designer’s head. (The movie was shot on location in Chicago, and the imagery tones down some of the more fanciful elements of “Begins,” giving this sequel an admirably gritty look.)

So while the Joker is free to run around the plot planting superbombs and whatnot, his antics never feel like a cartoon. This lends the villain a danger we’ve rarely seen before, not on screen. Jack Nicholson’s Joker had a menace beneath his buffoonery, and Mark Hamill’s voice work on the 1990s Batman animated series was at times sonically chilling, but only here is the Clown Prince allowed to roam free, twirling knives, killing without a thought. Only here is the Joker an all-out holy-crap bad-ass mofo.

Ledger’s performance has long been heralded - since his death, yes, but also before it - as something bold and daring and unsettling in its sinister nature, and those reports all turn out to be true. Ledger plays the villain as someone whose insanity you can’t quite peg. He’s not the boisterous blowhard we’ve seen before. Even without the clown face paint and the smile scars, he’s the sort of guy who, after one quick glance, would make you want to walk to the other side of the street to avoid him. Ledger shuffles and stares and laughs and licks his lips, and we thrill to his lunacy, but we also realize: this Joker is locked in the world between genius and insanity. He’s a criminal mastermind able to command an army, yet also nutzoid enough to kill on a whim.

The character is so pure, both in performance and in script, that the movie seems a little less when he’s not on screen. The screenplay takes countless asides, discussing Dent’s mob arrests, or Bruce Wayne’s hope that Dent can be the “white knight” hero the city needs, or Jim Gordon’s (Gary Oldman) promotion to police commissioner, or the love triangle that finds Bruce and Harvey both wooing Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, replacing Katie Holmes; her flat performance isn’t much of an improvement, but the script doesn’t really know how to write convincingly for a woman, so much so that no female star could tackle such clunky dialogue well). These are all interesting moments, but at times they seem like filler, standing by until the Joker can return once more. The Joker’s scenes reveal a lean, mean thriller hidden inside a bloated superhero epic.

It’s a testament to Nolan’s vision, however, that even all that bloat can’t quite pull his franchise down. For all its overindulgence, for all the times we get lost in all those half-formed subplots, for all its dependency on too many characters, “The Dark Knight” also shows the capacity to be madly brilliant. Whether it’s being great or merely good, the film takes us places no superhero movie has before, and it does so in a head-first dive, screaming and laughing all the way.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17085&reviewer=392
originally posted: 07/18/08 00:00:00
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell AWESOME GRITTY EXCITING 5 stars
2/20/17 Dave One of the better superhero films out there, but I am not a huge fan of Nolan's direction 4 stars
4/26/16 Ken Amazing film. Heath Ledger was a great Joker, even though Jack Nicholson was great, too. 5 stars
3/13/16 Charles Tatum One of those films where everything absolutely works 5 stars
9/11/15 misterfilms my top 3 films of 00s: LOTR, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, THE NEW WORLD 3 stars
5/02/15 Cooler One of the greatest movies ever made 5 stars
3/02/15 mira storm all nolan's film is shit 1 stars
2/16/15 roxelena it waste my time and my money when i watched this film in theatre 2 stars
2/14/15 enicmatic al is this gay movie? YES 1 stars
2/14/15 jason gracio this movie are GAY! 2 stars
2/08/15 russel fuck you fanboy this is the most SHITTIEST MOVIE EVER MADE!!!!! 1 stars
1/08/15 vendoza overrated piece of shit in cinematic history 1 stars
1/06/15 brando i hate this crap! 1 stars
1/04/15 crovie i didn't like this movie 1 stars
6/18/14 Haley S. This was such a great movie. It's one of my favorites! 5 stars
3/23/14 Justin R. Mesmerizing! 5 stars
1/13/13 austin one of the best movies of the century 5 stars
10/11/12 austin wonderful 5 stars
9/18/12 Gabrielle Barnard The Best Superhero Movie. Dark, dramatic, intriguing, riveting...I could go on all day. 5 stars
9/06/12 austin fantastic 5 stars
