Nolan In-Review: The Dark Knight

What is there to be said about The Dark Knight that hasn’t already been said? Nolan’s magnum opus. A how-to of dark takes on superheroes. Heath Ledger’s performance. Monologues for days. One of the greatest films ever made?

The Dark Knight feels like the result of a studio handing Nolan a butt-load of money with the sole instruction of making a Batman movie. Where Batman Begins was the perfect incarnation of a darker, grittier and more serious Batman movie, The Dark Knight stands out from the crowd by not trying to be a Batman movie – but something so much more.

From the pitch perfect opener, to the fantastic running thread of the car chase, to the truck flip, to the interrogation scene, and then Rachel’s death, The Dark Knight is more akin to Michael Mann’s Heat than any kind of superhero movie.  

When it comes to its story it goes big, but not in the traditional destroy the city or the world kind of big. This is an intelligent plot that tries to be a good story first, rather than a good Batman story. You could take the plot of The Dark Knight and remove all elements of Batman and still have a truly excellent film.

It is here that we find the winning solution to Nolan’s sequel: we don’t always need comic-book-esque stories to tell in our comic book films. Of course there is merit to those kind of stories, I love a few of them myself, but by implementing Batman into a tale that feels grand, grounded, and mature, the weight behind our preexisting impressions on these characters becomes all the heavier. The Dark Knight, all things said and done, is a story about corruption, and one that doesn’t rely on explosions or car chases – although it has a few. Instead, we are invested in the shifting politics of the law fighting back against the mob, with the Joker being the spanner thrown in the works.

My personal view on The Dark Knight always begins to fade after some time, as the loud chants of “best film ever”, start to ignite that stubborn part of me that doesn’t want to agree with everyone else. Yet as I sat down to this film for the first time in a few years, from beginning to end, frame to frame, I was invested and found myself in complete awe that I could have even for one second thought this wasn’t one of the greatest films made in recent memory.             

This was the film that truly put Nolan’s name on the map, and for good reason. He somehow manages to completely transcend what it means to make a Batman movie, something that every other superhero movie since hasn’t even come close to replicating. This truly is a modern masterpiece.  

Published by Aaron Bayne

I’m a film and video games journalist based in Scotland. I write stuff about them on my website, talk about them on my podcasts and film videos about them for BBC The Social.

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