A couple of years ago, a friend of mine asked me what my top 5 comic book movies were and at the time, this was the only movie that starred a “major comic book character”. Years later, with all of the new comic book movies that have come out since this movie’s release, this movie would still be considered one of my top 5 comic book movies. I remember when they showed the first trailer for this movie, and then they showed the first few minutes of the movie as a teaser, I was immediately hooked. I ended up seeing this several times in the theaters and immediately bought it when it came out on DVD, and later upgraded it to Blu-Ray. So let’s try not to get soo serious (sorry, couldn’t resist) and have some fun with today’s movie, The Dark Knight.
The plot: 5 men wearing clown masks split up into two teams, two men on the roof and three going in the front door, and proceed to hold up a bank in Gotham. On the roof, the man tasked with cutting the alarm is killed once his job is complete, then his partner heads down to crack open the vault. Meanwhile, the bank manager, who happens to work for the mob that owns the bank, grabs a shotgun and kills one of the robbers that came in the front door but when he runs out of shells, he is shot in the leg and incapacitated. One of the men heads down to the vault and takes out the safe cracker once he is done. He loads up all of the money into some bags and carries it out front, then pulls his gun on the remaining robber, asking if he was supposed to kill him. The robber replies that he is supposed to kill the bus driver, then steps aside as a school bus backs into the building, slamming into the robber. As the driver helps load the bags and asks about the other, the remaining robber shoots him then prepares to leave when the bank manager taunts him. The robber approaches him and stuffs a gas grenade in the man’s mouth, then takes off the mask to reveal himself to be the Joker, then gets in the school bus, trailing some string tied to the grenade’s pin as he does, and drives off, causing the pin to be pulled as Joker merges in with the other school buses driving down the road. That night, a meeting between the Chechen, head of the Russian mafia, and the Scarecrow and his men is interrupted by a group of vigilantes inspired by Batman and dressing like him. When the real Batman shows up, Scarecrow tries to escape as Batman deals with both the Russians and the vigilantes, but Batman is able to catch him before he escapes. The next day, Gordon heads over to the bank that was robbed and is soon met by Batman, where it is revealed that Batman had been providing the police with irradiated bills to use for tracking drug money. This bank, plus 4 others, appear to be the last sources of mob money in the city and Gordon tells Batman that they will have to bring the new D.A. in on this. Harvey Dent, the new D.A. is working on trying to bring down the remnants of the Falcone crime family, and also happens to be dating Rachel Dawes. After a court hearing where he punches a mobster who tries to kill him, Dent meets up with Gordon and after arguing with Gordon over some of the men in his unit, as he investigated them for being dirty back when he worked in Internal Affairs, he agrees to issue the warrants for Gordon, but tells him he wants to meet with Batman. Meanwhile, Wayne Enterprises is in talks with a Hong Kong company, represented by Mr. Lau, but while most of the board like the idea for the merger, Lucius Fox thinks some of Lau’s revenue is dirty as his company continues to show more growth than can be explained. Bruce says to cancel the deal, as he had figured Lau was crooked but wanted to look at his books to confirm it, then starts talking to Lucius about some alterations for the Batsuit. That night, Bruce runs into Rachel and Dent as they are having dinner and he and his join them. As they are talking, Bruce feels like Dent might be the person Gotham needs to deal with the criminals and allow him to stop being Batman so he tells Dent that he will throw him a fundraiser, stating that a fundraiser with his circle would mean he wouldn’t need to raise another cent for any of his reelection campaigns. The next day, Sal Maroni, the Chechen, and Gambol, the three largest crime bosses in the city, are holding a meeting where Lau joins in via video conference. Lau informs them about the police locating their banks and, since he was the only money launderer left in the city, he felt it prudent to take their money and leave the city before the police could raid the banks and seizing their funds. Lau says he is going to Hong Kong, where the Chinese would be reluctant to extradite one of their own countrymen back to the U.S. Suddenly, the Joker appears and tells them that Batman has no jurisdiction and would find Lau and