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Thursday, September 28, 2023


Nolan’s Batman close to perfect

Thank the comic book gods for Christopher Nolan.

Nolan and David Goyer were responsible for 2005’s Batman Begins, an origin tale and franchise revamp from the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher debacles of the 1990s.

Batman Begins is about fear, while The Dark Knight is about the escalation from fear to anarchy. Nolan, along with his brother Jonathan, penned a script that should be taught in Film-Making 101. The Dark Knight is a cinematic masterpiece and a storytelling triumph transcending the comic book movie genre. Simply put, The Dark Knight is one of the greatest stories ever told.

The character of Batman shows tremendous growth in this film, as a detective and a crime fighter. The Dark Knight shows Batman as savvy, intelligent, resourceful and far more physically assertive. Bruce Wayne has grown into a suave playboy with a confident swagger. Actor Christian Bale does a superb job as Batman, proving there is no one else really worthy to play the caped crusader.

New methods are employed to fight and investigate crime, taking The Dark Knight outside of Gotham City. Batman is not alone, as Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and the new district attorney, Harvey Dent, (Aaron Eckhart) are striving to make Gotham City a better place. Threatening their ideal utopia of a city is the mysterious Joker, played to a tee by the late Heath Ledger.

Ledger’s portrayal as the Joker will be talked about for years, as he is every bit the way the character was intended to be. The Joker is a sadistic, criminal mastermind who can match wits with Batman and push him to his farthest limits. Ledger always reminds the viewers that the Joker is disturbed and conveys the feeling of danger and panic every time he appears on screen.

The origins of the Joker are never revealed, just hinted upon. The Nolans should be applauded for taking a page out of the comics in adapting the Joker right out of the definitive Batman versus Joker story, the graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke. Nolan also borrows from Frank Miller’s classic, Batman: Year One, making a movie hard-core Batman fans and normal moviegoers could equally appreciate.

Maggie Gyllenhaal breathes life into the character Rachel Dawes, who is an upgrade from Katie Holmes’ previous portrayal as the love interest in Batman Begins. Aaron Eckhart commands the screen, playing the role of Harvey Dent/Two-Face with conviction and purpose, fueling the development of character and plot.

The film evokes emotion, as the viewer feels nervous, anxious, angry, scared, confused, apathetic and sympathetic with every citizen of Gotham. There is good and evil, and the lines are sometimes blurred showing Gotham City as corrupt as ever, with The Joker infiltrating and masterminding every form of power possible.

The story also tries to define what makes a true hero, and shows the human ability to reason and the ultimate sacrifices made to save the city. The future of the city lies in one man’s hands (and it may be a surprise). By the end of the film, every decision that has been made is in question.

The duality shown between Batman and Joker is done brilliantly, capturing their glaring differences, but in the end they are very much alike.

The Joker is Batman’s ultimate foil, a man made by crime and fueled by desire. The Joker is about anarchy and Armageddon, ravaging Gotham through fear and paranoia and trying to create a chaotic environment. The Joker is just one man and he is able to do something the Scarecrow and even Ra’s Al Ghul couldn’t do: push Gotham to its very limits of destruction.

Though Batman is just one man, as well, he is single handedly able to transform the city from a place run by criminals to a place where fearful criminals remain underground.

At the end of Batman Begins, Gordon discusses the possibilities of "escalation" with Batman, and that is exactly what happens in The Dark Knight. The Joker’s necessity was created, in essence, by Batman, and everything Batman does has a direct effect on the city of Gotham and the Joker’s master plan.

What makes this film work is that every little detail, every line of dialogue and every plot turn is executed with purpose. Characters are all developed in great detail and who they are defined by their circumstances. The script and story of the film is outstanding.

If there is no such thing as a perfect film, The Dark Knight comes close. It will be difficult to top, but if a third film in the franchise is to do it, Warner Bros. and DC Comics had better make sure Nolan is at the helm.

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