It’s been 10 years since Christopher Nolan’s comic book masterpiece. His finest work to date and still arguably the greatest comic book movie ever made.
Christopher Nolan – “You’ve changed things. Forever.”
Funny world we live in, can’t believe its been 10 years since I waited outside a packed theatre. The lineup was legitimately wrapped around the entire building. The hype was real, it was like nothing I had ever seen at this point in my life, and well Christopher Nolan and company didn’t disappoint. I saw The Dark Knight 9 times in the theatre, I couldn’t get enough of this experience. I was like LeBron James when he went to Miami – “Not one, not two, not three, not four.” It has everything you want in a movie, and I don’t mean just a comic book movie, this is such an enjoyable movie experience, it simply meets all your needs. One of the biggest takeaways all these years later, is that people forget that this just isn’t a comic book movie. It’s so much more. This movie simply changed the game, it changed everything. It took the world by notice, that comic book movies should be and can be taken seriously. Everyone saw this movie, even your Mom. People couldn’t stop talking about it, everyone wanted to be the Joker, everyone had their own Batman voice. Ever since this movie, other film makers have been trying to replicate this formula, without that much success (Power Rangers, Fantastic Four). Since the turn of the century this sticks out as one of the very best films we have set our eyes on, and remember you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
Where does one even begin with this movie? The incredible opening scene, the best of any comic book movie to date. The way they introduce the Joker at the beginning of this film is so brilliant, and unique. Watching the bank heist in IMAX was such a treat. The whole premise of this bank job taking place with the Joker, yet the rest of the crew has no idea he’s sitting right in front of them, all while they are picking each other off one by one. I could rewatch this scene again and again and it would never get old. I think from the opening moments you knew that this would be something truly special. The way it was shot, the dialogue, everything about that opening scene was so different and transformative. It’s not like this is the only rewatchable scene in the movie, jesus the whole thing is rewatchable. Christopher Nolan was showing us moments that I will just never forget. The “sky-hook” scene and the 18-wheeler being flipped over are things that just blew me and the audience away. Speaking of the 18-wheeler, that entire sequence is one of my favourite in all of cinema. I remember seeing the trailers and knowing that the Batpod was going to make an appearance in the movie, and I kept waiting and waiting for it to show up, and when it finally does, and how they introduce it. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so hard during a movie. Gotta be one of the most “Batman” moments ever. Then the showdown between Batman and the Joker on the street – you know the one, HIT ME!!! Which ends with the reveal that Commissioner Gordon isn’t dead after all. Just next level movie making stuff. Dark, gritty, grounded are three words that surrounded this movie, it’s what Nolan built this franchise on. He took a character and moulded him the way he saw fit, and he didn’t rely on heavy CGI, insane action sequences to do so. When you think back to The Dark Knight, there isn’t much action to be had, in fact, for a summer blockbuster that just so happens to be a comic book movie, there is very little. His take on the Caped Crusader was so radical, that at first people didn’t know how to react. Since this trilogy, we have gotten another depiction of this character, which is more comic book like than Nolan’s approach. In Batman v. Superman and Justice League we see Batman fighting aliens from other worlds and teaming up with the worlds strongest heroes, that was not the reality in which Nolan’s universe took place. At the end of the day, I can never decide which version I like best. Scorn by critics alike, Ben Affleck’s Batman or “Batfleck” is incredible. People tend to forget that comic book characters are malleable. They can be shaped and formed however someone sees fit. Dark and gritty or fun and light. They can be part of a shared universe or not at all. These aren’t the things that make these movies special, it’s the vision, and having an idea about these characters that will, in the end, make them memorable. I say this because what followed Nolan’s Batman franchise was Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel movie, where you could tell from the trailers that it had a definite Nolan influence. Man of Steel turned out to be the greatest Superman movie ever made, and one of the best comic book movies made to date. People were thrown off about his interpretation of this beloved hero, but it was his take, just like Nolan’s take on Batman. The new Superman is just so different from Richard Donner’s 70’s hero, that people believed it was totally wrong. They can’t see that these characters can be whatever we want them to be, and if you can’t see where the artist is coming from, doesn’t mean the artist is wrong.
