Skip to main contents
Darren says

Masterful in so many ways—amazing cinematography, solid storytelling and stellar performances by the lead actors, particularly Heath Ledger’s chaotic Joker. This is an elevation of the genre to levels well above expectations.

Tym says

The gold standard. It’s Harvard while most hero films are still in Junior High.

Ciaran says

There is not a wasted moment in this film. Brilliant performances.

History

The Dark Knight is The Godfather II of graphix films. It is the superior sequel that advances the form itself.

Just as Godfather II achieves its profound depth through a dual narrative, The Dark Knight is a layered survey of duality. Between the phony playboy facade, and the bat demon that expresses his troubled spirit, lies the real Bruce Wayne, a weary soldier who wants to step away from his own war. D.a. Harvey Dent is the white knight who can fill that breach. But the Joker, a nihilistic void without conscience, wants to destroy the Batman’s core by destroying his surrogate. This schism tests Batman’s faith in his mission, his city’s faith in him, his faith in his city and friends, and his fate.

Director Nolan frames his world in the milieu of the early ’70s New Hollywood films, specifically gritty crime dramas like The French Connection (1971), Mean Streets (1973), and Serpico (1973), and their epic children, Heat (1995) and The Departed (2006). He strips surreality out even further than his first film did, using only minimalist sets, Chicago and Hong Kong locations, practical stunts, and an intensely nuanced character script. The result is an operatic crime drama, a Shakespearian character play, an action thriller, and a believable reality on par with the best in any genre.

But in truth he was only staying reverential to the best of the material itself. The first years of Batman comics were dark and brutal, coming right off the Depression. The Joker debuted in 1940 as a glassy-eyed serial killer who only laughed while being sadistic, such as shooting Robin with a machine gun and hurtling him off a bridge. The series went soft for three decades, until Denny O’Neill and Neal Adams restored the Batman as a blade-eared night spectre, and brilliant detective, prowling an indigo cityscape and defending its citizens. In "The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge" (Batman #251, Sept 1973), O’Neill’s terse story and Adams’ naturalistic fine illustration returned the Joker as a creepy psychopath for the modern era. This chilling characterization, along with Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s nightmarish "The Killing Joke" (1988) and Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s "The Long Halloween" (1996), provided the template for the amoral maniac driving this film.

Whereas Two-Face was superfluous in the troubled ’90s films, this time he is the crucial pivot of the story, the literal middle-ground in Batman and Joker’s struggle for Gotham’s soul. Normally, all superhero sequels should follow the sterling example of Spider-Man 2: one villain, one great story. This film instead uses both its villains to clarify the inner struggle of the hero in actual physical form, and its layered duality grows only deeper with repeated viewings. The villains’ attempts to break him only reveal the Batman’s singular strengths and their own failings.

The Dark Knight is the pinnacle, an excellent film for the ages.

Batman Begins