8/28/12 Alex Figueroa Epic! 5 stars
8/08/12 Kcaj fuck yeah 5 stars
7/26/12 Amanda Smith Captured my attention. 5 stars
7/24/12 the truth yes 5 stars
6/19/12 Jordan Kentris Holy cow, this movie blew me away. Heath Ledgers performance was amazing. 5 stars
12/21/11 Isaac Simply the best comic book film ever made; it works on every level. 5 stars
12/14/11 cr Even if christian bale is not my fav batman, this movie and heath ledger perf. were soild. 3 stars
10/18/11 Magic An apocalyptic movie, Wagnerian in scope. The escalation in nihilism is exhilarating. 5 stars
5/25/11 Glenn Laurence Hardy Junior this movie is great. no question or doubt in my mind. friend me on facebook!mypic. is sonic 5 stars
4/26/11 the rock one of the best action crime films around 5 stars
3/10/11 bored mom The DC Comics equivalent of Chinatown? In the end, there is only madness and death. 5 stars
11/30/10 Barbara Leaf I cried every time I saw Heath Ledger, r.i.p.,but he was the best thing in the fillm 3 stars
2/05/10 Jessica Pretty long, Ledger was absolutely amazing though! 4 stars
1/23/10 MP Bartley Ledger is quite terrific. I'm not convinced the rest of the film is as good as he. 4 stars
1/19/10 Stanley Thai One of the best movies of 2008 and easily the best in the entire mythology. 5 stars
1/10/10 David Overlong and overblown. Not impressed with Bale, Ekhart or Gyllenhaal. 2 stars
7/03/09 Jonathan Birch Very Overrated. Boring, pales in comparison to other crime films it tries to imitate 3 stars
6/28/09 budo Poor performance by Ledger? He won by the greatest margin in Academy Award history. He was 5 stars
6/14/09 R Lan Simply the best of the Batman movies. A perfect marriage of a great script and great action 5 stars
6/08/09 freak awesome 5 stars
4/28/09 Dr.Lao One of the few things in this world that actually lives up to the hype 5 stars
4/09/09 Raul Valdez Jr POSSIBLY THE BEST MOVIE OF 2009 5 stars
4/08/09 Chris F such a poor performance by heath ledger not a patch on jack nicholson 1 stars
3/28/09 Dani O. Epic win. 5 stars
3/16/09 austin wertman best superhero movie ever 5 stars
2/23/09 man best superhero movie ever 5 stars
2/11/09 Stewart Sadistically violent with no moral purpose. Boring convoluted story and bad action scenes. 1 stars
2/02/09 Piz great adaptation of the comic book, but felt a little too rushed in the end. 4 stars
1/31/09 lo& Kinda overrated.I must be the only person alive that thinks 'Begins' was better than this. 4 stars
1/14/09 dude best movie of the year 5 stars
1/03/09 Lucy whoever gives this film a bad rating is crazy. 5 stars
1/02/09 FrankNFurter Gritty, chilling thriller--probably the first superhero Academy Award contender! 5 stars
12/29/08 Flounder This is a dark, morally complex crime drama - and one of the best I have ever seen at that 5 stars
12/28/08 the dork knight my only complaint is my mom didn't like it. :P 5 stars
12/18/08 Craig D. It's not The Godfather. It's not even the best movie of 2008. Get a hold of yourselves. 4 stars
12/11/08 Richard Remington Adam West is and always will be the best Batman,the rest are all clowns! 1 stars
12/10/08 K. Sear Surprisingly complex. 4 stars
12/10/08 Hope people are going far in saying "the best movie ever"but it is great and i saw it 2x =] 5 stars
12/06/08 Jared Robb Very epic film, casting was perfect. Excellent acting all around. 5 stars
11/30/08 killer feels epic this film 5 stars
11/27/08 little Red best movie ever. Heath Ledger was perfect as the joker. to bad hes dead 5 stars
11/25/08 Leo T very dark, but never lost the Batman 'feel'.... awesome 5 stars
11/19/08 Joker Fan one of the best films ever created 5 stars
11/16/08 killer one of the best crime films ever 5 stars
11/15/08 Meep Has it's moments certainly, and better than Begins, but still just ok 3 stars
11/11/08 Michael M Not perfect, but indeed a great film. And like all Nolan films, has an incredible ending. 4 stars
10/31/08 ldavies Could have used some editing. Ledger and Bale were fantastic. 4 stars
10/19/08 heath electrifyimg 5 stars
10/17/08 AshleyRockO The Best Superhero movie ever made. Period. The acting from everyone is impeccable. 5 stars
10/13/08 The Dork Knight A bit too much speechifying by the villains but otherwise good 4 stars
10/09/08 man best superhero movie ever 5 stars
10/09/08 dude best superhero movie ever 5 stars
10/05/08 jokera mindblowing 5 stars
