Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight is a 2008 American superhero film directed, produced and co-written by Christopher Nolan. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, the film is part of Nolan's Batman film series and a sequel to 2005's Batman Begins. Christian Bale reprises the lead role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, with a returning cast of Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth, Gary Oldman as James Gordon and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. The film introduces the character of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Gotham's newly elected District Attorney and the cohort of Bruce Wayne's childhood friend Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who joins Batman and the police in combating the new rising threat of a criminal calling himself the "Joker" (Heath Ledger).

Nolan's inspiration for the film was the Joker's comic book debut in 1940, and the 1996 series The Long Halloween, which retold Two-Face's origin. In addition elements of Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers' Dark Detective miniseries as well as the unpublished follow-up were reportedly cannibalised along with other elements of Batman mythology for the story. The Dark Knight was filmed primarily in Chicago, as well as in several other locations in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong. Nolan used an IMAX camera to film some sequences, including the Joker's first appearance in the film. On January 22, 2008, some months after he had completed filming on The Dark Knight and six months before the film's release, Heath Ledger died from a toxic combination of prescription drugs, leading to intense attention from the press and movie-going public. Warner Bros. had initially created a viral marketing campaign for The Dark Knight, developing promotional websites and trailers highlighting screen shots of Ledger as the Joker, but after Ledger's death, the studio refocused its promotional campaign.

The Dark Knight was released on July 16, 2008 in Australia, on July 18, 2008 in North America, and on July 24, 2008 in the United Kingdom. The film received highly positive reviews and set numerous records during its theatrical run. With over $1 billion in revenue worldwide, it is the tenth highest-grossing film of all time (unadjusted for inflation). The film received eight Academy Award nominations and won for Best Sound Editing and Best Supporting Actor for Ledger's performance. The film will be followed by a third and final entry titled The Dark Knight Rises, with Bale, Caine, Oldman and Freeman returning in the original roles. The film is set to be the conclusion of Christopher Nolan's Batman series.

The Plot

In Gotham City, the Joker and accomplices rob a mob-owned bank, the Joker killing off the others and escaping alone. Batman and Lieutenant Jim Gordon decide to include the district attorney Harvey Dent in on their plan to bring down Gotham's mob, currently led by Sal Maroni. Batman's alter ego, Bruce Wayne meets Dent and Rachel Dawes, deciding to host a fundraiser to show his support for Dent. The Joker approaches the mob, offering them his services should they need it. Corrupt accountant Lau, working for the mob, flees to Hong Kong but is dragged back to Gotham by Batman, agreeing to testify against the mob.

Maroni and the Chechen turn to the Joker who begins murdering people on a daily basis unless Batman unmasks himself. Among the casualties are Commissioner Loeb. The Joker targets Dent at the fundraiser, Bruce hiding him. The Joker tries to assassinate Mayor Garcia during Loeb's memorial service, Gordon taking the bullet and seemingly dying. Rachel is targeted, Bruce and Alfred Pennyworth looking after her. At a press conference, Dent claims he is Batman instead of Bruce who planned to confess to the public, and is escorted by police to county prison. The Joker intercepts, but is caught by Gordon, who faked his death. Gordon is promoted to Commissioner as a reward. However, Rachel and Dent both disappear, Batman confronting the Joker and learning both are in building filled with explosives. Batman and Gordon go to save them, Batman finding Dent and saving him, but Rachel is killed when the explosives detonate. Dent's face is set on fire and half of it is left severely scarred. The Joker escapes from the Gotham police department with Lau.

Coleman Reese, an accountant working at Wayne Enterprises under Lucius Fox, realises Bruce is Batman and plans to publicly expose him. The Joker, who kills Lau and the Chechen, threatens to bomb a hospital unless Reese is killed. Gordon rescues Reese, while the Joker visits the crazed Dent in hospital, convincing him to get revenge on those who "truly" killed Rachel. Dent kills Officer Wuertz, and spares Maroni and Officer Anna Ramirez, using his lucky coin to decide their fate. The Joker threatens to takeover the city, pitting two ferries of citizens and Arkham Asylum inmates against one another, giving them the decision to blow each other up. Batman confronts the Joker, aided by Lucius using a machine able to detect phones across the city and use them as a locator. The ferry passengers refuse to kill each other, and Batman captures the Joker, but not before he learns of Dent's rampage.

Dent lures Gordon to the building where Rachel died, holding his family hostage and threatens to shoot his son. Batman arrives, tackling Dent off the building to his death. Deciding to take the blame for Dent's victims, Batman forces Gordon to make him a fugitive and portray Dent as Gotham's true hero. In the closing scenes, Gordon destroys the Bat Signal, and Lucius watches the locator machine self-destruct, and Batman flees the police, Gordon considering Batman the city's real hero.


