‘The Dark Knight’ review: still the ultimate Batman movie

I wrote this years ago obviously, but my opinions on it are pretty much the same so I likely won’t have too much to add here. I just finished watching it in actual preparation for “The Dark Knight Rises,” which would just about have to be the greatest movie ever to top this one for me.The Dark Knight character posters The Joker, Batman and Harvey Dent

“The Dark Knight” is a phenomenal masterpiece whose creators aren’t content with simply making a great comic book movie but craft one that transcends the genre to become one of the best films this decade.

The Dark KnightThere’s so much to amaze, wow and keep you at the edge of your seat — whether it’s the dynamic action, spine-tingling performances or the perfectly composed score, “The Dark Knight” is an experience you’ll want to see over and over again.

Right from the onset, Director/Co-Screenwriter Christopher Nolan (“The Prestige”) grabs a hold of the audience’s attention with a daring bank robbery scene arranged by Gotham City’s newest criminal, The Joker (Heath Ledger, “I’m Not There”) and never lets go until the final credits.

Nolan reinvented Batman for a new generation in “Batman Begins” with a grittier, more realistic look at the psyche of a man willing to dress as a bat to save his city and defend those who can’t help themselves. Now, he reinvents the “summer blockbuster,” challenging other directors to expand their vision on film-making to give the audience more than they could possible imagine with a summer film with equal parts thriller, mystery, drama, romance and all-out action.The Dark Knight Maggie Gyllenhaal and Christian Bale

Batman (Christian Bale, “I’m Not There”) has accomplished his goals of striking fear into the hearts of Gotham’s criminal underworld, but the stakes are being raised higher and higher and he begins to understand he’s not the hero Gotham deserves. Instead, he’s the enforcer — the one willing to stay in the shadows and do what can’t be done by those in the white hats — or dusty gray as is the case in the increasingly corrupt Gotham law enforcement world.Harvey Dent Aaron Eckhart in The Dark Knight

There is a glimmer of sunshine for Gotham, in the form of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart, “Bill”) the new hotshot district attorney who’s willing to stand on the front line to bring down Gotham’s worst. Nolan brilliantly plays with the audience’s knowledge of Dent’s tragic future and he frequently uses shadows to obscure half of Eckhart’s face as if to tease the inevitable fate of Gotham’s “White Knight.”Harvey Dent endorsement Joker style

Grateful to have an incorruptible new ally, Batman and Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman, “Batman Begins”) join forces with Dent to finally rid Gotham of its criminal element once and for all.  The Dark Knight Harvey Dent Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman Commissioner Gordon and Batman Christian Bale

It’s a solid plan, but underlining trust issues threaten their alliance. Fearful that their control over Gotham is waning, the heads of the crime families — in a scene that feels straight from “The Godfather,” call in a specialist to handle their problem. But neither the crime lords, Dent, Gordon or even Batman could predict that The Joker’s (Heath Ledger) reign of terror threatens to turn all their plans into nightmare that in the end, they’ll never be able to wake up from and be the same ever again.

Every ounce of buzz Ledger is receiving for his chilling portrayal of Joker is well deserved.The Dark Knight Heath Ledger Joker

As opposed to Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the 1989 “Batman” film, Ledger doesn’t try to amuse the audience. He’s not a joke or a clown, but a decidedly disturbed individual — the likes of which make for a riveting, unique performance. You’re not likely to laugh at Ledger’s Joker, but you won’t be able to turn away from his hypnotic performance either.The Dark Knight Heath Ledger Joker holding a card

That’s not to slight the rest of the perfectly cast performers from Bale, Oldman, Eckhart, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. Maggie Gyllenhaal  effortlessly assumes the role of Bruce’s childhood friend Rachel Dawes (formerly played by Katie Holmes) and provides more depth to the character and more than just “the love interest.”

[2012 Flash Forward: I always feel Eckhart gets slighted in TDK praise, but his work in the film’s second act is phenomenal. The final scene with Gordon, Dent and Batman is flawless and Oldman, Dent and Bale deliver every line with the perfect amount of raw emotion and is my favorite scene of the movie.]Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight

Nolan, who penned the script with his brother Jonathan, doesn’t skimp on meaty scenes for the cast so all the film’s pivotal characters get significant screen time. The best part about having such a stellar cast is that in any given scene, there’s amazing interaction between the actors, who clearly have bought into Nolan’s vision of thinking of the Batman world as more than a cheap summer payoff and one worth giving their all. Some of the best bits are the exchanges between Bruce and Caine, back to reprise his role as Batman’s loyal confidante/butler/medic/conscious Alfred.The Dark Knight Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne and Michael Caine as Alfred

Nolan ups the ante on the action scenes as well with so many amazing stunts and fight scenes that it’s hard to fathom he packed so much into one movie. The most intense of which features a high speed chase through Gotham streets involving helicopters, motorcycles, armored cars and a rocket launcher which will leave you breathless.

“The Dark Knight” is the first film this year I can’t rave enough about. If you can only see one movie this year it has to be this extraordinary masterpiece that just so happens to be about a superhero.The Dark Knight Batman on batpod

2012 Film Flashback Rating: 10 out of 10. I wrote this review intentionally vague as I really didn’t want to ruin anything for readers. “The Dark Knight” is one of those movies just worth going in knowing as little as possible and being blown away. This is one of my absolute favorite movies and it’s one every movie fan should see at least twice (or 20 times like me).

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