9/30/08 Danny BEST...MOVIE...EVER!!! 5 stars
9/26/08 Ken It's not a great movie if at least one person in the world didn't like it 3 stars
9/16/08 joker face mindblowing cinema 5 stars
9/16/08 Brad The Joker is the best villian in the DC universe and Heath Ledger nailed the role 5 stars
9/15/08 Carla A. Amazing film, brilliant performances, intelligent script. What more could you ask for? 5 stars
9/15/08 g. AWESOME 5 stars
9/11/08 Joker's Younger Brother incredible movie....The Joker is the best villian EVER....!!! 5 stars
9/09/08 dark knight ledger is the new hannibal lecter 5 stars
9/06/08 Halad65 Amazing film. 5 stars
8/30/08 another one fucking kicks ass 5 stars
8/30/08 AnnieG Better than ‘Begins’, although it could have ended much sooner. 4 stars
8/27/08 Quigley Amazing, brilliant, well-acted/directed, this film is unforgettable. Ledger was incredible 5 stars
8/22/08 pantera best film ever 5 stars
8/21/08 black_queen_marches Ledger's performance was the best i've ever seen, awesome movie, ending was anticlimatic 5 stars
8/21/08 Jen Minor flaws aside, the most earnest, thought-provoking and satiating movie in years. 5 stars
8/20/08 Christ An ok movie, but certainly not great. 3 stars
8/17/08 jonathantstorm mindblowing cinema 5 stars
8/16/08 Ricky This film honestly blew me away. The ending gave me chills. Top notch in every respect 5 stars
8/15/08 Allan Jackson not the great film that I had expected to see, but satisfactory. Michael Caine was good and 3 stars
8/14/08 Melissa Ledger was wonderful. If you get the opportunity you should see it at IMAX! 4 stars
8/14/08 Alice Heath Ledger was very very good as the psycho Joker.He is the reason I give 4 stars. 4 stars
8/13/08 jessica speechless! cristian bale and heath ledger were great! 5 stars
8/13/08 snakeeyes awesome 5 stars
8/11/08 RB The best of the Batman movies. Ledger, Oldman and Eckhart carry the movie though 4 stars
8/11/08 M Took it self a bit too seriously, but nonethe less great. Heath was perfect! 4 stars
8/09/08 JW Heavyhanded, confused storytelling. Good performances. Good explosions. 3 stars
8/08/08 Bnorm Freaking amazing. with out a doubt the best superhero movie ever made 5 stars
8/07/08 Tiffany Losco LOved it!! Heath was crazy lookin though. But he is a great actor. 5 stars
8/06/08 Ameisha It was long...but worth it! 4 stars
8/05/08 Paul Sweet, sweet brilliance. 5 stars
8/05/08 E K Zimmerman Am I the only one who loathed this garbage flick? 1 stars
8/04/08 Zim my favorite super hero movie 5 stars
8/02/08 Mark Glazer The Joker was the scariest ever. Great movie!!! 5 stars
8/02/08 J Smaltz Boreing, fell asleep somewhere in the final hour, never did see Ledger die or what ever 1 stars
8/01/08 R.W. Welch Chaotic actioner is carried by Ledger's inspired Joker characterization. B+ 4 stars
7/30/08 johnnybgoode Ledger was great. This film overall was well-done but a bit over-rated. 4 stars
7/29/08 zenny top-10 action movie, all-time 5 stars
7/27/08 austin wertman best superhero movie ever 5 stars
7/27/08 Samantha Pruitt too long, dragged a bit, the only good part was the Joker. 3 stars
7/26/08 Roland same old bat...boring..exept for heath ledger who actually carrys anoter ways tired pot 2 stars
7/26/08 christy this movie is thoughtful and incredible. best in '08. 5 stars
7/25/08 Ry Great film with a message! 5 stars
7/25/08 erick definitely, the best superheroes movie ever. heath ledger deserves the oscar. 5 stars
7/23/08 Albert Darmawan L Fantastic&Superior.The best Batman movie i`ve ever seen. 5 stars
7/22/08 Roy Smith This should be 6 Stars ------------> 5 stars
7/22/08 mr.mike First half rocked , 2nd half fell off 4 stars
7/22/08 The Talking Elbow TDK WAS flawed. Tried to fit too much into one film. Choppy editing. This made it boring. 4 stars
7/21/08 COUSINSEXx TDK is not your tweeny superhero flik but an epic crime saga in the realm of The Godfather2 5 stars
7/21/08 mike Ledger was freakin awesome. One of the best villains ever 5 stars
7/21/08 Luisa Heath Ledger is very disturbing, what a great performance. Movie is good but ran too long! 4 stars
7/21/08 Koitus Just - "wow." BUT - I checked the rating as I left; totally a border-line "R", IMHO. 5 stars
7/21/08 Heat1996 Good story, okay script, excellent acting, really good cinematography...Ledger, genius. 4 stars
7/21/08 ES It was good, but something was missing, i just didn't get absorbed into the story 4 stars
