Rating: 4 of 5
This will probably be the least eloquent review of mine. Because I sort of don’t know what to say. It’s darker than what you expect, whatever you expect. I mean, yeah, if you’ve seen Memento or The Prestige you know there’s not many places that Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale won’t go. So, then at the very least you’re expecting to be surprised and you should be.
Bruce Wayne is a more interesting character than Batman, perhaps because Christian Bale is so much fun to watch. Bale said something interesting, that Batman struggles with the complications of having power rather than aspiring to power. Bale is dynamic and multilayered which suits the duel role of the character very well. But he also has depth, a solidity that manifests as gravitas. He’s a great actor and this is a very good role for him.
Then you put him in a scene with someone of Heath Ledger’s caliber and it’s as good as you imagine it would be. Heath just disappears into this character. It helps that he’s under considerable makeup but still, there’s no trace of him there.
All the other performances are good as well. Aaron Eckhart and Gary Oldman and Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, they’re all fantastic supporting characters. They have a role to play in this story and they all play it very well.
The film is long, but it makes sense. They make the characters so real that you can’t dismiss them in an hour and a half with 2 big battles and the good guy wins. There’s too much realism in the story and in the characters for that. The initiating plot thread is a little weak but it just needs to open the gates and it does that. By the end you’ve forgotten about it, so it doesn’t matter how good it was. The film is driven more by the characters than the plot, which is remarkable for an action/comic book film.
And the action is good. Action is sometimes better when it’s just real enough to believe and just outlandish enough to be something startling that you’ve never actually seen before. There’s two or three of those moments and the rest is strong and clear which gives the film some of its energy.
I think the best thing about it is that it’s insightful, which most comic book movies aren’t. Christopher Nolan wants us to experience a sophisticated and realistic film but the center piece is a man who dresses up like a bat fighting a guy in clown makeup who wants to burn the world down. If he were anyone else he’d try harder to distract you from that – wave the left hand around so you’re not paying as much attention to what the right hand is doing. But he doesn’t. He lets his characters talk about what’s going on at a level that’s deeper than the costumes. It isn’t about what these guys wear, it’s about who they are. Why they fight and how they fight if not defines at least declares who they are. And if the characters acknowledge that as true, then they have to decide who they’re going to be.
Either you die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. – Harvey Dent
ETA: From Wayne’s playful debates with faithful butler Alfred (Michael Caine) about the public perception of Batman to the Joker’s borderline-poetic musings on his own bottomless sadism, the characters almost seem to be carrying on a debate about the complicated realities of good vs. evil, and the heavy burden shouldered by those fighting for good. One of the few action filmmakers who’s capable of satisfying audiences beyond the fanboy set, Nolan honors his serious themes to the end; he bravely closes the story with both Gotham City and the narrative in tatters, making this the rare sequel that genuinely deserves another.
Though not as obsessively detailed as “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” shares with that film a robust physicality and a commitment to taking violence seriously; a brief shot of bruises and scrapes on Bale’s torso conveys as much impact as any of the film’s brutal confrontations. Bale himself is less central figure than ensemble player, but the commandingly charismatic thesp continues to put his definitive stamp on the role, and also has devilish fun playing up Wayne’s playboy persona.
from Variety’s review.
Also, the music is fantastic. The writing and directing are all top notch. It’s a complicated film worth complex and conflicted characters. It asks complicated questions of its characters and of its audience. I like that about it; I’m just not sure I like the answers that it gives.