A classic stands tall…
Hard to believe, but Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight came out 10 years ago – July 18, 2008.
The funny thing is that I’ve barely written about it, mostly because 13th Dimension didn’t launch until more than five years later.
I recently watched all three Nolan Bat-films and I’ll be putting together columns on the other two soon enough. But I’m starting with The Dark Knight because it’s got that nice round anniversary number attached to it.
There’s quite a bit to say, so let’s get started. Here are 13 QUICK THOUGHTS: REVISITING THE DARK KNIGHT — 10 YEARS LATER:
1. The Dark Knight holds up beautifully and it remains the best superhero drama ever put to film. It’s beautifully shot, with terrific performances, a hypnotic score and layers that only become evident upon repeated viewings.
2. By the way, I consider Superman: The Movie to be the best overall superhero film but I wouldn’t categorize it as a drama. Hence the distinction.
3. Perhaps the most underrated aspect of the movie – and Batman Begins as well – is that there’s little CGI compared to, say, the average Marvel flick. The reliance on real sets, locations and – most importantly – practical effects gives the film a true-to-life You Are There immediacy that has rarely been equaled in these kinds of movies.
4. Christian Bale gets overlooked, particularly when compared to Heath Ledger, but he turns in a strong performance in his own right. His Bruce Wayne is as wounded and sorrowful as his Batman is grim and determined.
5. I’m not sure I can say anything about Ledger that hasn’t been said before. His Joker is mesmerizing – the distillation of anarchic menace. I’m so, so glad that Nolan stuck to the notion that the Joker is a force of nature and avoided the pitfall of giving him an origin story and explaining his purpose. The Joker does what he does and that’s the way it should be.
7. I would have given anything to see a TV version of Gotham Central with Gary Oldman starring as Gordon. (Gotham Central is what Gotham should have been.)
8. Best action scene? This one:
9. I’ve seen the movie dozens of times but it never hit me until I watched it again the other day just how artfully Nolan shows Harvey’s transformation into Two-Face.
When Batman visits him in the hospital, half of his face is covered, almost like a cocoon. Batman leaves behind Harvey’s two-headed coin that he found in the wreckage where Rachel was killed. Harvey awakens alone, grabs the coin and turns it over, realizing that the damage means that Rachel must be dead – and tears off his bandages.
When Gordon arrives, Harvey is halfway there, pardon the pun. He’s refusing treatment and ruminating on his revenge. But it takes the Joker’s “little push” to finally send Harvey completely over the edge.
It’s such a well-crafted sequence that you take it for granted until you really follow the thread.
Oh, and Aaron Eckhart made a great Harvey Dent.
10. I still want a Joker-as-Matilda-the-Nurse action figure.
12. Nolan gives the supporting cast lots to do, which only adds to the texture and depth of the storytelling. Even beyond those I’ve mentioned, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman get many important moments.
13. Here’s a little secret: I didn’t like The Dark Knight the first time I saw it, much in the same way I didn’t quite grasp the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street the first time I heard it. In both cases, I was compelled to go back again. And then again. And again.
Next thing I knew, I recognized I was in the presence of greatness.