It all started with the legendary Batman Begins, at the end of the movie where they tease the Clown Prince of Crime. Batman tells Commissioner Gordon that “he’ll look into it,” and that was our first mention of the Joker. When that happened fans everywhere were on pins and needles to find out who would be playing Batman’s greatest foe. So when Heath Ledger was pinned as the Joker, the world didn’t really know what to think. He was a heartthrob, known for Brokeback Mountain and 10 Things I Hate About You. People were on the fence about the whole thing, they wanted this to be right, and some people didn’t think it was a great fit. Well we all know how that turned out, not only did Heath give us the greatest comic book performance we have ever seen, he even won an Oscar for his role. We all know the tragedy that comes with this movie, sadly Heath died shortly before the films premiere.
Some men just want to watch the world burn. Words can’t really describe how I feel about the Heath situation, for so many reasons. His performance is hauntingly beautiful, where it’s almost put a curse on this character because I just don’t see anyone ever topping it. There will be other interpretations no doubt, there’s already been one, but something about his is just magical. Here’s the other thing, if Heath doesn’t die, I don’t really know what happens over at WB. I know Nolan always had his vision for his Batman trilogy, but if he’s alive, there’s no way he’s not part of the final installment of the franchise. Maybe it keeps going. There’s no way we don’t get to see him in this iconic role again. It’s saddens me to say that, because it sounds selfish, but the way we leave his character, just hanging and laughing hysterically because he believes he has beaten the Batman. I just have always wanted more from this Joker, I want to know what happens to him, why he’s never mentioned again. I know these are all unanswerable questions, it’s just every time I watch The Dark Knight, this is always something that crosses my mind. One of films biggest “what-ifs” because I personally think the DCEU might not be where it is today if he were still alive. There was just to much story to flesh out with his character. I always dreamed of WB releasing never before footage or a scene of the Joker, maybe we will get something this week, it’s a pipe dream, but a man can dream.
The movie flows pretty flawlessly, I’ll admit though, the ending does get a little cloudy and messy. I just don’t believe everything that happens, from the ferry scene and the cell phone stuff. Something just seems off about that bit of the movie, but that is a serious nit-pick. Everyone is sitting atop apex mountain. Nolan, Bale, Caine, Eckhart, Ledger, everyone is firing on all cylinders. Comic book movies just aren’t written like this, the screenplay is just brilliant. Comic book movies didn’t tackle things like politics and and philosophical discussion that comes with being a hero and a villain. The interrogation scene, is one of the best Batman/Joker confrontations just not in the movies, but in all of history as well. Joker knows that Batman has one rule, and the way he manipulates and deceives Batman is incredible.
Harvey, Harvey, Harvey Dent. I’m so bittersweet about how they handled this amazing villain. The way he is introduced. I remember my first viewing and when Batman walks into his warehouse, and realizing that Rachel is about to die, it really made you think. It’s such a powerful moment, and happens with the voice over of Rachel telling Bruce that she is going to marry Harvey Dent. Within Nolan’s trilogy it’s by far the most vulnerable we see Bruce Wayne, he is crushed that she is gone, because he believes she was going to wait for him. Two-Face is one of many iconic Batman rogues, and I know when they were making this film they didn’t know what was going to happen to Heath, but again it’s a real shame that they killed off Two-Face at the end, because I think there was so much more to explore with him. They could have adapted The Long Halloween or another great Two-Face story.
What more can I say about this masterpiece of cinema. From Hans Zimmer epic score, to the cinematography, the acting, and everything in-between. It not only helped shape the landscape for movies but how the audience and Academy perceive them as well . The backlash that followed when The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated for best picture, ultimately led to the Academy expanding the best picture nominee category. It’s hard to imagine another comic book movie taking up the mantle of greatest of all time. Because this is more than just a comic book movie, it feels so real. There aren’t any super powers or even super heroes involved. That’s why it’s so special, Nolan was able to tap into something unique and make this so grounded, that it was just about a man in a mask and terrorist clown. It’s everything around that, that makes this a truly special piece of film. The Dark Knight didn’t just set the standard for comic book movies today, but it set a standard for movie making itself. It will never grow old and will be a timeless classic. It’s easy to forget why this movie is so special, because so many comic book movies have been made since. But for me, this is always looked at as a crime thriller-drama, that just so happens to have a man in a batsuit chasing a man dressed up like a clown throughout a city. These two are truly destined to do this forever.