The Dark Knight met with highly positive reviews. Based on 277 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 94% approval rating from critics, with an average score of 8.4/10. Among Rotten Tomatoes' Top Critics, which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, television, and radio programs, the film holds an overall approval rating of 91%. By comparison, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating in the 0–100 range based on reviews from top mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 82, based on 39 reviews. CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade cinemagoers gave the film was "A" on an A+ to F scale, and that audiences skewed slightly male and older.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times describes The Dark Knight as a "haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy." He praises the performances, direction, and writing, and says the film "redefine[s] the possibilities of the comic-book movie." Ebert states that the "key performance" is by Heath Ledger, and pondered whether he would become the first posthumous Academy Award-winning actor since Peter Finch in 1976. Ledger ultimately won the Oscar. Ebert named it one of his twenty favorite films of 2008. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone writes that the film is deeper than its predecessor, with a "deft" script that refuses to scrutinize the Joker with popular psychology, instead pulling the viewer in with an examination of Bruce Wayne's psyche. Travers has praise for all the cast, saying each brings his or her "'A' game" to the film. He says Bale is "electrifying," evoking Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II, and that Eckhart's portrayal of Harvey Dent is "scarily moving." Travers says the actor moves the Joker away from Jack Nicholson's interpretation into darker territory, and expresses his support for any potential campaign to have Ledger nominated for an Academy Award, Travers says that the filmmakers move the film away from comic book cinema and closer to being a genuine work of art, citing Nolan's direction and the "gritty reality" of Wally Pfister's cinematography as helping to create a universe that has something "raw and elemental" at work within it. In particular, he cites Nolan's action choreography in the IMAX-tailored heist sequence as rivaling that of Heat (1995). Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "Every great hero needs a great villain. And in 2008, Christian Bale's Batman found his in Heath Ledger's demented dervish, the Joker."

Emanuel Levy wrote Ledger "throws himself completely" into the role, and that the film represents Nolan's "most accomplished and mature" work, and the most technically impressive and resonant of all the Batman films. Levy calls the action sequences some of the most impressive seen in an American film for years, and talks of the Hong Kong-set portion of the film as being particularly visually impressive. Levy and Peter Travers conclude that the film is "haunting and visionary," while Levy goes on to say that The Dark Knight is "nothing short of brilliant." On the other hand, David Denby of The New Yorker said that the story is not coherent enough to properly flesh out the disparities. He said the film's mood is one of "constant climax," and that it feels rushed and far too long. Denby criticized scenes which he argued to be meaningless or are cut short just as they become interesting. Denby remarks that the central conflict is workable, but that "only half the team can act it," saying that Bale's "placid" Bruce Wayne and "dogged but uninteresting" Batman is constantly upstaged by Ledger's "sinister and frightening" performance, which he says is the film's one element of success. Denby concludes that Ledger is "mesmerising" in every scene. Christian Bale's vocal performance was the subject of particular criticism by some commentators, with David Edelstein from NPR describing Bale delivering his performance with "a voice that's deeper and hammier than ever", while Alonso Duralde at MSNBC said Bale sounded like "a 10-year-old putting on an ‘adult’ voice to make prank phone calls" and said it sounded like "Brenda Vaccaro doing a Miles Davis impression".

The Dark Knight was ranked the 15th greatest film in history on Empire's 2008 list of the "500 Greatest Movies of All Time," based upon the weighted votes of 10,000 readers, 150 film directors, and 50 key film critics. Heath Ledger's interpretation of the Joker was also ranked number three on Empire's 2008 list of the "100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time." Paste Magazine named it one of the 50 Best Movies of the Decade (2000-2009), ranking it at number 11.

The Cast

Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman
 Heath Ledger as Joker
 Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent
 Michael Caine as Alfred
 Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes
 Gary Oldman as Lt. Jim Gordon
 Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox
 Monique Gabriela Curnen as Ramirez
 Ron Dean as Wuertz
 Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow
 Chin Han as Lau
 Nestor Carbonell as Mayor
 Eric Roberts as Maroni
 Ritchie Coster as Chechen
 Anthony Michael Hall as Mike Engel
 Keith Szarabajka as Stephens
 Colin McFarlane as Loeb
 Joshua Harto as Reese
 Melinda McGraw as Barbara Gordon
 Nathan Gamble as James Gordon, Jr.
 Michael Vieau as Rossi
 Michael Stoyanov as Dopey
 William Smillie as Happy
 Danny Goldring as Grumpy
 Michael Jai White as Gambol
 Matthew O'Neill as Chuckles

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