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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Christian Bale
Michael Caine
Morgan Freeman
Heath Ledger
Gary Oldman
Aaron Eckhart
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Eric Roberts
Nestor Carbonell
Anthony Michael Hall
Melinda McGraw
Nathan Gamble .
Directors
Christopher Nolan.
Screenwriters
Bob Kane
David S Goyer
Christopher Nolan
Jonathan Nolan.
Running Time
152 minutes

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The Dark Knight
Batman’s back in black – but will the joke be on him?


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Plot
Batman (Bale) hopes to hang up his cape and hand over crime-fighting duties to District Attorney Harvey Dent (Eckhart). But the arrival of clown-faced master criminal The Joker (Ledger) forces the masked vigilante to question everything he stands for.


Review
The Dark Knight
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The hero is a billionaire industrialist who likes to beat people up. The only good cop in the city employs dishonest ones. The psychotic terrorist torturing civilians and chopping up criminals… Well, he’s just about the most charismatic character you’ll ever meet. Welcome to Gotham, where no good deed goes unpunished. And welcome to The Dark Knight, an anarchic, malevolent fury of a movie that takes a switchblade to the face of summer conformity and carves a work of twisted beauty out of it.
 
Anticipation and escalation were the key words in the build up to, post-Indy, 2008’s most hyped and combustible blockbuster. Director/co-writer Christopher Nolan has talked of making a bigger, bolder picture, unfettered by the origin-construction constraints of the still-excellent Batman Begins. The marketing has been masterful: a lesson in tease and please from 42 Entertainment (earning what must surely be the only mention of a movie’s PR firm in an Empire review; whatever, they deserve it). Then, just as the Sturm und Drang around The Dark Knight built to a frenzy came the January death of Heath Ledger. Peeks at his performance as the Clown Prince Of Crime had already prompted whispers of Oscar, of the birth of an icon. Cynics suggested his passing would boost the box office; pessimists griped that a comic-book movie could never serve as a suitable epitaph to the Brokeback Mountain star.
 
And — yes — as was, perhaps, always inevitable, The Dark Knight is Ledger’s movie. It is a towering performance. From his menacing, pencil-packing greeting to Gotham’s Mob fraternity (one of the most economic and effective character introductions ever), to the threat and fire he conjures in exchanges with Maggie Gyllenhaal’s sexy, sophisticated brief and “The Bat-maaan”, to the Sophie’s choice surprises of the third act, he is pure, powerful, immense. A force of fucking nature. Informed by Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke and Jeph Loeb’s The Long Halloween, Ledger’s Joker is anarchy in a three-piece, a ruthless villain who cares for nothing, not even himself. His function, crafted in the hive mind of the Nolans and as Ledger plays him, is to cause chaos, to question everything, to push everyone to extremes, to show Batman there are no rules to this game.
 
This doesn’t mean Christian Bale is sidelined as either Bruce Wayne or his suited, re-booted vigilante. There’s no repeat of Keaton’s eclipse by Nicholson’s “I’d like eggs with that” Joker turn in Burton’s Batman. Bale is too muscular and committed for that, the Nolans’ script too evenly interested in every character in its universe. So, Batman is more conflicted than ever, still clinging to his parents’ memory but minus the scowly brooding that can make DC’s darkest hero feel like a moody teen. Now his concerns are much more immediate: how to neuter a threat that could destroy a city, how to empower a new DA without blowing his cover, how to work outside the system without bringing it down. He’s Dirty Harry with a conscience: a conscience The Joker plays like a violin.
 
Pre-release presumptions about The Dark Knight being the comic-book Heat are valid, if not all-encompassing. Visually the comparison is spot on, and regular Nolan cinematographer Wally Pfister deserves props: ironically The Dark Knight brings Batman out of the shadows, through a burnished, Michael Mann Chicago into a daylight noir. But while The Joker and Batman are both costumed “freaks”, they don’t completely share the McCauley/Hanna dynamic. De Niro’s criminal, for one, had principles; The Joker has none. And Mann’s film was as much about being a professional as being a cop or a criminal, meaning the characters that are most thematically similar are Gary Oldman’s hard-working lieutenant and Aaron Eckhart’s idealistic lawyer (yes, they do manage to pull off that oxymoron), who are trying to change their world without recourse to gadgets or PVC underpants.
 
And so on and on (it runs an epic 152 minutes), Nolan navigates through a moral maze and some pointed politicking, but without ever stinting on stunts or explosions. It is thoughtful but never dull, and the OTT action and expansion — underscored in IMAX sequences which will no doubt look spectacular on the enormo-screen (Empire reviewed from a 35mm print) — are generally to its benefit, even though Nolan still appears more comfortable and engaged with interacting people than trucks and Batbikes. After a blistering opening, there’s a second act lull and a story shift not quite as elegant (or, some might argue, even coherent) as you’d expect from the director of The Prestige. But The Dark Knight is spectacular, visionary blockbuster entertainment: pretty much everything you could hope for and then some. It isn’t perfect but then, like its hero, like his late co-star, and as Nolan’s fitting tribute so ably observes, nobody is.


