The Dark Knight 
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart
Dir. Christopher Nolan
The first post Grumpy Guy put up on this site was THIS ONE, breaking down why the Batman series had failed overall, unwilling to completely commit to the vision of Batman that Frank Miller created, while at the same time, unwilling to completely let go of the past. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins created a neo-realistic world that embraced its Graphic Novel roots, but failed to create a compelling Bruce Wayne or Batman. Like the other films, the art direction triumphed over character. With The Dark Knight, Nolan has said: Fuck it. Let’s go all the way with this. The Dark Knight succeeds where the other Batman films have failed, in that it is rich with character. It is the characters, not the FX or art direction that is the important thing, the most fascinating and entertaining of which is Heath Ledger’s Joker.
The early reviews of the film often mentioned Joker’s “pencil trick”. Without having seen the film, I could guess what it probably was going to be like. But I was wrong. I was still surprised by the moment, even a little shocked. It was one of those: “Did he just do that?” moments. It was brilliant, not only for the character of the Joker, showing everyone who’s boss, but for Nolan, telling his audience what they were in store for. This Joker is a true movie villain. True movie villains don’t fuck around. They mean business. A true movie villain kills at a whim, is dangerous and unpredictable. Everyone needs to watch their ass around a true movie villain, including the audience. This is what really makes The Dark Knight work so well, the dangerous, unpredictable performance of Ledger… or is it Joker? The Joker is a frightening character, not only in looks, but in action, which makes for an entertaining flick.
Nolan still hasn’t conquered the task of making Wayne/Batman an interesting character, once again relying on the villains, extra characters and their subplots to carry the show. This time out it doesn’t matter. The overall story arc is somewhat incidental to the sheer suspense of watching Joker do his thing and wondering what’s he’s going to do next.
The Dark Knight not only breaks the mold of the Batman series, it breaks the mold of the “comic book movie”. Iron Man balanced, with humor and intelligence, audience and studio expectations of what the “family friendly blockbuster” should be like, as did The Incredible Hulk. They basically followed the Spider-Man mold… make it fun and exciting, but safe for mom, dad, junior and little sis. The Dark Knight isn’t family friendly. It isn’t safe. After five attempts at bringing the cape crusader to the screen, balancing Frank Miller’s Batman with everything that came before it, Nolan has successfully tipped the scale in Miller’s direction. The place it needed to be.
There have been a thousand reviews of The Dark Knight, mostly praising it. For some alternate insights on the film, check out Sunset Gun breaking down why Joker’s homicidal anarchy is so contagious. And Badazz Mofo breaks down who would have played The Dark Knight back in the day.