Theatrical review: The Dark Knight

Released: 25 July
Certificate: 12A
Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenwriter: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart
Distributor: Warner Bros
Running Time: 152 mins

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Released: 25 July
Certificate: 12A
Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenwriter: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan and David Goyer
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart
Distributor: Warner Bros
Running Time: 152 mins

It’s very unlikely we’ll ever give a six out of five, but had The Dark Knight lived up to the hype we may well have had to. The truth is Heath Ledger’s Joker is an admirable creation but not mystically brilliant. Equally, the bank heist doesn’t come close to Heat’s; the drama is not on a par with Godfather Part II; the action is smart but within boundaries already set; and the debate for best superhero movie is still open. But that’s not to say The Dark Knight isn’t excellent – it is.
With David Goyer given less involvement this time around, the brothers Nolan have been set free to construct a tale that’s clearly a separate beast from every other superhero movie that’s gone before it, even, to a degree, 2005’s Batman Begins. This is an ambitious crime thriller in the vein of Michael Mann that intermittently features a man dressed up as a Bat. This isn’t simply a comic book adaptation, it’s a tale of corruption, justice, heroism and terrorism, a story where a maniacal criminal affects a city’s change so much that progress is reversed and those who watch over it become lost. And it is unrelenting. From beginning to end, the pace never lets up, the narrative chasing one pulse-racing scene after the next. There are moments that widen the eyes and ones that will have you covering them, there are sequences that will leave you surprised and some that will leave you sad. It is a film without a singular high point but instead with many, each equally as impressive and technically assured as the one before it.
The Dark Knight is a universe away from Superman catching a helicopter and Spider-Man stopping a train, it is a serious film about serious things with serious performances. Whenever a tongue threatens toward the cheek, it’s unceremoniously stomped on with razor-tipped shoes. As a result, it hinges a great deal on the performances and they are uniformly excellent. Bale is a comfortable Batman and an entertaining Bruce Wayne; Ledger is terrific as the darkest of anarchists; Oldman typically superb as the tired Gordon; and with what is arguably the hardest job in this undoubted ensemble piece, Eckhart excels as the DA-turned-madman Harvey Dent, giving the film the emotional centre is so clearly relies on.
This is not a superhero movie that will have you cheering and neither is it one that will leave you with that feeling of awe precious few others do, it is a superhero movie you observe, consider and say well done to. Well done indeed.