The Dark Knight (Two-Disc Special Edition) – Blu-ray Review
By Patrick Luce Dec 7, 2008, 14:04 GMT
The follow-up to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in his continuing war on crime. With the help of Lt. Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves effective, but soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker, who ...more
Believe the hype! The Dark Knight is the greatest comic book/superhero movie ever made and one of the best films of the year. The film looks and sounds incredible on Blu-ray and comes packed with the kind of features you want from a summer blockbuster.
From the acting of its top notch cast to the steady direction of Christopher Nolan, everything works in The Dark Knight. The film grabs you in the opening moments and doesn’t let go until the credits roll.
The Dark Knight mixes elements of the comic book feel (Batman and Joker) with heavy drama and crime elements (parts feel like they belong in a Michael Mann film not a Batman movie). Simply put, the blend works.
Nolan and crew handle a wide story filled with characters without the film feeling too heavy or the characters feeling like they are there just to have them make an appearance on screen. Nolan began his vision of the Batman universe with Batman Begins, but exploded it with The Dark Knight. Without a doubt, this is the definitive Batman movie – at least until Nolan and company decide to make a third one.
The Dark Knight kicks off following the events of Batman Begins, and sees the crime fighter winning his war on criminals. Crime is down thanks to criminals being scared to go out on the street after dark. Batman (Christian Bale) also has help from Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), and a new district attorney who is willing to take on all criminals, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart).
At the start of the film, Nolan (who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Jonathan Nolan) ties up loose ends from Batman Begins with an appearance from the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) and then throws us straight into the movie.
Gotham’s mob is on the run from Batman and the law, and has put all their money in the hands of one man, Lau (Chin Han). He assures them that their money will be safe because he has taken it out of the country – which is out of Dent’s jurisdiction. Batman wastes no time in going to get Lau and drags him back to Gotham.
With no other choice available, the mob turns to a criminal that has been hitting their banks and is a bit of a freak, The Joker (Heath Ledger). Joker promises that for half of the mob’s money he can get the Batman so that business can go back to normal. He just fails to mention that his method might be a bit extreme and sends Batman, Dent, Gordon and all of Gotham to the edge of destruction and madness.
The rest of the film is a classic duel between Batman and The Joker. This battle costs many people their lives, involves massive action sequences, and has plenty of great twists that you might not see coming (I don’t want to give any spoilers away in the review).
Nolan’s Joker proves to be the maniac that has filled the pages of DC Comics for decades, and Ledger’s performance is the character’s defining moment on screen. This might be a Batman movie, but Ledger’s Joker is the reason to watch. The actor is lost in the role, and brings a kind of violence and evil you wouldn’t expect out of a comic book character – even one as nuts as The Joker. Ledger’s performance makes his death that much more tragic, and he deserves an Oscar nomination.
Ledger’s Joker is the opposite of Batman, and just wants to see Gotham and everyone in it burn. His actions cause Batman to question his very existence, and push his character to the breaking point and beyond. Ledger fills the characters with strange ticks (such as darting his tongue out constantly to lick his lips), and an eerie voice that seems like something the wolf would do to convince Little Red Riding Hood that he was grandma (such as his scenes with Harvey Dent in the hospital).
Bale once again is outstanding as Batman and brings a force and determination to the character. It is interesting that Nolan shifts the character away from Bruce Wayne in this film. Unlike Batman Begins (which was dominated by Bruce Wayne at the beginning), The Dark Knight sees more of Batman so that Bruce Wayne seems to be the mask. Even some scenes where Bale isn’t wearing the outfit, it is clear he is Batman and not Bruce Wayne.
Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman both continue to add some charm and class to the franchise. Caine is perfect as Alfred, and you have to love the “give and take” dialogue between his character and Bale’s Batman. Freeman brings his coolness to Lucius Fox, and makes the character important to the movie.
Maggie Gyllenhaal steps into the Rachel Dawes character – replacing Katie Holmes – but doesn’t really have an impact on the film. Her character seems to be a way to drive the conflict between Batman and The Joker, and between Dent and Bruce Wayne. The actress does a great job in the film, but I wish she would have been given more to do in the movie.
Eckhart also delivers an excellent performance in the film, and gives Gotham a contrast to Batman. He is a man who works for the law and within the law. He is the city’s white knight compared to Batman who saves Gotham from the shadows. Eckhart’s plays Dent as truly good and very noble which makes his later fall that much darker.
Although the film feels like a heavy crime drama, Nolan and company never forget this is a Batman movie and fill it with massive stunts and action sequences. From a huge bank robbery by The Joker to the highway showdown between Batman and The Joker, Nolan delivers a film that is explosive and keeps you on the edge of your seat. He keeps the tension tight throughout the entire film, and you are literally tired from all the action by the time the credits roll.
Like other summer blockbusters this year, The Dark Knight was made for Blu-ray, and thrives on its crystal clear 1080p picture. During the movie, the disc switches its format between a 16x9 Variable 2.4:1 and 1.78:1 for the IMAX sequences. My non-tech way of explaining the switching is that on my television the film would go from the widescreen bars to taking up the entire screen and then back to the widescreen bars. At first I found this annoying, but as the movie plays you forget that it is even doing it.
The picture is amazing with little details in Ledger’s make-up (like how it runs or fades) and designs on Batman’s costume (I didn’t like how they redesigned the mask) brought out clearly. The sound is explosive and very well defined – which helps since Bale tends to talk with a growling whisper as Batman.
The Two-Disc Special Edition of the Blu-ray is packed with special features that take you into the making of the movie, and all the details that were involved in bringing it to the big screen.
Disc One – Movie With Focus Points includes the Gotham Uncovered: Creation of a Scene where Nolan and company pretty much go over every detail involved in shooting the movie. This section covers everything from stunt staging, filming in IMAX, and the designing of a new Bat-suit and the awesome Bat-pod.
Disc Two special features include a look at all of Batman’s gadgets and tools; six episodes from Gotham Tonight; art galleries with a look at The Joker cards, concept art, poster art, and stills from the film; and trailers and TV spots.
There is also the Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of The Dark Knight feature that takes a look at the psyche of Bruce Wayne and Batman in terms of real-world psychotherapy - because clearly Wayne has issues. The disc also has a digital copy of the film to be used to download the movie to your laptop or cell phone.
The Dark Knight is a great movie and deserves all the hype and praise it received over the summer. The Two-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray is the way to see the film thanks to its incredible sound and crystal clear picture. This is an excellent movie and will leave you wanting more.