Empire Has Seen The Dark Knight!

Read our man in LA's thoughts

Empire Has Seen The Dark Knight!

by Chris Hewitt |
Published on

You might be wondering where Empire’s review of The Dark Knight is. Well, we’re bound by an embargo, and like Batman himself, we don’t break the rules. So our review – written by our very own editor, Mark Dinning, no less – will be up on Friday.

But to tide you over, here’s a reaction from our man in LA, Chris Hewitt, who was the first Empire staffer to see The Dark Knight, almost two weeks ago. Bear in mind that Chris’ piece is a personal reaction and does not necessarily reflect Empire’s opinion nor the final review or star rating.

“First off… wow. Secondly… wow. The Dark Knight may not be a masterpiece – it’s slightly overlong and, in trying to cram too much in, loses focus a little near the end – but it's pretty damn close.

In making the movie, Chris Nolan openly admitted that he was aiming for the sweep, scope and feel of the likes of Michael Mann’s crime epic, Heat. And from the first moments – a beautifully shot bank heist sequence underscored by a thudding, percussive, dynamic score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard – it’s clear that he’s hit the bullseye.

Like Bryan Singer with X-Men 2, Nolan has evolved as an action director here. One scene in Hong Kong is vertigo-inducing and hinges on a move that’s truly original, while there’s an extended chase sequence near the end that is simply thrilling, with a plethora of crowd-pleasing moments that I won’t spoil. And, refreshingly, in a summer dominated by dodgy CG and unrealistic action, it was all shot for real. Believe me, it makes a difference.

As does the IMAX format. Nolan shot virtually all the action sequences for this with the iMAX format in mind and, from the bank heist and beyond, the clarity of image and scope of the camerawork is mind-boggling. See it in IMAX if you can.

But as good as the action is, The Dark Knight is at its most compelling when Nolan focuses on his wonderful characters and a story that demands the viewer pay attention. Commendably, especially for a summer blockbuster that’s the focus of so much attention, there are plot developments here that you just don’t see coming. If you think you’ve worked out spoilers from the trailers and released photos, then friends, you don’t actually know a thing.

But you want to know about Heath Ledger and the Joker. Well, he’s terrific. Deranged, terrifying, mannered yet spontaneous, Ledger’s is quite possibly the definitive take on the role. Even when he’s not onscreen, the brand of anarchy and chaos that The Joker brings here dominates the movie – you sense that he, or a terrible act of violence (his second appearance, complete with the most gruesome magic trick you’ll see, is the stuff of legend), is just around the corner at all times. And, like Batman, we’re appalled and fascinated by this elemental force.

As for Batman, Nolan manages to avoid the trap of previous Batsequels and keep the focus squarely on his title character. Bale is superb as a Batman who, in The Joker, is facing a foe that he doesn’t have the first clue how to defeat. And here again, are shades of Heat – The Joker and Batman are two sides of the same psychopathic coin, inexorably drawn to each other.

And then there’s Harvey Dent, a character who is, himself, both sides of the same coin. His transformation into Two-Face is the moral centre of the movie, with Nolan placing the relationship between Dent and his fellow Gotham peacekeepers, Bruce Wayne and Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon, front and centre. And the film’s all the better for showcasing these three wonderful actors with third act developments given a truly stirring emotional undercurrent (quick shout out to Oldman, who’s simply brilliant as the noble, beleaguered Gordon).

I loved it. It’s exhilarating, energizing, exciting. I want to see Nolan come back for a third Batman movie. I want to see it now. But first, I want to see The Dark Knight again. And again. For this dark, superbly acted, profound, thrilling movie might just be a contender for the best movie of the year. Not just comic book movie – movie.”

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