A FILM TO REMEMBER: “THE DARK KNIGHT” (2008)

Photograph of film poster with a display of scene images from “The Dark Knight”.

Before I get into this, I want to make mention “A FILM TO REMEMBER” will be a series about films that have reached a milestone anniversary since their origin. The articles will contain the film’s plot outline, director, cast, a compilation of trivialities, various photos, movie trailer, critical reception and more. So, let’s start:

We are here to mark the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”. Let’s take an inside look at the film.

PLOT OUTLINE:

A menace known as the Joker emerges from his mysterious past, he wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham as the Dark Knight/Batman must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice from a man who just wants to see the world burn.

Still image of filmmaker Christopher Nolan.

STUDIO:

Warner Bros. Pictures

DIRECTOR:

Christopher Nolan

CAST:

  • Christian Bale … Batman / Bruce Wayne
  • Michael Caine … Alfred Pennyworth
  • Heath Ledger … The Joker
  • Gary Oldman … James Gordon
  • Aaron Eckhart … Harvey Dent / Two-Face
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal … Rachel Dawes
  • Morgan Freeman … Lucius Fox
  • Monique Gabriela Curnen … Anna Ramirez
  • Ron Dean … Michael Wuertz
  • Nestor Carbonell … Anthony Garcia
  • Ng Chin Han … Lau
  • Eric Roberts … Sal Maroni
  • Ritchie Coster … The Chechen
  • Anthony Michael Hall … Mike Engel
  • Keith Szarabajka … Gerard Stephens
  • Joshua Harto … Coleman Reese
  • Melinda McGraw … Barbara Gordon
  • Nathan Gamble … James Gordon Jr.
  • Michael Jai White … Gambol
  • Colin McFarlane … Gillian B. Loeb
  • Nydia Rodriguez Terracina … Judge Janet Surrillo
  • Tom “Tiny” Lister Jr. … Prison Inmate
  • William Fichtner … Gotham National Bank Manager
  • Cillian Murphy … Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow

GENRE(S):

Action | Crime | Drama | Thriller

TAGLINE:

Why So Serious?

Still image of Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”.

The film is known for being what many call “the best superhero film of all time” even though it might not be the most fun superhero film ever made per se, nor in some cases, it doesn’t even feel like a superhero film in general. But it’s the most thematically sophisticated, philosophically profound, narratively complex and viscerally thrilling superhero film of them all, from it’s exhilarating first frame to its bittersweet last, as it transcends the genre. Director Christopher Nolan brings a rich and engrossing psycho film noir adventure that rip-roars with first-rate performances and a categorically career-defining one from Heath Ledger in this brilliantly nihilistic, incredibly dark and richly layered, psychedelic crime caper classic. The film is inspired from the graphic novel of “The Killing Joke” and comic book series “The Long Halloween,” it received highly positive universal acclaim and “legitimized” and influenced the genre of the comic book film in the eyes of Hollywood.

Here’s what some of the critical receptions have been for the film over the years:

Michael Phillips from Chicago Tribune says: “Nolan paints an inky portrait of a city falling apart, and in a movie rife with two-faced masquerading freaks, the Joker is merely the least conflicted of the bunch. Ledger’s work is improbably droll, impossibly creepy, meticulously detailed.”

Claudia Puig from USA Today says: “As much as this is Ledger’s movie, that should not diminish the notable accomplishments of other key cast members.”

Kenneth Turan from Los Angeles Times says: “To see it is to understand that Nolan and his co-writer brother Jonathan saw a chance to go deeper into familiar characters and mythology, a chance to meditate on darker-than-usual themes that have implications for the way we live now.”

Joe Morgenstern from Wall Street Journal says: “‘Christopher Nolan’s latest exploration of the Batman mythology steeps its muddled plot in so much murk that the Joker’s maniacal nihilism comes to seem like a recurrent grace note.”

Richard Roeper from Ebert and Roeper says: “This is a rich, complex, visually thrilling piece of pop entertainment, as strong as any superhero epic we’ve ever seen.”

Still image of Gary Oldman in “The Dark Knight”

As you can tell by the critical reactions, the film was widely acclaimed overall but did have some criticisms about the plodding and jumbled narrative structuring and along with taking itself to seriously for some pundits. But consensually, it’s an ambitious, brooding, full-bodied crime epic of gratifying scope and moral complexity, that satisfies every expectation raised by its critically well-regarded predecessor and then some. The symbiosis of good and evil is the film’s philosophical core, and images of duality and cloaked identity are strewn through it like shards from a fun house of mirrors. Nolan brings the magic of top-notch technical filmmaking while having a superb cast led by a maniacal gusto performance by Ledger in this chilling, dark, mesmerizing and bleak transcending feat of strength of a heroic masterwork film. But I’ll let you decide…


So, to get a better look at the film, here’s a link to the movie trailer of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”:


Here I have provided 12 interesting and intriguing trivia facts (I wanted to keep it limited) about “The Dark Knight”:

