“Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
I believe we are living in the superhero age of cinema. The Marvel Cinematic Universe and that thing DC is trying to do with Man of Steel, they are all over the place. They do grow tiring after a while, year after year, and it really takes some new spin or great direction to make a superhero movie shine these days. Movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool have found great success by twisting the genre in just this way. However, there really hasn’t been a superhero film in recent history that has made such a splash as The Dark Knight.
I felt a bit strange selecting a quote for the top of this review. This movie has been one of the most quoted in the past decade, and any big thematic quote from the film has become a cliche. This is a testament to the success of the film. The Dark Knight hasn’t just snuggled into the superhero niche of the past decade. Rather, it has found its way into cinema history for its dark tone, strong characters, and fantastic direction by Christopher Nolan.
One can’t discuss this movie without mentioning Heath Ledger. It is always troubling to wonder what great new roles this film could have moved him towards. However, Ledger will always be remembered for his innovative new take on the Joker. It will certainly be interesting to see how Jared Leto approaches the role with such big shoes to fill. Will he revert to the classic cackling maniac of the early days, or will he stick to a slower, calculated Joker that Ledger perfected. The subtleties in Ledger’s performance show an incredible dedication to this character. I find it particularly creepy when he licks his lips. It’s such a small character quirk that adds a chilling life to the villain.
The Dark Knight breaks out of the conventional superhero label because it isn’t just a caped crusader and his journey to stop a baddy. It’s a crime story. So much screen time is given to the Joker, Harvey Dent, and the actions of the mafia. There is a full, rich story here with Bruce Wayne as a major player but certainly not at its center. The tone is dark and suspenseful, and the movie paces beautifully through its two hours thirty minutes. Nolan keeps his audience engaged for the full duration with the help of such fascinating characters.
Gripes with the film? I’m not too sold on Harvey Dent and his transformation. I suppose losing Rachel is what flips the switch and creates Two Face, fulfilling Dent’s prophecy of “living long enough to become a villain.” I just don’t buy it. I wouldn’t see the Joker trusting Dent to make this transformation so fully as to hand him a gun in that hospital scene. Also, the flipping the coin gimmick gets old pretty quickly. I liked Dent in the first half as this shining public figure, the White Knight, and I suppose something had to happen to him for the film to be complete on a thematic level. Maybe the writing could have been different. The whole Two Face thing just seems rushed and makes me care less about that whole side of the plot.
I worry on occasion about the films I choose to review. The 1001 book will frequently toss out recent additions to pile in some new films in an effort to sell more copies. As my ultimate goal is to have an up-to-date completion of the book, I fear that reviewing some newer movies may be a waste of time. However, movies such as The Dark Knight give me confidence that more recent cinema is already holding its place in history. This is a film that will be remembered for years to come as a superhero movie done right with complex characters and a visionary director, a lesson which the major studios often fail to learn today. (Cough-Fantastic Four-Cough)
Films Left to Watch: 989