The Dark Knight (2008)

A bone-chilling descent into madness by comic-book pseudonym with hypnotic blue-tinted cinematography, sociopathological cynicism, dark realismo, white-knuckled existential analysis, and Ledger’s Joker: the greatest villain performance of All-Time. 10/10.

Plot Synopsis: Years after Gotham was ravaged by the terrorist attack by Ra’s Al Ghul and the league of Shadow, the city is starting to return to normal with the help of Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), and Batman (Christian Bale). But when a vile young criminal calling himself the Joker (Heath Ledger) suddenly throws the town into chaos, the Caped Crusader has to tread a fine line between heroism & vigilantism.

*Possible spoilers ahead*

Review

“Madness.. [is] like gravity.

All it takes is a little push.”

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

Review: “You see: Madness.. is like gravity. All it takes is a little push.” Those immortal words were uttered by a sadistic madman who tore apart society with just a few bullets and gunpowder in a purple-and-green suit almost 11 years ago, and cinema has never been the same. 16 times having watched The Dark Knight, it still leaves me speechless with my jaw-dropped every single time, especially so this weekend having just been invited by Warner Bros. to a special event re-screening of the TDK trilogy in Toronto, CA in honor of Batman’s (approaching) 80-year anniversary. A bone-chilling masterpiece and descent into a noir-like crime underworld of Gotham City far from the light comic books you read as a kid, reimagined in the eye’s mind of visionary director Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight is one of the greatest and most groundbreaking films ever made – a masterpiece that balances the fine line between poetry and entertainment; pop culture vs. arthouse cinema; thrills vs. intellect for all – with hypnotic blue-tinted cinematography, sociopathological cynicism, dark realismo, white-knuckled existential analysis, & Ledger’s Joker: the greatest villain performance ever.

The Cinematography & Zimmer’s Score

Long-Unseen & Rarely-Typified Camera Profiles, Blue Cinematography Tints, & Hypnotic Arpeggiated Strings Sequences

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

It’s difficult to even begin to dive in to how absolutely brilliant/magnificent TDK is.  There are the normal checklists film critics judge works on. The cinematography and attention to detail in shot construction (and composition) are downright impressive. Lifting long-unseen and rarely-typified camera profiles from revolvers to panning shots to tracking to overhead, the intricacy of visual delivery is a sight to behold amongst its stunning blue-tinted artistry for the eyes. Paralleling its stunning visuals is TDK’s thunderous, heart-pounding score rife with pulsating drums whose bass you feel in your chest to arpeggiated string sequences hypnotically escalating into sheer madness premonitions.

A Cinematic Evolution Of Batman

A Breathtakingly-Anarchic, Elegant, Nightmarish, Psychologically-Rich, Dark Antithesis Of Donner’s 1978 Superman

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

Genius Hans Zimmer made a name for himself with this career-defining soundtrack amongst the best I have ever heard in a blockbuster or massive-scale film in history. These sensory-overloading intangibles are even further boosted by Nolan’s game-changing decision to bring a delivery mechanism never-before tried in this magnitude to the big screen: IMAX 70mm film. It is a near-religious experience to behold the film in this original glory, and has became a mainstay for blockbusters ever since as just one of the incalculable legacy points The Dark Knight gave to the genre and artform.

The Joker

Perhaps The Greatest Performance In Cinematic History By Heath Ledger – Merciless, Refined, Sadistic, Chaotic

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

Heath Ledger. I cannot even find the words to describe how brilliant Heath Ledger is as The Joker – it may be the best and my favorite performance in the HISTORY OF CINEMA (thousands and thousands of films watched to date of this writing). Mercilessly sadistic, nightmarish, tempestuous, and all while being the most genius and brilliant + successful villain perhaps ever in a superhero or crime film, this Joker is truly the devil incarnate – wielding that same primordial trickiness/agent-of-chaos malevolence that makes the Antichrist so compelling in religion and literature in the first place. From his swaggerful demeanor to his costume design to his demeanor to his multi-origin character writing to his foundational hatred for Batman and saviors to his downright soul-stopping squealish laugh and sociopathological experiments like the bank heist watching human greed destroy his accomplices to effectively stealing the soul of Gotham’s purest White Knight/Messianic Jesus-figure in Harvey Dent to the prisoners on the ship and robbing/pissing off the mob just for the sport of it, Ledger’s Joker is what solidified the Joker as the greatest villain of All-Time in my eyes and millions of others’.

