© Warner Bros. Pictures Germany

Dark Knight (The Dark Knight)
U.S.A. 2008

Opening 21 Aug 2008

Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Writing credits: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer, Bob Kane
Principal actors: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal

Things are not going well for Batman aka Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale). Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal), the woman he loves, has given up hope of ever living together with him. She now has a crush on the new District Attorney (Aaron Eckhart), a handsome man who doesn't have to wear a mask to do his job. Bruce doesn't want to be Batman anymore, but Lieutenant Gordon (Gary Oldman) and the DA, Harvey Dent, need him to win the fight against organized crime. To make matters worse, The Joker (Heath Ledger), a psychopathic killer with a clown's face, decides to give the situation his personal touch.

According to Bruce's butler Alfred (Michael Caine), The Joker is a man who just wants "to watch the world burn". He calls his crimes "social experiments" and believes that when people are exposed to chaos or the unexpected, the veneer of civilization will quickly wear off. So the Joker creates chaos and watches peoples' reactions. For example, he sets up a situation, where Batman is forced to choose between Rachel and Harvey Dent. Both of them are about to get killed, and only one of them can he save in time. Who will be saved, who will be sacrificed?

After Batman Begins, the blockbuster which breathed new life into the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight is the second Batman film directed by Christopher Nolan. While Batman Begins explored Batman's roots, The Dark Knight (written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan) shows us what has become of billionaire and vigilante Bruce Wayne aka Batman. Bruce now realizes that while his heroic actions as Batman have helped Gotham City, they have also created unforeseen problems. What Gotham City needs is an "official" hero, a "White Knight", or so Batman thinks. Only a fine line, however, separates heroes from monsters, and The Joker knows how to make people cross this line.

Much has been said and written about Heath Ledger's brilliant portrayal of The Joker, but it takes more than one good actor to make the audience applaud at the end. Christian Bale is the real Batman/Bruce, Aaron Eckhart shines as Harvey Dent/Two Face, and Gary Oldman,  Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman fit their roles well.  The impressive cinematography and music (by Wally Pfister and Hans Zimmer) also play a big part in making The Dark Knight a classic.

This action-packed dark thriller is a must for Batman fans and highly recommended for everyone who likes action movies. It is also a treat for fans of the late Heath Ledger. (Christa Greiff)

Second Opinion

You’ve come a long way, Batman. At least there are stupendous improvements since the last Batman film I saw which was in 1989 (by Tim Burton, with Michael Keeton as the big bat and Jack Nicholson as the crazy Joker). Luckily, directors just don’t give up on Batman, and several versions later, we now have one Batman film which will be hard to top. This is huge, filmed partly on IMAX cameras, bombastic, loud, and not too long even at 152 minutes. The basic story is the same as former versions: the Joker (Heath Ledger) wishes to destroy Gotham City (Chicago) just for kicks and Batman (Christian Bale) feels obligated to save it. Or as the Joker says, “It’s freak against freak.” Both of them had unfortunate childhoods, which show that abandonment can shape a child for better or for worse, although the Joker seems to have had a rougher beginning which shows on his scared face. There is a love interest between city politician Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Rachel knows Batman from earlier days (and still has a soft spot for him) while Harvey will win her hand, though much good it does him in the end. Someone has to be sacrificed for the cause.

The plot goes full speed ahead, so that often I was confused. Who died? Whose fault was it? Why are people on the ferries pushing buttons? Or not? When did the Joker disappear? Where is he? Why does nobody love Batman; he only wants to help? Possibly many people returned for another viewing to answer these questions, which contributed to the successful box office returns. The special effects are fabulous, such as a huge truck making a summersault lengthwise. Batman’s motorcycle, pardon me. bat pod, is more exhilarating than his bat mobile. In the lineup of super heroes, we see that Batman is really Bruce Wayne, a millionaire. Ironman is also a millionaire in his other life.  It makes me wonder what kind of costume millionaire Bill Gates wears when he saves the world from malaria. Guess what happens to a prisoner who has had a mobile phone surgically implanted into his stomach.

This is director Christopher Nolan’s second Batman film. Important in various roles are Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman. There is much talk of awarding Heath Ledger an Oscar after his sad demise. However, many of the actors deserve at least a nomination. Christian Bale’s cheekbones alone are worth a prize. Too bad they are covered up half the time with his Batman helmet. The music is marvelous, by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer (again).

At my press conference I sat beside a young couple, Nicole and David, who had driven all the way from Braunschweig for the pre-showing. They had won tickets in a batman competition. They thought it was “the best film they’ve ever seen” and wanted a press magazine. I will send them mine after this writing to go with the Batman poster the sponsors distributed. It’s always so wonderful to meet truly loyal film enthusiasts. They are the ones who keep the cinemas open. They drove home exchanging quotes such as “I’m not a monster and not ahead of my time.” “I believe that good will overcome.” “Die as a hero or live long enough to become the villain.” “The Joker destroyed the best.” (Becky Tan)

The theaters below show films in their original language; click on the links for showtimes and ticket information.
Interviews with the stars, general film articles, and reports on press conferences and film festivals.
Subscribe to the free KinoCritics monthly email newsletter here.