The Dark Knight – DVD Review
By Jeff Swindoll Dec 8, 2008, 13:32 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
“Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
Batman returns and this time the clown prince of crime arrives in Gotham. Heath Ledger’s final performance is everything that you’ve heard and more. I think that we’d still be talking Oscar nod even if he hadn’t ended tragically.
The criminal classes in Gotham City are feeling the heat from the appearance of Batman. Sal Maroni (Eric Roberts) has taken over the space left when Carmine Falcone was pushed into insanity by the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy, who cameos in this film) and committed to Arkham Asylum.
The mob has another problem roll into town when the maniacal Joker (Heath Ledger) robs their banks. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and faithful servant Alfred (Michael Caine) have moved operations to an underground bunker while stately Wayne Manor is being repaired from the fire.
Bruce is portraying himself as an aloof, irresponsible playboy by day but puts on the cowl of the Batman by night and has put fear into the hearts of the criminal class. However, he’s not the only one as dedicated district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) is pursuing them in the courts along with assistant D.A. Rachael Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, taking over for Katie Holmes [rotten career move Katie]).
The Joker approaches the mob and says that he’ll kill Batman for them and he embarks on a wave of madness. In the melee he vows to bring down the white knight of Gotham, Harvey Dent, but he’s also set his twisted sights on the dark knight of Gotham, Batman.
What you’ve heard is true. Heath Ledger, in his final performance, gives the definitive portrayal of the Joker blowing all other actors away. His Joker is a scarred, lip-licking, clown with a homicidal bent. Beneath his makeup lies a master criminal though as he performs some creative schemes during the course of the film.
He has the voice of a ventriloquist dummy (or Jerry Lewis after a standup tour of Hell) and has no morals or fear and finds the perfect foe in Batman. His mouth is a permanent grin and he gives varying stories as to how it got that way. It’s a standout performance and it only pains you to know that Ledger will not be showing up in future films as the homicidal harlequin. Every time he leaves the screen you eagerly await him to return again.
The other arc of the film is the sad journey of Harvey Dent to the scarred maniac called Two Face. It’s a bit subtler than the Joker arc, but it does offer a bit more pathos than the Joker as Dent starts off as a Gotham hero and takes a turn towards villainy thanks to the Joker.
Batman is played with stoic nobility by Bale who has made the role his own thanks to the success of the first film. He’s given ample support from the legendary Caine - who is fantastic again as the faithful Alfred. He has his moments but Alfred tends to fade into the background.
Rachael Dawes also feels rather abbreviated. I know who runs Katie Holmes’ career, but she must be kicking herself for not appearing in one of the biggest hits of the summer. Gyllenhaal fits well into the shoes of Dawes, maybe more than Holmes even, but again it’s the guy’s show and she feels like a plot device or background dressing.
Gary Oldham again is fantastic as Lt. Gordon and his acting chops get a workout in the finale and he’s well up to the job. Morgan Freeman also returns as Lucius Fox and finds that maybe he has some problems with Batman after all.
The action never lets up, but there are also some fine psychological undercurrents in the film that make you think as well as some references to some events that we’re grappling with in the real world.
Christopher Nolan proves once again that he’s no slouch as a director nor is he one as a screenwriter (with help from his brother Jonathan and David S. Goyer). It’s the best film of last year and I think it would’ve been that way even without the tragic death of Ledger.
The Dark Knight is presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The single disc version of the film only provides a digital copy of the film as the only special feature. Fans will definitely want to seek out the two-disc edition.
The Dark Knight is a fantastic film and one of the best of the year. Heath Ledger tears up the screen as the Joker and we’re left wanting more. Alas, that is not to be as his tragic death put an end to a great talent. He’ll be immortal on the screen and his performance will be the one to top in the Batman universe.
You’ll not regret adding this one to your DVD collection, but fans will want to seek out the two-disc collector’s edition.