Verdict
Ledger’s performance is monumental, but The Dark Knight lives up to it. Nolan cements his position as Hollywood’s premier purveyor of blockbuster smarts – and the Batbike is kinda cool, too.


Reviewed by Mark Dinning


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Dark Knight
Empire Star Rating

"Why so serious."

Christopher Nolan does a fantastic job with this darkest of dark knight's, although this film does somewhat overdue the sense of grimness. overall a triumphant Batman and without a doubt Heath Ledger's performance will go down in history as one of the best (if not the best), performances of all time. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jericho117 at 04:10, 24 October 2013 | Report This Post


Nolan's Masterpiece

Ledger's performance as clown-faced psychopath The Joker will be acknowledged as one of greatest villains of all time. With a blockbuster budget, all-star cast and breathtaking action, The Dark Knight succeeds in being the ultimate sequel to its impressive predecessor; Batman Begins. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BlackjackMusk3teer at 16:49, 21 May 2013 | Report This Post


The Dark Knight

Its One Of The Greatest Comic Book Movies And Has One Of The Greatest Villains Of All Time ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by LukeTheFilmFan at 15:03, 21 February 2013 | Report This Post


Surely the greatest comic book movie ever made

Sure, it's not perfect but the word I'd use to describe the movie would be one that Empire used when writing about Ledger's performance; monumental. If Richard Donner's Superman is the Citizen Kane of superhero movies then The Dark Knight is The Godfather. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 20:54, 05 February 2013 | Report This Post


A Blockbuster With Brains

Chris Nolan's follow-up to the seminal Batman Begins, The Dark Knight is the most powerful portrait of the masked crusader to date, and Heath Ledger gives the single greatest performance of the past decade. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by movienut707 at 19:21, 09 December 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: Rgirvan44 The Joker doesn't need to know Batman is Bruce. All he needed to note was that Batman went for her without thinking. In his mind he figures out that she is important to him. In fact the whole Coleman Reese subplot is about the Joker no longer wishing to know who Batman is. It is pretty much established that Wayne wanted to save Rachel. Heck, Harvey wanted Batman to save Rachel.ere's an interesting excerpt from the novelisation for /i]ing the charity event in Bruce's pe... More

Posted by Emyr Thy King at 03:51, 13 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: cerebusboy Woah, two Batman threads at once Chris, impressive! /quote] Haven't you heard? I'm omnipresent. As well as omniscient. Although this occasionally mistaken for pedantry... ... More

Posted by chris kilby at 15:50, 25 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: cerebusboy 'Realism', even assuming it is necessarily contrary to genre fiction, is a recent innovation, a literary cul-de-sac. To posit it as the only mechanism for serious themes is demonstrable nonsense. recisely my argument against Jimmy McGovern's criticism of the likes of Wholly, it's Clive Barker's argument: if you lazily dismiss all non-realistic, non-naturalistic fiction, you're invalidating a lot of the literary canon - Shakespeare, Dickens, all the ancient myths and legend... More

Posted by chris kilby at 13:54, 25 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: chris kilby L: cerebusboy L: chris kilby L: cerebusboy As for "plot holes", Batman would have reacted as he did if ANYONE had been thrown out of the window, and people are presupposing he had further need to kill/capture hostages. Joker has a plan, Dent wasn't there, Rachel was thrown out the window. You can claim it's more in keeping with his character to kill all the hostages, but I'd disagree. Joker has a plan (I know he says he doesn't but Bad guys lie!)... More

Posted by cerebusboy at 13:48, 25 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: cerebusboy Well said dude. Except for the bit where you call Killing Joke overrated and praise Jeph Loeb /quote] I didn't actually praise Loeb. I merely pointed out that g Halloweeny inspired k Knightarily Maroni and the idea that, Heisenberg-like, Batman's very existence has led to a power shift from traditional gangsters to freaks. I thought it was OK, but it still read like Miller's sloppy seconds. Most Batman comics do, which is why I don't read so many super hero comics th... More

Posted by chris kilby at 13:44, 25 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: cerebusboy L: chris kilby L: cerebusboy As for "plot holes", Batman would have reacted as he did if ANYONE had been thrown out of the window, and people are presupposing he had further need to kill/capture hostages. Joker has a plan, Dent wasn't there, Rachel was thrown out the window. You can claim it's more in keeping with his character to kill all the hostages, but I'd disagree. Joker has a plan (I know he says he doesn't but Bad guys lie!) . eah, but the... More

Posted by chris kilby at 13:38, 25 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: cerebusboy Woah, two Batman threads at once Chris, impressive! /quote] That's nuthin'. The other day you thought I was on the same thread twice at the same time! ... More

Posted by chris kilby at 13:36, 25 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: chris kilby L: cerebusboy As for "plot holes", Batman would have reacted as he did if ANYONE had been thrown out of the window, and people are presupposing he had further need to kill/capture hostages. Joker has a plan, Dent wasn't there, Rachel was thrown out the window. You can claim it's more in keeping with his character to kill all the hostages, but I'd disagree. Joker has a plan (I know he says he doesn't but Bad guys lie!) . eah, but the only reason The Joker ... More