bring him back to Gotham. As Lau ends his video call, Maroni asks what Joker is proposing and Joker tells them he will kill Batman for half of their money. An enraged Gambol wants to kill Joker for stealing form them but when Joker reveals that he is armed with some grenades prepared to explode if he dies, then Gambol opts to put a hit out on him instead. That night, Dent uses the Batsignal to summon Batman and when he gets there, tells them that they need Lau back or else they won’t be able to make a case against the mob and Batman agrees to get him back. Meanwhile, some men claim to have killed Joker and bring the body to Gambol’s home to collect the reward but it was a trick as Joker reveals that he is still alive and kills Gambol, then tells his men that there is room for one more man in his crew and makes them fight to the death to decide who gets it. The next day, Bruce is talking with Lucius about Lau leaving the city and makes plans for Lucius to head to Hong Kong to tell Lau in person that the deal is off. He then works with Lucius and Alfred on figuring out a way for him to get Lau out of his office and onto a plane without the plane landing before heading off himself, under cover of his taking the visiting Russian Ballet on a “love cruise”. In Hong Kong, Lucius meets with Lau to tell him the deal is off and after he leaves, he reveals to Bruce that he left a phone in the building that will act as a sonar to allow him to see everything going on in the building. That night, Batman breaks into the building and is able to get Lau out of there, using some smugglers flying a skyhook plane, and drops him off at police headquarters. The next day, Rachel is trying to get Lau to turn on the mafia and when Lau says that he handled all of their money as one giant pot, Dent realizes that he can charge everyone in the mafia under the Rico Act. Gordon and the police proceed to arrest Maroni, the Chechen, and all of their men, but are unaware that the Chechen had already hired the Joker to take out Lau and the Batman. The mayor speaks with Dent about his actions and warns him that everybody will be gunning for him now when a body dressed like Batman suddenly appears outside the window, with a video from Joker saying that he will kill people everyday until Batman reveals his true identity and turns himself in. That night at the fundraiser Bruce is throwing, he gives his speech praising Harvey for the good work he has done and says he believes in him. Afterwards, Rachel catches Bruce alone and thinks he was making fun of Harvey but Bruce says he is serious, stating that he feels Dent is the man that will let him stop being Batman. Rachel says he can’t put all his hopes on her but before they can say anything else, Dent shows up and asks to speak to Rachel alone. Meanwhile, the police discover DNA from Dent, Police Commissioner Loeb, and Judge Surrillo on the card pinned to the fake Batman’s body and Gordon realizes that they are the Joker’s targets. He sends men to place Surrillo and Dent into protective custody while he goes to guard Loeb but crooked cops end up killing Surrillo while Loeb is poisoned when he drinks some scotch he keeps in his desk. At Wayne’s party, Dent proposes to Rachel but when she doesn’t answer, he takes it as a no and asks if it is Bruce when Bruce suddenly comes up behind him and knocks him out. As Rachel questions what he is doing, he tells her that Joker is coming for Dent and tells her to hide, while he heads to a panic room to change clothes. Joker arrives and starts asking for Dent and when he starts threatening the guests, Rachel confronts him and when the Joker moves towards her, Batman appears and begins fighting him and his men. Joker manages to grab Rachel and threatens to kill her, then throws her out the window, forcing Batman to leap out after her in order to save her. The next night, Gordon is called to a murder scene, where the victims’ last names are Harvey and Dent. Batman grabs the remains of a bullet that was shot into the wall and Gordon tells him whatever he is doing, he should make it quick as Joker has targeted the mayor next. At Wayne Enterprises, Coleman Reese, one of Wayne’s lawyers, goes up to Lucius and reveals his theory that Bruce is Batman and tries to blackmail him into giving him $10 million for life but Lucius questions his reasoning for it. Later, Lucius helps Bruce digitally reconstruct the bullet in order to get the thumbprint and as he prints a copy for Bruce, asks him about his use of R&D, which Reese had brought up, and Bruce tells him it is something he is playing it close to the vest. Bruce is able to figure out the address for the print from the bullet and when he heads there, he finds a group of men bound and gagged. Questioning them, he realizes that they are the police