There is no limit to the praise that can be given to The Dark Knight Trilogy. Out of the three, it goes without saying that The Dark Knight is the best film. In honor of the film’s 10th anniversary, I decided to revisit Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece to see if I felt any differently about the film after time has passed since my last viewing, possibly come up with anything new. I learned one thing: I had forgotten how excellent this movie is.
Before digging in to the perfection, I have to admit that I’ve never been a big DC fan growing up and that remains now; I’ve always been more on the side of Marvel. But I won’t deny that Batman is one of my favorite heroes. He’s one of the few grounded heroes in comic book history, using his wit and intelligence along with his physical attributes and gadgets to fight crime. I’ve watched the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher films growing up and then the Caped Crusader went away. Despite the hype, I was concerned about Batman Begins. Thankfully, I was pleasantly proven wrong. When I saw the first full trailer for The Dark Knight, I knew I had to see this in theaters. While I didn’t get to a midnight showing like other hardcore Batman fans, I saw this movie on opening weekend and it became one of my favorite movies of all time.
Despite my personal feelings, I believe that it’s fair to say that The Dark Knight is the best comic book movie ever. However, it’s more than a superhero film. At its core, this a beautifully crafted, excellent crime drama film with a caped vigilante in it. I’m sure there are other superhero movies that match this film when focusing on a superhero, or superheroes, but in terms of impact and scope of the genre, Christopher Nolan’s film has been unmatched in the past decade. With a hero like Batman, it would be hard to find a superhero to center a grounded story similar to this classic.
From the chilling bank robbery opening in the first five minutes, it feels like a scene from Michael Mann was dropped right into Gotham City. It’s the start that no one expects from a movie like this. In the decade since this movie’s release, gritty remakes, reboots, and origin stories have become the norm. This is largely thanks to The Dark Knight. The first handful of minutes, right up until the Joker introduces himself via an unmasking in one of the best villain and character introductions in cinema history, one has to think, “This is a superhero movie? Batman is in this?” Why, yes he is.
Revisiting this movie, I found out that I never really appreciated the stacked ensemble cast. I was more focused on Batman and the Joker at the time. Heath Ledger’s performance draws the lion’s share of praise and dominates every scene that he is in. He’s always the first topic of discussion among fans who talk about the film. From top to bottom, this cast is brilliant. We have Michael Caine as Alfred, more than a butler but the wise father figure to Bruce Wayne and Gary Oldman as Commissioner Jim Gordon, a man who desperately sticks to his ethics among the corruption mounting around him. Even the minor roles such as Eric Roberts as Maroni and Michael Jai White as Gamble are excellently casted. Each actor takes their role in the movie seriously. Even Anthony Michael Hall got a spot.
A performance that is easily overlooked is Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent. In the beginning, he is “the white knight of Gotham”, sticking to the rules as a district attorney. Dent was portrayed as a real American hero quality but, as the movie progresses, Dent becomes a psychotic vengeful killer and succumbs to the corruption as it takes his love, Rachel, along with disfiguring half of his face. Eckhart does the hero and villain justice in this role, making the transition look seamless. From one turn to look at the damaged part of his face, it was like ripping off the band-aid and letting the pain free. His performance is possibly the most underrated of the movie.
There’s no need to drone on about Heath Ledger’s posthumously Oscar winning performance as the Clown Prince of Crime. Men much smarter than me have broken down that performance every time. This performance will always be remembered for its bravery, brilliance, and best displays of pure acting ever. Credit also doesn’t just go to Ledger, it also goes to Christopher and Jonathan Nolan for writing the character this way. That golden statue was earned by Ledger, no disputing that at all.
If you want to knock something, it’s the gravelly Batman voice. While Christian Bale is one of the best actors working today and wore the suit of both Bruce Wayne and Batman both well. The Batman voice has not aged well, but it’s done enough to be ridiculous and rightfully mocked voice. One main difference between this film and the previous Batman movies are the lack of typical gadgets. The gadgets are here, thanks to Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, but they aren’t Batman’s usual weapons. There is no need to remind us about his dead parents, the events of the first film, and no Wayne Manor. Nolan trusts the audience to piece together what happened Batman Begins and not spoon-feeding the information to them.
One final note about the lasting legacy of The Dark Knight: This movie is a gift but also a curse for the future of DC movies. Since this film, Warner Bros has been trying to recapture the magic that Nolan produced here. DC became a priority for Warner Bros., but The Dark Knight also came out the same year as the first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man. From there, Warner Bros has tried to create an interconnected universe that has largely failed; Christopher Nolan was even brought back in to try and give a similar, gritty and grey treatment to DC Comics’ poster child, Superman, in Man of Steel. This is a movie that can be often imitated, but never duplicated.