Part 2 of National Batman Day features the behemoth of superhero movies. “The Dark Knight” is one of the most influential films ever made and (in my opinion) one of the best. We find Gotham City struggling with crime, where mob influence is stronger than ever. But when a new criminal known as The Joker is threatening to upheave order in Gotham, Batman must find this murderous clown and bring him to justice. If Batman fails, Gotham’s corruption will expand, chaos will reign supreme, and the city’s soul will be lost.
Where do I begin with “The Dark Knight”? It is one of my all-time favorites! There are so many compliments I could give the film, but I will keep my summaries contained. The most impressive (and obvious) strength of the film is the performance of Heath Ledger. He brings a gritty new edge to the Joker never before seen. Where Nicholson was whimsical, Ledger went demented. He really leans into the gritty side of the character, bringing out the grounded, realistic take that fits perfectly into the film. His edgy makeup and his quirky mannerisms create an unnerving presence to his presentation. The chaotic nature of the film is perfectly relayed by his actions, where nothing about The Joker’s backstory is confirmed. The scary ambiguity of the character makes this interpretation very interesting. There are few performances that I can analyze as closely as Ledger’s Joker. It is truly one for the ages! But we can’t forget the rest of the cast. Bale again impresses as Batman, portraying a character in the groove of his career. He is more poised, experienced, and driven in this film. But Aaron Eckhart’s performance as Harvey Dent is extremely underrated. The progression and fall of his character is heartbreaking, as we see Gotham’s White Knight poisoned by a psychopath intent on revealing the ugly side of humanity. Credit to the special effects team for the work on his split face. Of course, the rest of the cast is wonderful as well.
The story is incredibly thought provoking and powerful. “The Dark Knight’s” subject matter has been analyzed from all professions and backgrounds. To this day, conversations about thematic relevance still happen. How else can one define a timeless classic? Just look to this film! I’m fascinated that each time I watch it I pick up new little details. Whether it be the analysis of civilized society, the effect of crime on citizens, or the moral conflict faced by nearly every character in the film…each are filled with good content. The fact that the film manages to raise the bar for superhero movies is so important. Because Nolan dared to explore this content, audiences finally started taking superhero movies seriously.
A good sequel raises the stakes while respecting what came before. “The Dark Knight” toes this line very well. The story is bigger and bolder, one that I consider “the meat” of the Dark Knight Trilogy. It moves at a brisk pace compared to “Batman Begins”, which fits the chaotic nature the Joker concocts throughout the plot. The film is so jampacked with content that if a viewer looks away, they’ll miss something. Just goes to show that each time I watch, I still pick up new details and find the story engaging. A hero is only as good as their villain, which is where “The Dark Knight” thrives the most. Batman is challenged immensely, attempting to care for his loved ones, combat the mob, and grapple with the psychological torment inflicted by The Joker. His journey is not easy and his moral compass is explored like never before. I really enjoy that the story doesn’t end on a happy note. It challenges the viewer to consider their own sense of right and wrong, good and evil, just and unjust. Scenes like Joker’s interrogation, the ferry sequence, and the concluding confrontation with Harvey are all standouts. Exploring what it means to be a hero and how humanity can intermix kindness and cruelty never gets old. Such a fantastic film.
“The Dark Knight” is surrounded by excellence that it is easy to overlook a few nitpicks. The main weaknesses I notice are a few logic gaps. Specifically, there are instances where The Joker’s plan works out so perfectly that it’s almost unbelievable at times. Sequences like the jail confrontation when the bomb explodes and everyone but The Joker is harmed make me tilt my head and say, “hmm, that’s unlikely”. Or when Batman saves Rachel by falling from the top of a skyscraper (leaving both unharmed) feels like a stretch. But issues like this don’t take away from my enjoyment of the film. If anything, it’s impressive that the film is so good that I can overlook issues like this and still piece everything together.
A film like “The Dark Knight” comes around once in a blue moon. The level of detail and thematic weight is undeniably impressive. I yearn for more superhero films to create this level of quality. If more come along to challenge it, good! But for now, “The Dark Knight” remains the star at the top of the tree. I have no doubt this will remain a classic in another fifteen years. There aren’t many movies that rank on the same level as this one. “The Dark Knight” is a genre defining film. It is a story that rattles audiences, challenges our POV, and has us coming back year after year to revisit it. I love this movie and will always argue for its greatness!