honor guard and during the 21 gun salute, the Joker and his men, who had taken their uniforms, turn and fire at the mayor. Gordon saves the mayor but is killed instead and as Harvey sends Rachel to safety, he goes to question one of the men who was captured, only to see Rachel’s name listed on his name tag. Batman pays a visit to Maroni and questions him about the Joker but Maroni tells him that he has no idea where the Joker can be found. Meanwhile, Dent calls Rachel, who tells him that she is at Major Crimes and Dent tells her to get somewhere safe and she tells him that Bruce’s penthouse is the safest place for her so she heads there. Dent, having kidnapped the suspect in custody, attempts to scare him into talking when Batman stops him, saying if the city found out about this all the work he has done would be erased. Batman agrees to turn himself in in order to prevent further blood shed and tells Dent to hold a press conference for it but when the press conference is held, Dent claims he is the Batman and asks to be taken into custody. Rachel, having watched what happened on TV, questions Alfred as to why Bruce let Harvey do that and he tells her that perhaps Dent and Bruce both felt Batman was still needed to deal with the Joker. Rachel leaves Alfred a letter to give to Bruce when the time is right, then heads to the station to try and talk Harvey out of his plan but he kisses her and gets into the S.W.A.T. transport. As the convoy moves through the city, they find the road blocked by a burning fire engine and are forced onto the lower sections of the streets, where Joker and his men proceed to ambush them. Batman shows up in the Tumbler to stop them but when Joker attempts to shoot the van carrying Dent with an RPG, he drives the Tumbler in the rocket’s path to save it. The van makes it back onto the street so they can get some air support but the Joker’s men fire some wires that ensnare the police helicopter’s rotors and cause it to crash. Meanwhile, Batman ejects out of the Tumbler, with two of the wheels forming a modified motorcycle, and he takes off after the Joker and causes the semi he is driving to crash. As Joker gets out of the wreckage and goes to face Batman, who is barreling towards him, Batman swerves at the last minute and ends up crashing. Joker approaches Batman and prepares to kill him but the van’s driver, revealed to be Gordon, stops and arrests him. As they take Joker to his cell for booking, the Mayor approaches Gordon and tells him that he has been named the new Commissioner. However, shortly after Gordon goes home to let his wife and son know he is still alive, he is called back to the station. He begins interrogating Joker as to where Dent is, as he did not show up at the safe house, and Gordon mocks him by asking if he left Dent with his men or Maroni’s. Gordon exits the room, revealing Batman to be in there and he begins interrogating Joker, who reveals that he had captured both Dent and Rachel, as he realized Batman was in love with her, and says he can only save one of them. Batman heads out to save Rachel while Gordon and his men go to get Dent. Elsewhere, Dent comes to and hears Rachel speaking through a speakerphone and when she tells him that she overheard them say only one of them is going to survive, Dent begins struggling at his bonds to try and get free ending up spilling some of the fuel that he is surrounded by when he falls onto his side. Back at the station, one of Joker’s men begins complaining of chest pains and when he collapses, they find a contusion underneath his skin. Meanwhile, Joker taunts the cop that is guarding him and he is able to grab him and use him as a hostage, saying that he wants to make a phone call. When they hand him a cell phone, Joker places a call, which activates the phone bomb that was inside his henchman, causing it to explode. As everyone is recovering from the blast, Joker is able to free his men, then grab Lau and escape the station. Meanwhile, Dent continues to try and get free as Rachel says that she will marry him when Batman shows up and realizes that Joker lied and he had arrived at the location Dent was being held at. Batman manages to grab Dent and get him out of the building before it explodes but the blast ignites the fuel covering part of his face, severely burning it. Meanwhile, Gordon and his men are too late to save Rachel and when he learns that Joker escaped, he realizes that Joker had outsmarted them and wanted to get caught in order to get to Lau. Alfred reads Rachel’s letter to Bruce, explaining that she is going to marry Harvey, but chooses not to give it to him just then, as Bruce mistakenly thought she was going to marry him if he stopped being Batman and he didn’t want to disillusion him in his grief. Gordon pays a visit to Dent in the