Movie Review: THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

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Reviewed two days before the film premiered in 2008.

Movie Review
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman
Review by Matthew Toffolo


In this sequel to The Batman Begins, Batman raises the stakes in his war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to dismantle the remaining criminal organizations that plague the city streets.


This is an epic movie. The first of its kind in the action genre (which is how it will be categorized). There’s something for everyone in The Dark Knight. But for those expecting to see your typical comic book hero action film will be a tad disappointed. In its essence, this is really a detective film about a city trying to get back the proper soul it thinks it wants, and to do that it needs to get rid of all the heavy hitter criminals.

Enter Batman who is there helping the detectives rule evil and make good. But of course when someone like that steps up on one side, someone else steps up from the other side. Enter The Joker, a man who just loves the game and will do whatever it takes to stay in the high paced, high drama game he plays with Batman for the entire film.

A lot will be said about The Joker’s (Heath Ledger) performance as it’s on scale with Hannibal Lecter as being one of the worst/best characters in the history of cinema. One thing to watch out for when seeing this film is the use of sound design and how it really heightens the character and Ledger’s performance into what it is. A stand up job by the creative team in pushing the drama and emotion with The Joker and making us feel something very unique to this person. It’s so unique, most of us won’t know how to react as we’ve never seen anything like it.

But really, that character is like a rocket ship. It’s going straight up in the air with one destination in mind and from a storytelling standpoint, it’s really not that original. This is not The Joker’s film, but it’s really three other character’s films:

The first is district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) who has the largest story beats and is the character that defines the overall thematic of The Dark Knight. He’s a man who wants to do so much good, he’s actually ahead of his own emotions. He’s an intellect who thinks he’s smart, but he just doesn’t have that overall control of his own self to be that smart. He utters the line that defines this movie – “You’re either going to die a hero or live long enough to be the villain.” It’s the circle of life where if your emotions are too far on one side, you fall over to the opposite side you believe in. Kind of like an extreme leftest really masked as a fascist wanting to control everyone.

Then you have Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale). Our hero who knows that in order to be the hero in this world, you can’t really be the hero. Bruce is the man trying to what he set out to do in the first film, bring Gotham City to the purity his father envisioned. His encounters with The Joker are some of the best scenes in the film because it’s filled with so much inner conflict. He should kill this man but he can’t because of his inner code. The Joker knows that and takes full advantage of it. Bruce/Batman fights with what is right and wrong throughout the entire film. Because those aren’t black and white questions are they?

And last but certainly not least you have detective Gordon (Gary Oldman). The character that is the straw that stirs the drink of the film. He’s the self appointed idealist and perhaps the smartest person in the film because he’s really the only one who isn’t the idealist. He gets it and is haunted by it everyday because he needs to keep on trucking to do what’s right. He balances his passion for the people and the world with his passion with his own family. And that’s a hard thing to do that could harm his loved ones.

There you have it. This is a film with three major character developments and three leading men who are all being countered by The Joker.

The Joker is the one who wants to point out to the world that things aren’t that black and white. What is good? And what is evil anyway? Does anyone really know?

In many ways director/co-writer Christopher Nolan is telling the anti-comic book movie in The Dark Knight. Superman, Spiderman, Ironman etc…. all wrap up in a little bow with a showdown between good and evil as the audience roots for good. But life really doesn’t work like that and that’s what Nolan has set out to tell us in The Dark Knight. What makes a man like The Joker and what makes a man like Batman? Harvey Dent is in the middle and what direction is he going to?

If this was your typical comic book movie you would have a love triangle happening with Batman, Harvey and Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal). And then The Joker would see that and of course kidnap her and wait for Batman to save her and prove to her his love. That is the exact opposite of what Nolan did.

This is a film that will be a huge hit and it’s really a landmark film. It proves to Hollywood that audiences want to see smart films, bottom line.

Yes, The Dark Knight could of been trimmed down a bit as 160 minutes is a long time for a film like this. There was a little too much dialogue happening where they were telling us instead of showing us, which is the minor flaw in the film. But this is a very solid movie and the 2nd best film (WALL-E being the first) I’ve seen so far this year. So cheers to The Dark Knight for taking us in on an exploration of the human soul. And who would of thought it would come from the Batman series!

3 1/2 stars out of 4 for The Dark Knight!



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