From the opening heist sequence in The Dark Knight with a panoramic view of Gotham City and the introduction of Heath Ledger playing The Joker we realize we are in for a special treat from director Christopher Nolan. I had written, rather raved, in my review of Batman Begins that director Christopher Nolan had shown us how a superhero movie ought to be made with Batman Begins and now he continues more of the same with The Dark Knight and even betters it. You need to watch this movie not just because it’s a Batman movie, or that it’s filled with high wattage Hollywood superstars, and not even because it’s Heath Ledger’s last complete movie and he has given an Oscar winning performance and created one of the greatest screen villains with his interpretation/vision of The Joker, though this would warrant as a very good reason to watch The Dark Knight. It’s not good enough to even watch The Dark Knight because it’s a great movie and filled with the very best Hollywood has to offer in terms of special FX, gadgets, vehicles, and even performances by a great ensemble cast. You really need to watch The Dark Knight just to see how a superhero movie needs to be made. The only movies in recent times that even warrant this kind of a comment have been Iron Man and The X-Men series when Bryan Singer was running the franchise. Even then it could only be said franchises were created with the Iron Man and The X-Men series. Batman Begins did not just create a franchise. Director Christopher Nolan took it a step further that no one else has managed to accomplish by reinventing Batman himself. While everyone else portrayed Batman as the tormenter/punisher of all evil in Gotham City, a crime fighter is probably a better way to put it, Christopher Nolan pushed back and let us have a look at the torment Batman/Bruce Wayne went through and how he punished himself for the death of his parents by holding himself responsible for their deaths. Batman Begins was more an introspection of the persona and the character of Batman/Bruce Wayne more than anything else, and a superhero/gadget filled extravaganza next. This evolution continues with The Dark Knight.
In The Dark Knight the roles have reversed and this time around The Joker is on display and Christopher Nolan gives us a ringside view of this demented soul. The Joker reveals chillingly that he was made this way by his father who gave him his scars during his childhood simply because his father did not like the serious expression on The Joker’s face and questioned it “why so serious?” and answered with the scars to make a permanent smile on The Joker’s face. Later on in one particular scene The Joker tells Batman “we are alike” and “you complete me” and you realize that both are tormented from their childhood and carry the scars of their childhood, but both have ended on different sides in how they have dealt with their childhood trauma and scars. The Joker has turned evil and does evil just because of the power it wields him, in one particular scene he steals millions and then burns the entire pile, his reasoning because he can do it or better still he is plain crazy, while the other tormented child has grown up to be Batman who turns to doing the right thing and serving humanity by doing good. It goes deeper than this with The Joker believing that even the best, the most righteous and honorable person can turn to evil, but on the opposite side Batman believing that even the most evil person has good in him and can come up with good even in the most trying situations. This is brought to the fore in the climax with The Joker placing explosives on two boats, one carrying Gotham city’s most hardened criminals and the other carrying honest and righteous citizens of Gotham city. Each boat is given the detonator to blow up the other boat and this battle between the inhabitants of the boats is drawn out as a battle between The Joker and Batman and their personal beliefs in humanity. Into this battle between Batman and The Joker is thrown in Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent and how he turns from Gotham City’s knight in shining armor the District Attorney to Two Face because of The Joker’s machinations forms an important crux of The Dark Knight. There are other stellar cast members to complement this amazing story in the form of Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman.
Coming to the story, with Batman gunning for the mob in Gotham City all the criminals are facing the heat and have no option but to get Batman out of the way. To aid and abet the mob in their endeavor comes along The Joker who guns for Batman by targeting important citizens of Gotham City with the condition that Batman should unmask himself to protect the citizens of Gotham City from further attacks. This quickly turns the entire city against Batman who is now hated and termed a vigilante for his attacks against the mob. This forces Batman’s hand and he decides to turn himself in to protect the citizens of Gotham City, but Aaron Eckhart comes to his rescue and turns himself in stating that he is Batman. Now with The Joker and the entire mob after Aaron Eckhart, it’s up to Batman to protect him, along with The Joker’s other targets who are Gary Oldman and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Gary Oldman fakes his own death and escapes The Joker, but Maggie Gyllenhaal gets killed and Aaron Eckhart gets burnt and loses one side of his face thereby becoming Two Face and goes on a rampage taking revenge against the killers of his girlfriend Maggie Gyllenhaal even targeting corrupt cops in the system. Batman now has to content with Two Face too apart from The Joker and this all leads up to an exhilarating climax.
The movie ends with Batman still hated and termed a vigilante by Gotham City, hence The Dark Knight, and other options too are left open with Morgan Freeman putting in his papers, The Joker still alive, but taken in by the cops, and Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhart getting killed. The Dark Knight offers a sumptuous feast from the very first frame to the very last frame and excels in all departments of filmmaking. Christopher Nolan has created a movie for the physical senses and also for the thinker in you with The Dark Knight not only satisfying in terms of the summer blockbuster, but also intellectually stimulating and satisfying you in the thinking department too. Special mention must be made of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Heath Ledger has created one of the greatest onscreen villains of all time in his interpretation of The Joker and truly deserves accolades and an Oscar (going by the buzz) for his truly remarkable performance. Aaron Eckhart too shines and Christian Bale is his usual excellent self ably supported by Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman. The only weak link is Maggie Gyllenhaal who fails to make an impression. The Dark Knight is exceptional filmmaking at its very peak and delivers on all counts, be it action extravaganza, a superhero fun fest, great performances, a movie that stimulates the intellect in you, or pure adrenaline pumping popcorn fun. This is a must watch movie if there ever was one and not to be missed at any cost whatsoever so go ahead and have a blast.