The Big Picture – ‘The Dark Knight’


Graphic created in Canva by Dominique Williams and Gavin S. Hudson. Movie posters courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Gavin Hudson

Disclaimer: Spoilers for the film are included in this review. 

While I no longer see “The Dark Knight” as the best Batman film, it’s still undeniably a classic. 

Released in 2008 to a gargantuan amount of praise, the movie set the gold standard for comic book films. 

Writer/director Christopher Nolan took a “grounded”” approach to this trilogy and while that lends poorly to many of Batman’s villains, namely Bane in the third film, it works perfectly with Joker and Two-Face in this film. 

The best thing in this film by far is Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker; may he rest in peace.

Undoubtedly the best performance in any comic book film ever, Ledger’s dry humor mixed with an assortment of iconic mannerisms contribute to an absolute masterclass in method acting. 

While method acting usually comes across as unnecessary and pretentious, like when Jared Leto mailed a dead rat to Margot Robbie while shooting “Suicide Squad,” the chaotic nature of certain sequences feel genuine as a result.

When Batman interrogates the Joker to find Rachel, those punches to Joker’s jaw are real and it makes the scene better as a result. 

Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two-Face is such an underrated part of the film.

Two-Face is a tough character to balance, as evidenced by Tommy Lee Jones overly campy portrayal of the wholly divided moral miscreant, but Eckhart excels at representing the corrupted symbol of justice. 

I’ve seen this movie four times this year alone, yet on my most recent viewing, I picked up on potentially my favorite detail in the film.

During the fundraiser for Harvey, Bruce Wayne takes to the balcony for solace and tosses his champagne over the edge to remain vigilant.

When the Joker crashes the party, he grabs champagne off of a tray and immediately tosses it for the exact same reason as Bruce. 

The Joker, played by Heath Ledger, hangs out of the back of a cop car as he escapes Gotham’s Police Department. In the midst of his plan being executed to perfection, he takes a moment to revel in the chaos of it all. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures via IMDB)

That parallel alone captures their dynamic perfectly. They’re two sides of the same coin — near-unstoppable forces that will do everything in their power to accomplish their goals.

While Christian Bale is a perfect Bruce Wayne, the deep, gravelly voice he uses as Batman has gotten harder to bear.

Constantly sounding strained and out of breath doesn’t help depict a character that’s supposed to stand as a symbol of fear for Gotham’s vast criminal network.  

While the cinematography is great in most sequences, the constantly changing aspect ratio can become quite jarring.

The film opens to this enthralling full screen-shot of Joker’s crew robbing a bank but once the sequence ends, these constraining black bars invade the screen simply because the camera being used changed. 

The opening sequence introduces us to the clown prince of crime as he prepares to hit Gotham’s criminal underbelly where it hurts the most: their wallets. Armed with a clown mask, the Joker, played by Heath Ledger, is the lone man standing from the heist’s crew. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures via IMDB)

On multiple rewatches, this becomes visually irritating because directors like Micheal Bay have this problem and I hold Nolan to a much higher standard. That inconsistency has continuously hurt my opinion of the film over the years and it’s something I can’t ignore anymore. 

Live-action Batman media in recent years has continuously struggled with the character’s moral code and while the film makes this a consistent point of contention between him and his adversaries, Batman pretty much kills Two-Face at the end. 

A small extension of the sequence showing Batman trying to save Two-Face as he’s hanging from the edge would render this issue void for me, but he doesn’t even try to keep him alive.

With Joker’s entire plan being to make Batman break his one rule, that sequence feels out of character and unearned. 

Pondering his failure and questioning his moral code, Batman, played by Christian Bale, stands above the wreckage his lifelong friend is buried under. Defeated, angry and lost, Bruce is pushed to his limit. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures via IMDB)

Even with all of these problems, the film is still fantastic because of its performances, quotables and character dynamics.

Even without seeing through pure nostalgia, “The Dark Knight” will always be a lighting-in-a-bottle comic book movie. “The Dark Knight” is a solid 9/10, one of the best ever made, but its legacy is not untouchable.