A Joker As Tangible & Powerful As Ever

The Antichrist Reflective & Circumferential Of Our Own 21st-Century Societal Demons

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

Heath truly game-changed the genre to prove the comic book proposition that a villain without powers or cheap gimmicks beyond twisted psychological superiority could break an entire city and deliver the most compelling villainism ever seen in film. From the very first sequence of The Dark Knight, the narrative and themes pushes point towards the universe’s pull to entropy, greed, and betrayal: the perfect cynical storm reflective of our own societal problems the Joker is the prophetical personification of. A Clockwork Orange is the only film I can remember presenting sucha stylized depiction of violence and the chaos of insanity to this level, but still fails to match the pure anarchic malevolence just dripping with nihilstic psychopathy as Ledger’s take on Joker in The Dark Knight, such a powerful take on the character so seriously taken by its actor he actually drove himself insane and suicidal just so he could deliver it to us. R.I.P.

Bale & Cast

A Broken Batman In A Twilight Descent

Photograp Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

The performances. There have been few, if any, films with such magnificent/powerful performances in as decorated an illustrious cast as The Dark Knight. All main and supporting actors/actresses (as well as Nolan and Zimmer) have won/been nom’d for Oscars (or Golden Globe in only Eckhart’s case) – an absolutely unbelievable statistic never before seen and likely never again accomplished in any blockbuster or film of societal popularity. Bale is absolutely brilliant showcasing further his serious acting chops playing the duality of brash playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne in juxtaposition to the serious surgically-precise assassin Batman he looks phenomenal as with beautiful suits, gadgets, and toys like the (incredible) Batmobile and Batcycle. Gary Oldman is fantastic as the seasoned veteran Jim Gordon, still badass and cunning in his intricately-weaved policework while also having a warm presence and atmosphere about him too. Aaron Eckhart is equally versatile as public servant-turned-menace Harvey Dent, and Maggie Gyllenhaal perfect as sweet/strong Rachel Dawes.

The Intelligence Value & Poise

The Cynicism, Hyper-Realism, & Philosophically-Complex Existential Dissertation Analogizing Biblical War

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

The tone, realism, and existential dissertation. This is what elevates TDK into the god level of films in my view: its brutally dark nihilistic tone and primal thematics explored scriptwise. The film is positively Biblical in its good vs, evil narrative of “unstoppable forces meeting immovable objects”. Batman (although he became famous being the antithesis of Superman and classically-defined “good” in superheroicism – as well as the only human worthy of standing amongst the gods of the Justice League) can be analogized as God opposite Joker as the Devil, battling it out timelessly through the lens of a bat-dressed gadget-teched vigilante grudging a lunatic madman whose only goal is to cause chaos and anarchy everywhere he goes. It captures artfully the appeal of evil and tug-of-war it has with good/benevolence in the human psyche, especially chronicling the apparent advantage bad has over virtue being unrestricted to morality and “rules” like Batman’s one rule of not killing to pay honor to his parents in preventing similar tragedies from happening again in his city.

The Screenplay Pedigree

A Script So Brilliant, It Delivers More Punch With Words & Dialogue Than Any Other CBM Does By Knuckle Blows & CGI Action

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

The way it paints this scene of gritty undertones amongst dimlit streetsigns in extreme realist fashion is also groundbreaking and stirred a revolution away from the fantastical operatic overtures of say Donner’s ’78 Superman (definitively the antithesis of TDK perfectly akin to Batman’s creation as the night to Superman’s day) to something you feel could actually happen in your nearest metropolitan city. Nolan masterfully guides the narrative/ensemble with sublime pacing, surgical precision, and nuanced tone perfect on the palette being adult-level dark and complex while still balancing just the right hint of wry humor to keep it from becoming soul-crushingly nihilistic. The film also deals in themes like the nature of superheroicism, vigilantism, humanism, behavioral psychology, sociopathology, and immaculate character development of a haunted hero learning how to deal with & beat a man with no identity, reasonability, or rules.

Conclusion

One Of The Greatest Films Ever Made

A Bone-Chilling Descent Into Madness By Comic Book Lens; A Blockbuster Evolution To A New, Advanced Cinematic IQ-Level

Photograph Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

Overall, there are absolutely no flaws in this absolute masterclass in film; even after watching the film 16x to date of this writing. One of the greatest films of All-Time and one of only 7 films I’ve *ever* given a perfect 10/10 rating to (with Welles’ Citizen Kane, Hitchcock’s Psycho, Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, Leone’s The Good The Bad & The Ugly, and Coppola’s The Godfather). A bone-chilling masterpiece and descent into a noir-like crime underworld of Gotham City far from the light comic books you read as a kid, reimagined in the eye’s mind of visionary director Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight is one of the greatest and most groundbreaking films ever made – a masterpiece that balances the fine line between poetry and entertainment; pop culture vs. arthouse cinema; thrills vs. intellect for all – with hypnotic blue-tinted cinematography, sociopathological cynicism, dark realismo, white-knuckled existential analysis, & Ledger’s Joker: the greatest villain performance ever. A once-in-a-century masterpiece that capsulizes everything cinema is – and illustrates why it’s the biggest artform.

Official CLC Score: 10/10