DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan
Batman Begins‘ ending was a brilliant nod towards the things that were to come, as Gary Oldman’s, newly promoted Lieutenant Jim Gordon flashes The Joker’s calling card, Batman’s revival had now well and truly begun. A film with lesser known villains was about to retread more familiar ground with the introduction of The Joker and Harvey Dent/Two Face.
But this was Christopher Nolan’s more grounded take on the superhero, and his villains needed to be much more than the hammy caricatures that we’d seen before. The late Heath Ledger made the role of The Joker his own in ways that no-one could have imagined. This was a dark, evil and terrifying take on the character with an evil sense if humour but he is in keeping with the villain that we know so well.
The origins of the Dark Knight were covered expertly in the first film, and now it is time to take that story one step further, so consequently this is now more about crime in Gotham City. The criminal underworld is now in turmoil as Batman, Gordon and the new District Attorney, Harvey Dent are leaning on them, but when things turn ugly, they turn ugly!
The beauty of this film is that it takes off pretty much from where the first left off, but the tone has changed a bit. This owes a lot to Michael Mann’s, Heat, and focuses much more on Wayne/Batman’s attempts to rid the city of crime, whilst his opposite and nemesis, The Joker, is proving himself to be nothing less than a pure anarchist, unreasonable and nonnegotiable.
Is this better than Batman Begins? Yes, but only fractionally. It’s slightly tighter and more complex, with every set piece seamlessly moving on to the next complex sequence, where the grand plan is rarely what it appears to be. The film’s narrative is deceptive, playing with its characters and the audience alike. This is film-making at it’s very best. The perfect blend of grand direction, passionate character development and performance and writing, with a narrative and structure designed to engage and enthrall the viewer without patronising or insulting their intelligence.
I believe that this film is a masterpiece and genuinely the best movie of this genre ever made. There are so many examples of how to do a comic adaptation and many great examples to boot, but I feel that this blends them all so well. It’s a franchise film without falling into the trap of being part of franchise. Each film is a real film its own right, with a plot, arch and tone.
The narrative continues, but the feel evolves to suit the film, and though Begins and Knight seamlessly work together, either could also be taken as a film by themselves, each with the integrity to hold their own. But as a franchise movie, it is still littered with nods to the future, or in some cases, more subtle entries into the lore.
Take Mr. Reese for example. This was a name used by The Riddler and many suspected at the time that it was linked to the third film, but so far, there’s no talk of The Riddler’s involvement, in fact there has been an outright denial. But I believe that in effect, he has already appeared, though in a much muted manner. Mr. Coleman Reese, or Mister-REES (mysteries anyone?), threatens to out Wayne as Batman but is stopped by The Joker, but maybe the fact that he worked for a consultancy employed by Wayne Enterprises and threatened Wayne with blackmail etc… was a mild acknowledgment of The Riddler’s character.
This is what we’re talking about when we look at Nolan’s work. He spares nothing, but delivers the film in ways that doesn’t always conform to your expectations. And don’t forget th line about the Cats line either…
Overall, The Dark Knight is the epitome of the reboot genre, taking so much from the original source without copying, but bringing a genuinely deep, thoughtful and emotional take on a comic book character who dresses like a bat and solves crime… May the genius of Christopher Nolan and his team carry on for years to come, but I do fear that he’s heading for a fall, purely on the basis that no-one can produce films of this outstanding quality for ever… can they?