Thursday, March 24, 2016

Movie Review: "The Dark Knight" (2008)

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Movie"The Dark Knight"
Director: Christopher Nolan
Year: 2008
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 32 minutes

As Batman (Christian Bale) and the new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) start cracking down on organized crime in Gotham, a new scourge rises. A psychotic criminal known as The Joker (Heath Ledger) makes a deal with all of the organized crime families in Gotham to kill Batman and create chaos and fear across the city in the process. 

Christopher Nolan returns to the director's chair to continue his gritty take on Batman with "The Dark Knight." Since Batman, once again played by Christian Bale, showed up in Gotham, it has given more and more people the courage to stand up against the criminal elements of the city. Newly elected district attorney Harvey Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart in a criminally underrated performance, has railed hard against crime by trying to bring down any straggling elements left in Gotham. Those left in the organized crime business are trying to figure a way to stop them. Their solution is presented from the new guy in town, a psychotic mastermind named The Joker, played brilliantly by Heath Ledger in his Oscar winning performance. The Joker's idea is to "Kill The Batman," which is of course easier said than done, but he plans to create so much fear and chaos in Gotham that Batman will have to give himself up because the public will demand Batman's head on a spike. These crime elements intermingle insanely well with superhero action and the real-world drama that plagues us all: what do we do when crime run rampant and people become unstoppable?

We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the acting first and foremost. Everyone involved in this film got a lot of flack when it was revealed that Heath Ledger was the casting choice for The Joker. How could the same guy from "10 Things I Hate About You" and many other romantic comedies become one of Gotham's most intense, feared villains? This is perhaps the most prime example of "don't judge a book by its cover" and the source we cite whenever people question odd casting choices today. Ledger's Joker is one of the greatest portrayals ever to be put on film. Yes, we know that's dramatic, but deservedly so. Ledger raises the bar to an incomparable level, crushing even Jack Nicholson's high bar set back in 1989 as the laughing, menacing villain extraordinaire. In this one performance, he silenced the haters, making it all the more heart-wrenching when his life was tragically cut short by an accidental overdose before "The Dark Knight" even came out in 2008. It still makes us sad to talk about Ledger being gone because we are certain he was not done gracing us with his presence on the silver screen. Moving on. Aaron Eckhart, as we mentioned, gives a very underrated performance here, and it's not hard to understand why. Ledger was so, so good, so dominating in his role that Eckhart is often overshadowed in favor of the Aussie. Eckhart does a great, palate-cleansing job as Harvey Dent/Two -Face, making us forget the laughable portrayal given by Tommy Lee Jones in "Batman Forever" over a decade earlier. Eckhart does the character justice as we watch him slowly descend into madness after tragedy strikes. Menacing and creepy in his own right, Eckhart dominates, too, but in a different way than Ledger. Christian Bale is also excellent as the returning Bruce Wayne/Batman and does just as good if not better than he did in "Batman Begins." This time around, Katie Holmes is replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal. In one of the worst career choices we've ever seen, Holmes opted for "Mad Money" instead of a second Batman film. We can only assume this was forced upon her by her church at the time (see? No names mentioned).

"The Dark Knight" is, simply put, the best Batman film ever made, and it is one of our all-time favorite movies. It's one of if not the best superhero/comic book film we've ever seen. It is a tremendous, excellent, amazing film even outside of its comic book elements. Each piece of the puzzle fits to make a genuine classic film, one that should be taught in classes and books regardless of the fact that it is a superhero comic book movie. The human drama adds with a crime thriller background that pits villains against heroes as heroes become villains in an exhilarating, fast-paced way that never feels dragging or unnecessary. The acting is sublime, the dialogue is memorable and perfect, and the darker, grittier tone is one we won't soon forget. Each time we watch this film, even almost a decade later, we still get chills at its intensity. The effects used on Eckhart's character are some of the best facial integration effects we have ever seen, but then again, we never doubted Nolan's genius direction here for a second. Favoring practical effects over CGI in most instances and trusting his writing and abilities, Nolan is worthy of the praise he rightfully deserves for bringing us this cinematic masterpiece (which is a word that doesn't get thrown around lightly). The story is engaging and keeps us completely, totally enthralled the entire time. It is loaded with many great action sequences that are fun and exciting, but also fit within the context of the plot and never feel overused or randomly placed. We might love 95% of Marvel's movies better, but "The Dark Knight" is still our favorite comic book film. We have no allegiance to one institution or the other, but we think that's saying something. This movie will not be easily topped.

My Rating: 10/10
BigJ's Rating: 10/10
IMDB's Rating: 9.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!
One year ago, we were watching: "What We Do in the Shadows"

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