The Dark Knight: A Comic Book Movie Masterpiece

Christian Bale in The Dark Knight. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

The Dark Knight represents a masterpiece in filmmaking as Christopher Nolan takes the Batman Begins sequel to an entirely new level.

After the opening introduces us to the Joker (Heath Ledger), we learn that Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale), District Attorney Harvey Dent (Harvey Dent), and Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) have formed an alliance together. Their mission is to take out Gotham’s criminals. It would be beneficial for Bruce, who would prefer to retire and go back to dating childhood friend Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, replacing Katie Holmes). There’s a minor problem for Bruce in that Rachel is now dating Harvey. Oh, well. You can’t win everything even if you’re Gotham’s playboy billionaire.

Batman’s journeys this time around take him to Hong Kong, where he chases after Lau (Ng Chin Lau), a corrupt accountant working with Gotham’s organized crime leaders. But before Lau can stand trial, the Joker announces that he’s going to kill the judge, Police Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb (Colin McFarlane), and Dent. He’d have tried to kill Mayor Anthony Garcia (Nestor Carbonell) but Gordon takes a bullet and sacrifices his life. Meanwhile, Bruce reaches a point in which he decides he should announce that he’s Batman. Before he can do so, Harvey announces that he’s Batman in a press conference. This proves to be a bad decision overall because it gets him placed in custody, chased by the Joker, and finally, corrupt detectives working for Sal Moroni (Eric Roberts) end up escorting both Harvey and Rachel.

Batman learns their locations while interrogating the Joker. He decides to save Rachel, leaving Harvey for Gotham’s finest. Well, he would have but naturally, the Joker didn’t tell him the truth. This paves way for the next hour of film–the downfall of Harvey Dent and a battle between two ferries.

When Heath Ledger died, there were worries about whether or not he finished filming his performance. While his death remains tragic, he delivers one of the finest supporting performances in cinematic history. Every actor makes the role his own but Heath does something here that honestly cannot be replicated. At least not in the same way.

There’s also something to be said here about the film’s political subtext. In order to search for the Joker’s whereabouts, Bruce uses Lucius Fox’s sonar technology. However, he makes some modifications and uses it to spy via cell phones. Fox is very reluctant and there’s no doubt that he’d rather walk away from the job. One could look at it as a way of representing the Patriot Act and how the laws allowed the government to read our emails, etc. In many ways, this film is the perfect representation of a post 9-11 America. This is especially true when you factor in the Joker being the film’s villain. At the same time, the ferry scenes give us the best that humanity can offer.

There’s a point in the film where a lot of Gotham’s criminals come together. Everyone has their own turf and the Joker comes in to change it up. Oh yeah, he also wants some money to do the job, too. The film does a solid job at representing the psychopathic maniac for what he is. Ledger’s performance allows him to stand apart from previous versions on screen. Again, there’s a reason why he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

If the Joker’s goal is to to destroy Batman, he succeeds but only to an extent.  There’s a core trio fighting crime in Gotham: Batman, Commissioner Gordon (he gets a promotion following the previous commissioner’s tragic assassination), and District Attorney Harvey Dent. Dent is the White Knight to Batman’s Dark Knight. However, Dent falls down to the Joker’s level when he becomes Two-Face following a terrible incident. It’s kind of funny how Dent gets one of the film’s most memorable lines: “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” In the end, Batman takes the fall so as to allow Harvey Dent to have died a hero.

Everything about this film is beautiful as far as its technical achievements are concerned. It’s a film that continually gets better and improves with every rewatch. Again, it is a masterpiece. There’s more to be said about The Dark Knight‘s legacy but the film is beautifully shot, written, directed, edited, and the sound design is everything you want in a film. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard give us one of the best scores ever for a Batman film. In a perfect world, The Dark Knight wouldn’t have just been nominated for Best Picture but would have taken the big prize home!

DIRECTOR:  Christopher Nolan
SCREENWRITERS:  Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
CAST:  Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Morgan Freeman

Warner Bros. Pictures opened The Dark Knight in theaters on July 18, 2008. The film is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.