hospital and tries to ask Dent who in his force he can still trust but Dent, enraged at what he has lost, refuses to tell him. AS Gordon leaves, he sees Maroni outside the room and, tired of the craziness that has taken over the city, he tells Gordon where Joker will be. In a cargo container on the docks, Joker is sitting on a large pile of money, with Lau on top as well, and as he jumps down and approaches the Chechen, he proceeds to burn it, along with Lau, then has the Chechen killed. Elsewhere, Reese goes on TV and says he plans on revealing who Batman is but Joker calls in and says that he doesn’t want Batman unmasked. Claiming he wants the rest of Gotham to join in the game, he says that unless Reese is killed in the next 60 minutes, he will blow up a hospital. Hearing the broadcast, Gordon orders every hospital to be evacuated, giving priority to the one Dent is in, while he and some men head over to try and keep Reese safe. At the same time, Bruce tells Alfred to research Gordon’s men and see if any of them have family in the hospital, in case one of them decides to kill him. At Gotham General, the evacuation is underway but Joker, disguised as a nurse, kills his guards, then talks with Dent, telling him he had nothing to do with his and Rachel’s abduction, then places a gun in Dent’s hand and places the barrel against his head. Dent shows him his two-headed coin, with one side scarred much like his face, and tells him good side, he lives, bad side, he dies, causing the Joker to smile. Meanwhile, Gordon, receiving information from Alfred about the officer in the car with him, is able to keep him from killing Reese while Bruce drives his car into the path of an oncoming truck, saving him. Joker is shown to still be alive and he blows up the hospital and Gordon, after learning about 50 people are missing, feels that Joker has Dent and tries to get some help with the situation. Later, Joker sends a video message saying that he still plans on continuing his game and the city will be doing things by his rules by nightfall, with details to come later. At Wayne Enterprises, Lucius gets word of a break in at R&D and when he heads down there, he finds that Batman had adapted his sonar technology to work with every cell phone in the city in order to try and track the Joker. Lucius is appalled by what Bruce has done but Bruce says that it is encoded to work only for Lucius, as he felt Lucius would be able make the right decision regarding it and Lucius agrees to help but says that so long as that machine is there, he won’t be. As people are attempting to evacuate the city by nightfall, one of the ferries contains the prisoners arrested during Dent’s Rico case against Maroni and the others. Meanwhile, Dent confronts Detective Wuertz, who was the one that turned him over to the mob, and after learning that he doesn’t know who the other man in Gordon’s unit is, Dent flips the coin and kills him when it lands bad side up. Dent then ambushes Maroni, who tells him that Ramirez was the other cop and Dent spares his life but shoots his driver, causing the car they are in to crash. Dent then uses Ramirez to call Gordon’s family and have them meet him somewhere, then knocks her out. Back out on the water, the ferry with the criminals and a ferry containing regular citizens suddenly stop dead in the water. As the crew search for the problem, they find explosives in the lower decks and a detonator. Suddenly, the Joker’s voice is heard over the speakers and he tells them that each boat has the detonator for the explosives on the other ship. At midnight, or if anyone tries to escape, he will blow both ships up but if one ship chooses to blow up the other one, the one that doesn’t explode will live. Lucius is able to figure out where Joker is and tells Batman, who informs Gordon. Gordon and his men set up on the roof across the street and wonder why the Joker and his men chose the building they were in but Batman says that nothing is simple with the Joker. He asks for 5 minutes to go in ahead of them but Gordon refuses, feeling responsible for what happened to Dent but Batman goes anyways and Gordon tells his men to give him 2 minutes. Before the start their assault, Gordon receives a call from his wife saying they are in trouble, and she is replaced by Dent, who tells Gordon to meet him where Rachel died. As he reaches the building, Batman realizes that the hostages have been disguised as clowns, while Joker’s men are pretending to be the hostages and he is forced to fight the police in order to save the hostages until they realize the situation. As midnight draws closer, one of the prisoners approaches the man with the detonator and tells him to hand it to him so he can do what must be done and when he does, the prisoner throws it out the window and