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The Dark Knight

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: A

Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan
Based on characters by: Bob Kane
Produced by: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven and Emma Thomas
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman
Studio: Warner Brothers Pictures

The following review contains massive spoilers for The Dark Knight. If you would like to watch the film completely fresh, then I would suggest you not read it.

Throughout the almost seventy years, Bob Kane's superhero Batman has existed, he has taken on many different forms. He has been an overly comical figure as played by Adam West and George Clooney as well as a brooding neurotic as taken on by Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer. The first filmmaker and actor to truly delve deeply into Batman and his altar ego Bruce Wayne beyond the Batmobile and suit are Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale. While their first collaboration Batman Begins was a passable entry in the film series and a nice jolt of energy after the embarrassingly awful film that was Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin, The Dark Knight brings Batman to a whole new respect, blowing previous entries out of the water. The Dark Knight takes the mythology of Batman and Bruce Wayne and truly looks deep into what makes a hero. As Aaron Eckhart's character District Attorney Harvey Dent says early in the film, "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

With the Caped Crusader having already established himself as the hero of Gotham City, criminals and mob bosses are afraid to walk the streets. DA Harvey Dent aka "The White Knight" has also become renowned for putting scum behind bars without the need to wear a mask and coincidentally dating Bruce Wayne's former beau Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, replacing Katie Holmes from Begins). However, a new gangster is trying to make a name for himself in Gotham and he proves to be just as scary as Batman at intimidating the mob bosses: a ruthless, cunning and maniacal clown known only as the Joker (Heath Ledger). Having now stolen all of the major gangster's money, he promises to return their share if they kill the Dark Knight of Gotham. However, he has other deadly tricks up his sleeve, including attempting to get Batman to take off the mask or else more innocent people will die, putting both Bruce Wayne and superhero altar ego to the ultimate test.

Those walking into The Dark Knight expecting to see some heart-bumping action sequences will certainly have that delivered to them, but this isn't the happy, "everything works out in the end" type story that Iron Man, Indiana Jones and Speed Racer all had earlier this summer. Director/co-writer Nolan is not afraid to go down a path similar to Shakespeare's tragedies of old. The comical glee that Burton and Schumacher's entries brought forth in the 1990's have vanished in favour of a one hundred percent bleak Gotham City where nobody is safe from harm. Throughout the entire film, there's a sense of danger looming over each important character and an un-certainty that they will truly have a joyful comic book ending. The Joker is a devilish fiend that uses every scare tactic in the book and whose use of tricking the authorities and Batman bring to mind the serial killer in David Fincher's Se7en. Every single death trap is planned far in advance and he not only tricked the character, but the audience as well. His history is not given and his terrorist attacks are not for any cause but his own enjoyment. He is menacing and evil and not charming in the least. He is not a likeable foe, but somebody who nobody would want to cross on the street. Nolan builds the complexities of the character so perfectly, that we are constantly guessing what he is up to.

In the acting department, everybody succeeds in being truly excellent in bringing their newly introduced characters and old friends to the screen. Christian Bale has officially surpassed Michael Keaton as the best Batman/Bruce Wayne as he gives both personalities a different feel. Unlike somebody like Superman, one understands why people do not recognise Batman as Bruce Wayne. In any scenes featuring Batman, one starts to forget that he is also that billionaire playboy. The gruff Batman voice has received some criticism, but it proofs in making the character intimidating and shows he is not somebody to cross. Heath Ledger disappears into the role of the Joker perfectly and proves to be very scary in his role. The character is extremely cunning throughout the whole film and Ledger's performance allows the audience to believe it. Never before has Ledger given such a tremendous performance and watching the "In Memory" credit pop up at the end of the film will bring anybody back to reality that like James Dean and River Phoenix, he left the world much too early. Aaron Eckhart also does equally superb work as Harvey Dent and his transformation into Two-Face is treated incredibly well. Maggie Gyllenhaal is an appropriate replacement for Katie Holmes and her death is definitely emotional as unlike with Holmes, we understand why Bale and Dent care so much about her. It's also why Dent turning psychotic is more than just his face getting scarred. It is done with so many depth and I respect Nolan even more for it. Gary Oldman also has a fine turn as Commissioner James Gordon, intelligently taking away the flashiness that he usually gives off on film. Veteran actors Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman give off fine work as usual as Wayne's two mentors, who trust him to do the right thing.

The action is incredibly well done. It's not just "punches and explosions" like some film snobs love to call it, because every possible serious set-piece is put to use. The moment when Batman goes from the Batmobile to the Batpod was when I said to myself "This is an terrific film." The theme of how much good one can do is done well without beating anybody over the head. And when Batman decides to take the fall of Dent's bad-doing, he becomes more than just a man in a bat costume. He is a human being who cares about others and understands that people look up to him not because of the cool gadgets and vehicles and fights, but because he is a hero and somebody who just wants the world to be a safer place. That's more than you can say about any politician. He also understands that everybody needs somebody to look up to. Great men like Dent should be remembered for all the good they for the people, not the few bad moments that they ended their life with. It's a poignant massage and further proof that Nolan has crafted a mature superhero film that is so much more than a flying mouse chasing after a violent clown. The Batman series has become a serious franchise and now "Wham!", "Pow!" and "Holy Shark Repellent, Batman!" will be the farthest things from peoples' minds when Bob Kane's classic superhero is brought up.

Batman (Christian Bale) interrogates the evil Joker (Heath Ledger) in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight.
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