Movie Review: The Dark Knight

Hey everyone it’s Kernook here, coming at you with a review of the Christopher Nolan movie The Dark Knight. Over all this 2008 film is a powerhouse in several different ways. In my opinion, it isn’t your typical “super hero” movie, and in fact tends to be far from it.

Beyond bombastic, high octane moments, we get a real struggle of ideology here. This curiously haunting film is best enjoyed when you’re willing to think about its core themes. It takes its origins all the way to the next level, and sometimes in more ways than one.

The Dark Knight is a movie worth thinking about as the credits roll.

One day, I may do a strict and firm analysis of this masterclass movie. The narrative alone is almost perfect to do strictly that, but sadly, today isn’t that day. This is just a simple review.

If you can’t tell by now, yes I do happen to like it. The film is mired in tragedy though. I’m alright with that. When a film hits so hard without being too complex there’s just a lot to like about it.

About the only thing I don’t like about it, and mind you this is just a minor pet peeve, is that some of the choices when it comes to lighting really can make Batman look kind of stupid. That’s not the fault of the actor, and really I can’t even blame the costume.

It literally is the lighting and shot composition, and nothing else, but I do feel the need to point that out. Depending on the lighting during a few very serious scenes, it can be hard to take those scenes seriously because Batman’s costume doesn’t mesh well with that particular shot composition, and it ends up making him look a little goofy… the image below is a great example.

One of the key scenes that poses a problem is the interrogation scene. There’s just a moment or two that can really snap you out of the immersive experience because the light overhead becomes a distraction instead of “mood setter”. Instead of helping to make Batman look intimidating, he looks like… well… stupid.

Aside from tiny nit-picks of that nature, where vast improvements could have been made with very little effort (say the light flickers whenever he bashes on the table, for example) this movie really is something to praise.

The acting performances, direction, writing, and wider universe has a nice beefy story to tell. It isn’t convoluted, either. This film, might be what some would call a “comic-book movie”, but it surely doesn’t feel like one.

It goes deeper, and becomes far more emotionally complex than most.

The Dark Knight is not a bog-standard tale of good against evil. It isn’t just a mindless action flick, either. Batman is the “good guy”, yeah sure he is. The Joker is “bad guy”, yeah once again, sure he is.

That’s about where the similarities stop. The film enjoys twisting inward on a grittier “soul-searching” kind of quest. The Joker is more than a villain here. He’s still a madman, but the film digs into that, and studies the reasons why.

Thematically, the movie centers around two distinct dynamics; moral ethos and the fragility of the mind itself.  Heath Ledger, plays the Joker and he does a phenomenal job. Honestly, it’s one of the last films he played a key role in.

As a quick moment of reflection, on January 22 of 2008, Heath Ledger passed away. Therefore, in my mind, The Dark Knight is probably one of the most iconic roles he ever played… you might be asking yourself why?

Well, his passing heavily impacted the promotion of the movie. I’m sure I’m not the only one who went to see the film at the time, just to see him in an acting role one last time… and really, movies like these aren’t ones I typically go and see on the big screen. I was glad I did, though.

On a slightly different note, Christian Bale plays the role of Batman. He’s alright, I’ve got no complaints. He lands a solid on screen performance and plays his role well. Would I say he knocks it out of the park? Not entirely, but he does just fine for what the story needs him to do.

That’s honestly the key to what makes this movie so amazing. It would have been all too easy to give Batman more power and leeway, because he is the “hero”. Christian Bale toned that sort of iconic ideology down in very distinct ways, adding a layer of complexity. This does two things.

First it makes our beloved Joker a much larger threat over all. Secondly, it makes Batman more compelling by pure default. When I say I’d like to do a strict and firm analysis of this movie one day, that’s because Batman and Joker have such an interesting and unique power struggle in this movie. Our titular hero doesn’t take too much of the limelight, only making a spectacle of himself when he absolutely needs to.

That’s exactly what Batman should do, and it’s exactly what he does in this movie.

Special effects, bombastic moments, super hero and villain aside, this is a story about humanity. Both dramatic and heart-felt, there’s just an emotional journey here. The story truly feels sophisticated, or at the very least, it feels earnest.

It doesn’t get too far up it’s own ass, unless of course that particular moment is meant to be viewed that way.

We’ve got the Joker here, for goodness sake, could we really expect otherwise? He’s nothing if not acerbic on a good day, never mind when he starts concocting the worst of his evil plots.

I do like that beneath all of the emotional grit, that there is a satirical bent to some of the scenes. It isn’t flashy, or “in your face”. It just happens to be there. You either take it, or you leave it…

You know, a lot of the film feels that way. Monotone moments and daily grinds clash against ciaos and unsound minds. That juxtaposition is what forces you as a viewer to pay attention to the tiny details. The movie doesn’t seem to care if we like what we see, and in this case I truly respect that kind of flippant nature.

The Dark Knight has a simple plot resting over the far more emotional complications. The Joker is attempting to humiliate Batman and expose his secret identity. That’s it… really… it is that simple. The joker strives to make a point, and Batman has to deal with it.

That’s why I’m not going to focus on the plot here, the plot isn’t the point. The characters are the point, the world building is the point, the players and pieces involved on the strategic chess board… that’s the point. The plot is just the simple overlay over the top of all that, tying these details together.

Any die-hard Batman fan can tell you, that’s always the logic used between Batman and Joker in any iteration of the series. Here that ethos is displayed in one line, both in the trailer, and in the movie. It is so keenly displayed as a core ethos of the film that it deserves mention here.

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Over all the film is good, and it’s worth a watch. I’ve given it a lot of praise, but I should offer one last tiny thing I noticed. As enamored as I was the first time I saw it in theaters, I hadn’t picked up the movie to watch a second time until writing this review.

I have no idea why I didn’t feel the need to see it again, only that I felt satisfied seeing it the first time. I can completely recall a firm and deep contentment when I exited out of that theater in 2008.

With that in mind, I have to admit, I wasn’t quite as enamored with the film a second time around. It felt lesser, in a way, on a second viewing. I almost as though it wasn’t meant to be watched a second time. I believe that’s just a personal stance I take mind you.

I think the movie loses a fair bit of impact on a second viewing in a way others just wouldn’t. I don’t really want to watch it a third time either. That’s okay though. I think I got everything from the experience that I wanted the first time.

This second viewing all these years later didn’t have to matter so much. I wouldn’t call it a collector’s movie. It doesn’t belong on my shelf to watch over-and-over again. Frankly, I don’t want it to, and I certainly don’t need to unless I’m going to analyze it.

My point is, give it a watch on a streaming service before you just go out and buy it. One viewing may be enough for you, just like it was enough for me.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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