Posted by cerebusboy at 13:33, 25 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: cerebusboy As for "plot holes", Batman would have reacted as he did if ANYONE had been thrown out of the window, and people are presupposing he had further need to kill/capture hostages. Joker has a plan, Dent wasn't there, Rachel was thrown out the window. You can claim it's more in keeping with his character to kill all the hostages, but I'd disagree. Joker has a plan (I know he says he doesn't but Bad guys lie!) . eah, but the only reason The Joker was there in the first p... More

Posted by chris kilby at 13:31, 25 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: chris kilby L: elab49 L: Rgirvan44 The Joker doesn't need to know Batman is Bruce. needed to note was that Batman went for her without thinking. mind he figures out that she is important to him. In fact the whole Coleman Reese subplot is about the Joker no longer wishing to know who Batman is. It is pretty much established that Wayne wanted to save Rachel. Heck, Harvey wanted Batman to save Rachel. his. He doesn't know. He also doesn't really care. thi... More

Posted by cerebusboy at 13:25, 25 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: elab49 L: Rgirvan44 The Joker doesn't need to know Batman is Bruce. needed to note was that Batman went for her without thinking. mind he figures out that she is important to him. In fact the whole Coleman Reese subplot is about the Joker no longer wishing to know who Batman is. It is pretty much established that Wayne wanted to save Rachel. Heck, Harvey wanted Batman to save Rachel. his. He doesn't know. He also doesn't really care. think he knows (or at least... More

Posted by chris kilby at 13:20, 25 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: cerebusboy L: jobloffski It. Does. No. Good. And this Still good to talk though - people joked about the thread getting to 100 pages but, if everyone pulls together for the cause, I think it's an achievable goal! that said, obviously if the on-topic discussion stops then I wouldn't want to just continue the thread indefinitely. ... More

Posted by cerebusboy at 17:38, 24 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: jobloffski It. Does. No. Good. And this ... More

Posted by cerebusboy at 17:31, 24 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: jobloffski Been in the TDKR thread, commented at length, on such subjects as WHY WOULD GORDON SEND ALL THE COPS TO THE SEWERS, with suggestions such as the previous films showed grave actions when a threat wasn't acted upon immediately, Gordon is eaten up with guilt by the consequences of not acting sooner, and when seeing something that could be even worse, it was in character to try and make up for it by going in heavy, and fast, and not waiting to consult others. Also, answ... More

Posted by cerebusboy at 17:29, 24 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: jobloffski L: cerebusboy L: jobloffski It is schematic, that's the point, it's just how well you layer things on so that the skeleton doesn't show. For instance, I didn't mention 'dramatic apex' that according to this schematic structure is the point of no return for the story, it will now unstoppably flow towards an inevitable conclusion because there is a choice that must be made. To take Jaws as an example, when Brody's son is nearly attacked by the shark, it... More

Posted by cerebusboy at 17:28, 24 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: cerebusboy L: cerebusboy L: jobloffski It is schematic, that's the point, it's just how well you layer things on so that the skeleton doesn't show. For instance, I didn't mention 'dramatic apex' that according to this schematic structure is the point of no return for the story, it will now unstoppably flow towards an inevitable conclusion because there is a choice that must be made. To take Jaws as an example, when Brody's son is nearly attacked by the shark,... More

Posted by cerebusboy at 17:21, 24 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: cerebusboy L: jobloffski It is schematic, that's the point, it's just how well you layer things on so that the skeleton doesn't show. For instance, I didn't mention 'dramatic apex' that according to this schematic structure is the point of no return for the story, it will now unstoppably flow towards an inevitable conclusion because there is a choice that must be made. To take Jaws as an example, when Brody's son is nearly attacked by the shark, it is basically slap bang... More

Posted by jobloffski at 17:14, 24 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: cerebusboy L: jobloffski It is schematic, that's the point, it's just how well you layer things on so that the skeleton doesn't show. For instance, I didn't mention 'dramatic apex' that according to this schematic structure is the point of no return for the story, it will now unstoppably flow towards an inevitable conclusion because there is a choice that must be made. To take Jaws as an example, when Brody's son is nearly attacked by the shark, it is basically slap b... More

Posted by cerebusboy at 16:50, 24 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

L: jobloffski It is schematic, that's the point, it's just how well you layer things on so that the skeleton doesn't show. For instance, I didn't mention 'dramatic apex' that according to this schematic structure is the point of no return for the story, it will now unstoppably flow towards an inevitable conclusion because there is a choice that must be made. To take Jaws as an example, when Brody's son is nearly attacked by the shark, it is basically slap bang in the middle of th... More

Posted by cerebusboy at 16:45, 24 August 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Dark Knight

It is schematic, that's the point, it's just how well you layer things on so that the skeleton doesn't show. For instance, I didn't mention 'dramatic apex' that according to this schematic structure is the point of no return for the story, it will now unstoppably flow towards an inevitable conclusion because there is a choice that must be made. To take Jaws as an example, when Brody's son is nearly attacked by the shark, it is basically slap bang in the middle of the running time (where t... More

Posted by jobloffski at 16:38, 24 August 2012 | Report This Post


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