sits back down. On the other ferry, everyone is arguing and decide to have a vote on what to do. When they vote to use the detonator, the captain refuses, as the other boat hasn’t blown them up yet, and one man decides he is to afraid and grabs the detonator and prepares to use it but he finds that he can’t do it either. Batman makes it up to the Joker and they start fighting but Joker is able to get the upper hand, then pins him down so they can watch his experiment unfold. When neither ferry explodes, Joker goes to detonate the ferries himself but Batman is able to stop him and throw him out of the building, then uses his grapple to catch him. As he brings Joker back up to him, Joker comments about how Batman couldn’t kill him and taunts him that he will still break the city once they learn what Harvey did. As Batman stares in horror, Joker tells him that he brought Dent down to their level and turned him loose as his ace in the hole and Batman rushes off, leaving Joker laughing as the police move to collect him. At the site where Rachel died, Dent knocks Gordon down and then threatens to kill his son to make Gordon feel the same pain he felt. Batman shows up and tells Dent it wasn’t Joker’s fault or the mob’s, but their fault, as they were the ones who chose to walk that path. When Dent asks why he was the one who lost everything, Batman says it was because he was the best of them. Dent says that they should all pay then starts flipping his coin; shooting Batman after the first flip but sparing his own life. As he goes to flip the coin a third time, Batman rushes him and knocks himself, Dent, and Gordon’s son over the edge. Dent falls to his death but Batman is able to save Gordon’s son and Gordon is able to pull him to safety before Batman falls himself. Gordon rushes down to check on him and finds Batman is still alive, then laments about how all the work Dent did is gone now. Batman says it doesn’t have to be and says he will take the blame for what Dent did, and Gordon tries to talk him out of it but Batman says it is what he must do. As he rushes off, with the police now chasing after him, it is shown later that Gordon destroys the Batsignal, Alfred burns Rachel’s letter, while Lucius smiles as he discovers Bruce had built in a self destruct to the system so that it was destroyed after he was done using it.
The Dark Knight met with almost universal praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Dark, complex and unforgettable, The Dark Knight succeeds not just as an entertaining comic book film, but as a richly thrilling crime saga.” The massive success at the box office, earning $1.005 billion off of a $185 million budget, making it the highest grossing movie in the franchise at the time as well as the first comic book movie to reach the $1 billion mark, and would go on to receive 8 Academy Award nominations, breaking the record for a comic book based movie that had been previously held by Dick Tracy. Heath Ledger’s posthumously winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar capped a sweeping list of awards his portrayal of the Joker garnered him, as he also won the SAG Award, the Golden Globe, and the BAFTA Award as well.
This probably goes without saying but this is a fantastic movie. The acting was great, with Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman doing great jobs reprising their roles of Batman, Gordon, Alfred, and Lucius respectively. Aaron Eckhart was great as Harvey Dent and while I still didn’t particularly care for the character, I thought that Maggie Gyllenhaal did a good job as Rachel. As for the man of the hour, I though Heath Ledger stole the show as Joker and honestly, I don’t think the movie would have been as good if they had someone else in the role, or a different character in general as the villain. I have had discussions about which Joker was better, Ledger or Nicholson, and I have always argued that it isn’t a fair comparison because both actors portrayed Joker as he was in the comics at the time but while he was always a sociopathic killer, much like Nicholson’s portrayal, by the time The Dark Knight came around, the Joker had evolved into a truly mad and psychotic character, which fit more into Ledger’s portrayal. The story was great, kind of picking up where Batman Begins left off in regards to his early exploits while mixing in some aspects of “The Killing Joke” to it, simply substituting Harvey Dent instead of Gordon for the subject of Joker’s attentions. The special effects were incredible, particularly the effects used to give Harvey Dent his post accident look. I also loved the cinematography and filming that was used, especially the portions shot using the Imax cameras. A great movie and definitely one of the top comic book movies out there.
Rating: 5 out of 5