7/21/08 orpy Am I the only one who was bored, bored, bored? 3 stars
7/21/08 Simon Wow. What a loaded film, so many thoughts and themes to ponder.. THIS is why we love movies 5 stars
7/20/08 I Luv Heath Heath Ledger was so good in this movie, I couldent ask for a better joker than him 5 stars
7/20/08 Jiz Bale continues his ridiculous scowl, Eckhart hams it up, and Ledger/Nolan own the movie. 4 stars
7/20/08 Adi Wonderful! I loved it, every moment of it. Will probably go watch it agian in IMAX!!! 5 stars
7/20/08 Toni Awesome, best movie of the year by far. 5 stars
7/20/08 carlos G I wish 2face was held off til next film, but NO JOKE, give Ledger and Nolan their Oscars! 5 stars
7/20/08 james Aaron Eckhart steals the show 5 stars
7/20/08 Diana Kee Awesome movie. Far exceeded my expectations!!! 5 stars
7/20/08 Jonathan This is a deep great philosophical and action pact movie, you keep your eyes off of it! 5 stars
7/20/08 Ryan W Ledger lived up to the hype 5 stars
7/20/08 Adrian Want to see a magic trick? 5 stars
7/20/08 Pete K I agree; Batman and robin was more my cup of tea over this muddled in your face overly long 2 stars
7/20/08 Dan While Ledger's Joker was great, the rest was mediocre. Batman/ Wayne wasn't written well. 3 stars
7/20/08 Tripp Speechless. Beyond anything I expected..god help us all. 5 stars
7/20/08 Dave Yep...This is going in my top 10...ever! 5 stars
7/20/08 D Somehow exceeds the hype....simply put an incredible film 5 stars
7/20/08 Paul Levinson eons beyond any prior Batman ... infiniteregress.tv 5 stars
7/20/08 Obi Wan Absolutely amazing...Best SuperHero movie EVER! Joker/Ledger best Villian EVER!! 5 stars
7/19/08 jm I think ledgers performance is overrated. Sad but great ending. Batpod intro was brilliant. 5 stars
7/19/08 Phil B Truly Epic 5 stars
7/19/08 paulette This was a beautiful, well-acted, dark, intense film for 110 min, then long & gratuitous. 3 stars
7/19/08 Moose This is possibly one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. Heath was incredible. 5 stars
7/19/08 Darkstar I'm fucking speechless. 5 stars
7/19/08 Dimu Brilliant...just bloody Brilliant!!! 5 stars
7/19/08 Drew Simply Amazing 5 stars
7/19/08 Michael S T Simply amazing.. Actually the movie shies away from CGI in the action-heavy scenes. 5 stars
7/19/08 kimryan an amazing, scary, great story. You glory in Heath's performance and mourn at the same time 5 stars
7/19/08 twilightbringer Brilliant and brutal, The Dark Knight is now the defining event of our cinematic era. 5 stars
7/19/08 Gazza Jack Nicholson STILL personifies The Joker, ledger more hannibal lecter. 3 stars
7/19/08 Eugene True to it's comic book roots, excellent film. 5 stars
7/19/08 TyrantisTerror The polar opposite of Batman and Robin. A defining movie of our generation. 5 stars
7/19/08 Dab Great friggin movie. 5 stars
7/19/08 joker steals the show.very good but too damn long. damalc 4 stars
7/19/08 bullit16 Went in thinking, "it can't possibly be as amazing as the reviews say." I was dead wrong 5 stars
7/19/08 TheClown Ledger is vastly overated. Any hack with that makeup would have made a great joker! RIP 4 stars
7/18/08 Stacy It was just perfect. 5 stars
7/18/08 long johnson liked batman and robin better 1 stars
7/18/08 David V Believe the hype, this is absolutley a fantastic movie. 5 stars
7/18/08 larkin Good Lord 5 stars
7/18/08 Gary Simply Outstanding! Ledger is The Joker. 5 stars
7/18/08 KieranDraven Considering other countries hate us but want to live here, the movie was great! 5 stars
7/18/08 Matt Craven It can not be said enough - Ledger was one of the best villains in history. 5 stars
7/18/08 Flounder Saw it in IMAX last night. I was BLOWN away. One of the best films I have seen 5 stars
7/18/08 Shaun Wallner The Joker looks pretty wild in this film. 5 stars
7/18/08 Guy Smiley Considering Americans have the attention span of a peanut, I'm not surprised by the review. 5 stars
7/18/08 ben dover the best comic book film ever and yet so much more 5 stars
7/18/08 BrianWilly I cannot believe how good this movies was. 5 stars
7/18/08 tmcmistress Absolutely fantastic. 5 stars
7/17/08 alex r. not just a great comicbook movie--it is a great movie! 5 stars
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  18-Jul-2008 (PG-13)



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