I got super excited when I was scrolling through my Netflix recently and saw that “The Dark Knight” was available for my viewing pleasure.
The 2008 film is arguably still the best Batman and is lauded by many as the greatest superhero move ever made.
However, it’s been a long time since I’ve watched the movie and I wanted to see what a viewing in 2021, after all of DC’s recent flops and Marvel’s well crafted universe asserted its dominance in the genre, felt like.
I turned on the film and I figured I’d watch about 30 minutes and continue the next day. However, I just couldn’t stop watching it once I turned it on. I ended up finishing it all in one sitting and here are my thoughts.
Bale is Not the Best Batman
Sorry Nolanites, but Christian Bale was seriously lacking in a few areas in his portrayal of the Batman character. You would never notice this unless you pay specific attention to the scenes with only Batman/Bruce, and know other iterations of the character well.
The forced, over-gravely and largely parodied Batman voice did not age well at all. It’s even more cringe now than it was in the late 2000s. I also feel like Bale is one of the driest, least charming Bruce Wayne’s we’ve ever seen on the big screen. Yes, I know he’s a vigilante with a tortured soul, and Bale executes that part perfectly, but he’s also a charming, womanizing owner of one of the biggest conglomerates in the world.
Whenever the film tries to display this side of Wayne it falls flat. One scene being when he lands on the helicopter with the Russian ballerinas. It’s just not believable that he’s interested in these women at all. Comic book/cartoon Bruce, would channel that interest in a more authentic fashion. Look at Keaton’s interactions with Vicki Vale in “Batman,” or even Kilmer with Chase Meridian in “Batman Forever.” Those actors just feel more natural in these types of scenes. Bale does a better job in “The Dark Knight Rises” with Talia al Ghul.
Also, when he says he owns the restaurant in the date scene with Rachel and Harvey Dent, he comes off as more of a stalking psychopath than a charming billionaire. Most of these scenes are more about his obsession with Rachel and Dent than they are a natural expression of his billionaire self.
However, all around, this is still the best Batman movie and I think that’s why Bale is largely regarded as the best Batman by many fans.
Heath is Still The Best Comic Book Villain on the Big Screen
Health Ledger reinvents the Joker character in a way that is still influencing newer portrayals to this day. You can see a little bit of his iteration in Joaquin Phoenix’s version, and even in Jared Leto’s in “Suicide Squad” and the new Snyder cut “Justice League” trailer.
I still think Mark Hamill is the quintessential crime boss Joker in “BTAS,” however, Heath’s version was so good that it made a lot of people forget about any other portrayal of the character. I think Ledger, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and even Morgan Freeman have some of the strongest performances in the film with Heath carrying most of the load.
He’s magnetic, scary, and inspiring all at the same time. By the end of the film he makes a laughingstock out of he established order in Gotham and you almost find yourself rooting for him by the time we get to the film’s conclusion.
I scarily sometimes find myself agreeing with some of his chaos inducing principals, or lack thereof due to how strong Ledger’s performance of the character really was. It’s a shame we never got to see him add to this version in future films, but he certainly left a legacy that is nearly impossible to touch.
The Ending Sucks
Nolan gets a lot of flack for the endings of movies like “Inception,” and even his latest outing, “Tenet.” However, no one ever talks about how un-Batman-like and disappointing the ending is of “The Dark Knight.”
After a rollercoaster ride of setups by the Joker, he finally turns Gotham’s white knight into a hardened criminal. This turn of Harvey Dent would have been more satisfying had he actually lived past the end of this film.
But no. Batman breaks his one rule and kills him to save Gordon’s son. We never get to see Two-Face become a part of the Batman universe thanks to this. And to make things even worse, Batman is framed by Gordon for all of Dent’s crimes to save this classic Batman villain from being tarnished in the public eye.
This not only is such an anticlimactic ending, but it goes against some of the fundamentals of the Batman character. Especially considering how the sequel begins with Batman being in retirement for 8 years due to the events in “The Dark Knight.”
So if we count up all the time he was Batman it only equals to about 1 year and some months throughout all 3 films. And this weird take on Batman and Robin is why a lot of fans dislike “The Dark Knight Rises” so much. What fan’s fail to realize is the seeds for this stupid plan were planted at the end of Dark Knight.
The whole anyone could be Batman is such a departure from the classic character who is a superhero staple in the DC universe. Bruce Wayne is Batman, and Batman is a hero who would never take credit for a crime as it would tarnish his status as a symbol of good that strikes fear in the heart of criminals.
This scene at the end is done so subtly that I don’t think fans really have time to digest what’s happening and it gets overlooked for being a crappy way to end such a fantastic film. In any other Nolan movie, the ending could have worked, but it’s just not what Batman would do in any universe. He would have accepted that Dent turned and kept on fighting crime the way that he intended in “Batman Begins.”
The Movie is Fantastic
Despite the ending, I still think this movie holds up today and ranks among the greatest comic book movies of all time.
The writing, cinematography, acting and fast moving plot could keep any viewer glued to the screen from start to finish. The film is dark, but has heart, unlike some of DC’s latest creations.
You care about these established characters and want to see how the Joker will continue his reign of terror throughout the film. They give him some varying back stories that masterfully add to his chaotic nature. He doesn’t need an origin story like we see in the latest 2019 adaptation of the character in “The Joker.” And he’s not just a psychopath, he’s also a crafty crime boss which we see him display perfectly in his interactions with the mob and Gotham’s toughest criminals.
Bale is serviceable in the role and does enough to keep us rooting for Batman, and Michael Caine’s Alfred proves to be more inspiring than our hero as he walks Wayne him through the motions of life. Freeman’s Lucious Fox is also a standout with his moral stances and unmatched wit when it comes to dealing with vigilantes like Wayne, and blackmailers like the Coleman Reese from Wayne enterprises.
In conclusion, “The Dark Knight” aged like fine wine and makes me pine for another Nolan adaptation of the hero.