On July 17th, 2008, I was standing outside my local movie theater. I had missed Batman Begins in theaters and I wouldn’t make the same mistake again. I had my ticket to The Dark Knight in hand and was ready for what some critics were calling an incredible film. They weren’t wrong. It’s been 10 years since my favorite Batman film debuted in theaters and its influence still reaches today.
The film series Christopher Nolan put the Caped Crusader in a world we could all recognize. It wasn’t the Gothic structures of films past, but modern day skyscrapers. It was busy streets of traffic. It was America. It was Hong Kong. It was our world, which brought a realistic take to a super human character and his villains. It’s a formula that studios, even WB, have been trying to replicate since and have had varied success in doing. Bringing the characters to a realistic level brought a new appreciation and awe to the story that was unfolding. Roger Ebert put it brilliantly.
It is customary in a comic book movie to maintain a certain knowing distance from the action, to view everything through a sophisticated screen. “The Dark Knight” slips around those defenses and engages us. …Because these actors and others are so powerful, and because the movie does not allow its spectacular special effects to upstage the humans, we’re surprised how deeply the drama affects us.
While the voice masking was up to 11 in this film, it had incredibly dark and tense moments. His love interest was brutally murdered. The District Attorney Harvey Dent had half of his face burnt off. An enraged man threatened to shoot a child. There wasn’t a blue ring of light in the sky trying to dig a whole through the Earth or having an entire city go up into the sky. Unfortunately, these were events we could imagine happening in our world and being terrified by them. It made the stakes that much higher because these was men doing these things. And one insane, horrible man did it all with some gasoline and bullets.
Yes, I would be completely remiss if I didn’t speak about Heath Ledger‘s performance as The Joker. The unpredictable nature of the character was right there in the performance. He would become the character on set and no one would know what he was going to do. He was a dog chasing trucks, truly. Ledger redefined the character to make him from a bit of a clown to a truly terrifying man. Some have tried to imitate his performance but to very little success. His haunting performance of The Joker will be cemented in history forever.
The film is still highly regarded today as one of the greatest comic book films of all time. Its cinematography, its music, its special effects, its stunts – they were all incredible. In fact, the film was so groundbreaking that it helped change the rules of the Oscars to nominate 10 Best Films. The Dark Knight will be celebrating its anniversary this year by re-releasing the film in IMAX in select cities. And while this film continues to inspire other comic book films, they rarely, if ever, live up to the original.
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