  • Despite endless speculation on which actor had been chosen to portray The Joker, as actors Paul Bettany, Lachy Hulme, Adrien Brody, Steve Carell, and Robin Williams all publicly expressed interest in playing the character, however, Heath Ledger had always been among Christopher Nolan’s foremost choices for the role. Ledger and Nolan had met during the “Batman Begins” (2005) casting process for the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, but Nolan and Heath agreed Ledger was wrong for the part. When casting the part of the Joker, Nolan met with several other actors before Ledger, but found them reluctant to take the role because of the popularity of Jack Nicholson’s performance in the original “Batman” (1989). Upon meeting with Ledger again, Nolan recognized him as the perfect choice for the part. When asked the reason for this unexpected casting, Nolan simply replied, “Because he’s fearless.”
  • In Sir Michael Caine’s opinion, Ledger beat the odds and topped Nicholson’s Joker from “Batman” (1989): “Jack was like a clown figure, benign but wicked, maybe a killer old uncle. He could be funny and make you laugh. Heath’s gone in a completely different direction to Jack, he’s like a really scary psychopath. He’s a lovely guy and his Joker is going to be a hell of a revelation in this picture.” Caine bases this belief on a scene where the Joker pays a visit to Bruce Wayne’s penthouse. He’d never met Ledger before, so when Ledger arrived and performed he gave Caine such a fright, he forgot his lines.
  • In an earlier draft of the script, a reference to the character of Robin, being related to Rachel Dawes (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal), was considered. The character of Dick Grayson was not explicitly mentioned, however, the character of Dawes is revealed as being a relative of the Grayson family. Nolan had it removed, because he didn’t want to build hopes up about Robin appearing in a future film.
  • In preparation for his role as The Joker, Ledger hid away in a motel room for about 6 weeks. During this extended stay of seclusion, Ledger delved deep into the psychology of the character. He devoted himself to developing The Joker’s every tic, namely the voice and that sadistic-sounding laugh (for the voice, Ledger’s goal was to create a tone that didn’t echo the work Nicholson did in his 1989 performance as the Joker). Ledger’s interpretation of The Joker’s appearance was primarily based on the chaotic, disheveled look of punk rocker Sid Vicious combined with the psychotic mannerisms of Malcolm McDowell’s character, Alex De Large, from “A Clockwork Orange” (1971).
  • In the documentary “I Am Heath Ledger” (2017), Ledger’s vocal coach on the film, Gerry Grennell, who Ledger spent several months working with him on the Joker’s voice as he used ventriloquist dummies as inspiration for the disconnected, mocking quality. Grennell states that Ledger had to continuously lick his lips due to his prosthetic coming off whenever he spoke. Ledger eventually made this a tic of the character as he was filming.
  • Aaron Eckhart spoke about a unique experience he had with Ledger during the hospital scene. He said that before lines were exchanged, Ledger would just walk around, in character, mumbling to himself in an odd manner. All Eckhart could do at the time, was just watch him while still in character. This went on for several minutes, until Ledger got close to him. Eckhart felt compelled at this point to fiercely raise his hand up. Immediately, Ledger grabbed Eckhart’s raised hand in an equally matched fierce manner. When the scene was over, Ledger, now out of character, told Eckhart “That’s what acting’s all about.”
Still image of Christian Bale in “The Dark Knight”.
  • Nolan and his co-writers, Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer, made the decision very early on not to explore The Joker’s origins. This was so the character could be presented as an “absolute”.
  • Ledger directed both homemade videos that the Joker sends to GCN himself. The first video involving the fake Batman, was done under Nolan’s supervision. Nolan thought Ledger had done so well with that sequence, he felt there was no need for him to be there when it came time to film the scene where reporter Mike Engel reads the Joker’s statement. He put his trust in Ledger and let him do whatever he wanted, ultimately pleased with the result, after he’d seen the outcome.
  • The Batman theme is heard only twice in the film, as composers Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard decided that a heroic theme that a viewer could hum would overlook the complexity and darkness of the character. Hearing the tune only twice would create what Zimmer calls “a musical foreshadowing.”
  • According to Nolan, the character of Bruce Wayne’s reasons for needing a new Batsuit (to be faster and more agile) were, in fact, the real reasons why Nolan wanted the Batsuit to be redesigned for this film. Bale admitted he did not pack on as much muscle weight for this film as he did for “Batman Begins” (2005), in part due to keeping with the new Batsuit design, which is leaner and more flexible.
  • Many believe of the major key reasons why the Academy moved from 5 Best Picture nominations to 10, was because 2 of the best received films of the year — “The Dark Knight” (2008) and “WALL·E” (2008) — were not among the 5 nominees.
  • The first 4 days of scheduled shooting resulted in no film being rolled. Instead, Nolan screened 2 films for the cast and crew with a break in between. The 8 films were (in order): “Heat” (1995), “Cat People” (1942), “Citizen Kane” (1941), “King Kong” (1933), “Batman Begins” (2005), “Black Sunday” (1977), “A Clockwork Orange” (1971), and “Stalag 17” (1953).
Still image of Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”.

To conclude, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is a grim, psychological, complex and unforgettable film that succeeds not just as an entertainingly intriguing comic-book film, but as a richly crime thriller that includes nods to terrorism, domestic surveillance and even sanctioned torture. Christopher Nolan manages to boast a visual splendor that matches its trenchant themes and inspired performances especially from the defining, spine-tingling Heath Ledger in creating a thrillingly executed, primeval and exhilarating somber portrait of our own paranoia, sense of hopelessness and selfishness steeped in tragedy, sacrifice and heroism. While capturing our collective anxiety over the resurgent politics of hope in a chaotic, nightmarish, soaring, entangled, unpredictable and resolute, crime gothic morality saga of a primordial crown jewel.