Throughout the history of cinema, there have not been many sequels that have been able to surpass the inventiveness and creativity of the original film. To be a better film, the sequel must take all that has made the first film a great one and enhance the experience even more. That is a tough task that a lot of sequels failed to live up to. The Dark Knight is not one of them. It is a film that has done what very few sequels have. It has surpassed its predecessor, Batman Begins, a great film as well, and become something so much more. The Dark Knight is not just a film based on a comic-book character. It is a film that is as real as any superhero film can be. A film with many strong messages that broke ground on how the real world and that of superheroes can merge into one. A fantastic feat.
Directed by the assured and confident hands of Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight is the second film in Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy. It follows Batman (Christian Bale) a couple of years after the events that took place in Batman Begins as he faces a new and unpredictable menace, The Joker (Heath Ledger). The film is an superhero action-drama and is written by Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan.
The phenomenal acting in The Dark Knight deserves to be the first element worth of praise. Christian Bale continues delivering what I believe to be an iconic Batman/Bruce Wayne performance. In this picture, Batman is faced with unimaginable challenges that force him to think on his feet. Luckily, with the help of his gadgets, he does not have to fight an unequal battle. Bale gives us a Batman who is committed to the cause of justice in Gotham City, without violence. He is stronger here than in Batman Begins but that could be because of the exceptional supporting cast as well.
Heath Ledger, playing the role of the Joker, is stunning, shocking and mesmerizing. He has delivered a performance for the ages that has become one of cinema's most iconic characters portrayed on film. Scenes like the one where the Joker performs a “magic trick” or supervises a bank heist clearly show the horrifying and psychotic mind of the character. Ledger does so much in this role that he chews every scene he is in. It is unfortunate that Heath Ledger's untimely passing robbed us from all the great roles he could have played after this exuberant performance. It is perhaps some consolation that we have this tremendous role to remember him by.
With the role of Harvey Dent, Aaron Eckhart delivers an excellent performance that is one of the best in his career. Harvey Dent is Gotham's new “White Knight” who has made it his mission to rid the city of the thugs and criminals that bring it down. He is joined by Commissioner Gordon, a first-class performance from Gary Oldman, and both combine forces with Batman to face the massive threat of the Joker. Eckhart has done the character justice in my opinion, even if more screen time would have been better.
The remaining cast also deserve commendation. Michael Caine as Alfred is perfect as usual. Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox is the brainy mentor who devises amazing gadgets and vehicles for Bruce Wayne. Maggie Gyllenhaal replaces Katie Holmes as Rachel, Bruce Wayne's lifelong friend. She is better in the role and is more convincing. However, it still seems incomplete and is a weakness of this film.
Another crucial factor that contributes to the brilliance of The Dark Knight is Christopher Nolan's directing. His decision to give the Joker such a horrific and frightening look as well as allowing Ledger to deliver such a memorable performance is spot on.
Not only that, he supervises and executes amazing shots in the film. Those that come to mind are the ones during the bank heist scene as well as the street confrontation between Batman and the Joker. They are made even better by the fact that Nolan filmed them in IMAX.
Even though the film approaches three hours, one never feels bored. The pacing by Christopher Nolan is excellent and done logically. The dramatic scenes are sandwiched between awe-inspiring action sequences in a very natural way. This is how you do a three-hour film, in my opinion.
As with Batman Begins, Hans Zimmer returned to score the film along with James Newton Howard and did a magnificent job. Their score for the Joker, in particular, is disturbing and haunting, just like the character. It is interesting to note that the composition was done with only two notes. The idea Zimmer and Howard had was a theme showcasing two notes colliding and clashing together, just like Batman and the Joker do in the film. Brilliant.
There will not come a day when I will get tired of watching The Dark Knight. It is a film that I am ready to watch again and again at any moment. It is such a well done film. Everything in it is exceptional. From the exquisite directing to the marvelous acting, from the unforgettable music to the breathtaking cinematography, everything in the film is of the highest quality. It is definitely a great film.