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Monday, January 04, 2016

The Dark Knight: One of the Greatest Films of All Time?

   



Recently, I watched the 2008 Batman film 'The Dark Knight', and rewatched seeing as I enjoyed it so much! But, the question is, is it one of the greatest films ever made? Well, there is certainly a strong case for it to be. This 2h32m, $185m budget movie is the jewel of the modern franchise. It has the highest ratings on IMDB, and comes 4th on the IMDB's own top 250 films of all time as voted for by its users; narrowly beaten by only the Shawshank Redemption and The Godfather I and II. So, The Dark Knight; is it truly a beater of such giants as Citizen Kane, Casablanca, the Star Wars franchise and such other gems?

   The Dark Knight is the second film in the modernised Batman franchise, following 'Batman Begins'. In these films we see a much darker Batman, a much more psychological thriller and generally a much more 'grown-up' ride; finally severing the wonderful, yet scarring ties to the Batman series with Adam West. While 'The Dark Knight Rises' followed, it didn't quite live up to its brother's calibre. But what makes this cracker of a film the pick of the bunch?

The Joker (Heath Ledger) applauding Com. Gordon's appointment
Alfred (Michael Caine) talking the Bruce Wayne about the Joker
   Well, let's start with the plot. This film tied every single brilliant thing about Batman into one glorious masterpiece- Gotham City, Batman's armoury and of course- The Joker. And I for one will go as far to say that the Joker makes this film. The classic villain is played by Heath Ledger- very close to his untimely death from a drug overdose. But Heath can be very proud looking down on his final performance as it is absolutely stunning. While the Joker has always been portrayed as a twisted character, Ledger brings out the absolute most insane and terrifying angle on the classic supervillain- making him scary to most and at least a little unnerving. In this film, the Joker helps many outgoing members of the mob to reclaim Gotham City and a very large amount of money from a Chinese investor Batman has extradited from Hong Kong. However the clown has his own agenda and it is summarised brilliantly by, possibly the most famous line from the film, 'Some men just want to watch the world burn'.

Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) holding Gordon's son. 
   On that subject, there are many quotes from the film you could argue top that- and that is another reason why this film is absolutely brilliant; there are so many memorable phrases and quotes that you can take from this film; whether it be the film's tagline 'Why so serious?' or the quote from the complex character Harvey Dent 'You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain'. Harvey Dent is a big thing in this film too, the brand new District Attorney- turned people's champion when he attempts to put the entire mob away at once but then turned villain by the confusing and preventable death of his girlfriend and former lover of Batman Rachel Dawes. The characters in this film focus on him; and that's the interesting thing- the whole film (and the Joker's end plan) is about Harvey Dent's reputation, and how he is the Batman-style hero people can relate see with no hidden identity. In the end the Joker is trying to break the people of Gotham in a terrible psychological experiment which is failed only due to people's belief in human kindness through people like Dent, whereas Batman and the institution are trying to uphold him as a beacon of hope. 

The boats that become part of the Joker's 'social experiment'
   This film does give you a sense of hopelessness; the Joker seems to be bodiless- around every street corner but never easy to find while he is plotting his next diabolical scheme. However Batman, who the Joker ends up targeting in order to psychologically corrupt him, needs the people around him as his only hope if he is to resist the pressure of the Joker and save the city. The edition of a half-normal, half-burned Dent is an excellent one as, after the Joker is caught, it gives Batman and commissioner Gordon a final task as if they are still battling the Joker's twisted hand through Dent. The film uses every single technique a film can use to generate every single emotion within you. And credit needs to be given to the soundtrack too, as that also is what gives the film its power over you. 

   To summarise, they really did go all-out on this film and, sad as it is to say, the death of Ledger immortalised this film as it is the only time in this modern franchise which will not be able to be reborn for another decade at least, that we will see the Joker in all his glory. And this Joker vs. Batman conflict is just what this film needed. It shows that you don't need a God-like villain, alien creatures or endless blood, gore and butchering to bring horror, Si-Fi and psychology into a film- and with these simple but effective tools the film appeals to a wide variety of audiences. It's what Star Wars VII was aiming to do- tie in everything brilliant from the plot's origins but show the world that new ideas can really up the game for a film like this. Best film ever? Not quite because I think the Godfather and the Shawshank Redemption do have the edge of this just about... but this is an undisputed third. It was a great movie event, it made over $1bn and just had everything all in the right places. The best actor had to be Heath Ledger for his flawless performance and had he not passed away just after filming had finished, I think they would have used him again- but lightening never strikes twice now, does it?