#4: The Dark Knight (2008)

When and how did I watch this?

June 27th, 2017, on Amazon.

Had I seen this film already?

Yep, but just a couple of times.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

Most would probably agree that the film is unsettling on first viewing.  The movie is dark from front to back, both in coloring and theme. Gotham City is perpetually on the brink of mayhem, and it makes you wonder why anyone even bothers to live there.  Batman really seems to be the only competent hero, and even he’s flawed; Gordon is limited, and we discover that Dent has his own flaws.  Then there’s Heath Ledger’s performance of the Joker, rendering him recognizeable as himself, and terrifying as a criminal. In all this, upon approaching the film at #4 on the IMDb Top 250, I couldn’t help but wonder what this film was doing ranked this high.

What do I know about it now?

The Dark Knight starts with a bank robbery, and we encounter Joker (Ledger) and his morally corrupt double-crossing ways immediately.  His shenanigans continue throughout the remainder of the film, eventually forcing an individual, and then entire groups, to choose who dies.  Harvey Dent (Eckhart) is the other runaway standout character. He appears noble at first, but descends into madness and welcomes fate as the decision-maker. We also love Gordon’s (Oldman) old school mentality and death-defying resilience despite bearing little true power.  The big flop for me is Batman/Bruce Wayne (Bale). I resign that he’s not the true focus of the film, but he’s the fulcrum upon which the plot lies, and he appears flat and static. His appeal is largely dependent upon action, effects, and his baritone superhero stoicism; in terms of screenplay, Batman is nearly unnecessary. Despite all this, the film plays with some philosophical themes and uses some interesting camera angles to heighten its value. Hans Zimmer doesn’t disappoint with the music score either, creating jarring tension and majestic overtures per usual.

What are some themes in the film?

Fate, justice, morality (defined and corrupted), public service, perception/world view

Did this affect me personally?

It’s a generally shocking film, but multiple viewings really dull the effect. I still found myself saying, “Ooh” at particularly brutal moments.  Otherwise, nah, not this time.

Why is this ranked #4?

Heath Ledger’s death.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She found the film ominous and troubling the first time she saw it.  Upon repeated viewings, she felt it was “meh”.

Would I watch it again?

I think this will come up again, eventually, but I’m not going out of my way to see it.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

It’s a film you’ve likely seen, and it’s easy to admire and enjoy, and even easier to gawk at Ledger’s stunning performance as the Joker. If you don’t really care either way, you’re not missing too much.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

The Dark Knight is better than its sequel, but lesser than Batman Begins, which is actually about Batman. It’s not Nolan’s best film, but it’s not any worse than The Prestige. I think the film struck a chord in the genre (right at the brink of a string of hyped up superhero films), featuring ever-portended doom and fallible and mortal protagonists, which kind of spits in the face of the absolutely miserable Batman Forever and Batman and Robin predecessors and some other unrelated films (The Hulk and the later Spiderman installments come to mind).  I’m not sure why superhero films are such a big deal now, rather than in other film eras.  Regardless, I think we want to identify with something greater than ourselves, and be a part of a noble and just cause.  Strangely, Dark Knight doesn’t do that at all, which makes it sort of great in its own way. But not #4 Great. Thanks, Heath.

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