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ďThe Dark Knight"-{Blu-Ray}- (also available as a 3 Disc DVD)-(Wayne's Review)
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Warner Bros.
Genre:
Action
Release Date:
12/9/08
Special Features:

"Gotham Uncovered" documentary, "Batman Tech" documentary, "Batman Unmasked" featurette, "Gotham Tonight" broadcasts, galleries, trailers, BD Live with option to record your own commentary track, Digital Download of the movie ---

Review:

The line that divides chaos and insanity, darkness from light remains as thin as a coin. Flip it and you'll randomly come up with one or the other and it comes down to chance as to which one you'll get. Either way the joke's on you--because we keep flipping the coin every morning we wake up. Sooner or later the odds are against you and then it only takes a subtle push to slide into darkness. Gravity will do the rest as Chris Nolan suggests in his brilliant film "The Dark Knight". Nolan like Tim Burton before him has redesigned the Batman franchise to examine themes near and dear to his heart including when a desire to change things can cross the line into obsession and fall into the thinly divided bit between good and evil. Nolan has created that rarity in the entertainment world--a film that has its feet so to speak in two worlds the serious and populist entertainment ones simultaneously without compromising the vision for either world. We've gotten so used to the hype of blockbuster films that it rare when the blockbuster lives up to its hype it's astonishing. ***

As I mentioned before in my review of the theatrical version of this film, clearly Nolan decided NOT to take a typical "comic book" approach to shooting the film. He elected to take the unconventional approach of shooting it much like the dramatic thrillers "Dog Day Afternoon", "Three Days of the Condor" and even "North by Northwest" by Lumet, Pollock and Hitchcock. By eschewing the pop colors of "Batman Forever" and Burton's own gothic approach to the material, he both embraces the elements that make the comic book unique without trapping it in the genre ghetto. His approach, the script and acting invites viewers to take this film as a much more serious populist film with artistic merit. His gamble as with "Batman Begins" succeeds. If you're aware of Nolan's other films, he uses many of the unusual techniques he pioneered in everything from his first film "Following" to "The Prestige" to make "The Dark Knight" a powerful drama that echoes the Greek tragedies and the works of Shakespeare. ***

Taking place after the Batman has taken down most of the serious thugs and criminals that dog Gotham, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) believes that soon he may be able to give up his alternate identity as crime fighter and resume a normal life. He has even found someone who can resume his fight without having to hide behind a mask--District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart in an overlooked, performance equally as brilliant as Heath Ledger's). Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal--a better actress than Kate Holmes) the woman that Wayne loves and has had to give up--temporarily in his mind--for his alter ego and her rival Batman is currently involved with Dent which makes the idea of giving up his crusade even more power. All the while Gordon (Gary Oldham) must decide who to trust in his own compromised department as officers are bought off a new crime boss (Eric Roberts). Alfred (Michael Caine) and Lucius (Morgan Freeman) the head of Wayne Enterprises continue to offer Bruce Wayne sage advice that he may hear but not often listen to. ***

Enter the unbalanced Joker (Heath Ledger in an Oscar worthy performance) a villain who doesn't do evil because he wants money, power or influence but because he thrives on chaos and wants to prove to the world that everyone IS the Joker beneath their veneer of civility. Joker constructs a complex and meticulous plan that will give him influence and power but only so he can set into motion a dark and devious plan to make Gotham the capital of chaos reflecting his brand of insanity. ***

Critically praised when it was released in the summer of 2008, "The Dark Knight" manages to be both ambitious drama AND an entertaining diversion (an oxymoron in most people's minds) tackling larger-than-life concerns that have been central themes of Nolan's work from his very first film "Following". In fact, I'd argue that both of Nolan's films are BETTER films than the more baroque Burton films. Certainly "Batman" and "Batman Returns" still have their merit and are brilliantly constructed films but Nolan's films are both DARKER, more seriously and an underlying menace to them making Burton's films by comparison seem like the "Batman" TV series when compared to these Nolan's films. All of that said, Nolan's "The Dark Knight" packs a lot of plot into a massive film that almost careens out of control because he tries to pack so much into his film. "The Dark Knight" certainly could have run about 20 minutes shorter than it does but it is hard to pinpoint where, exactly, Nolan truly could have trimmed his film without sacrificing the very elements that make it so powerful and successful.

Special Features:

"Gotham Uncovered" is the only extra on the first disc of this three disc set. Warner wisely makes it available in the PIP format for those with 2.0 machines and allows fans to watch it as a regular documentary. It's a marvelous glimpse behind-the-scenes covering everything from the IMAX shooting to the planning and execution of some of the action sequences. I am disappointed that once again Nolan has chosen not to do a commentary track. He's an intelligent and well spoken (albeit quiet) man and paring him with his producer/wife or even star Bale might have enhanced the experience of the film. ***

Disc Two commences with "Batman Tech" which was presented on TV. It's a comprehensive documentary on all of the devices used in the film and was designed both as informative and promo piece. ***

"Batman Unmasked" pulls the cowl away exposing us to a Freudian and Jungian point-of-view both of the Batman as disturbed individual and archetype. It seems to me that Scarecrow (Cilian Murphy in what amounts to a cameo) sums up all of the info we see here in a single line of the film. When the Batman says he's "just fine", Scarecrow pithily adds "that's not my diagnosis". ***

Next up we get the uncut "Gotham Tonight" the broadcast that run throughout the film hosted by "The Dead Zone" star Anthony Michael Hall as a TV newscaster that helps move the narrative along and provides nice transitions to the byzantine plot elements. We also get the usual photo galleries, trailers as well as the option to upload your own commentary track via BDLive and other features that you can access online. What would have been interesting is for Warner to include a real time interview with cast members or a scheduled live commentary track by various production members that could be accessed online via with the option of fans to interact/record their questions. Perhaps we'll see something to that effect in the future. ***

The third disc features one of those Digital Download discs that I have no use for most of the time. The good news here is that Warner makes theirs mp3 and iPod compatible. That lack of compatibility was a major complaint on earlier discs. Since you MUST have the code to download this, it makes this somewhat of a limited option for fans. I would much rather of had a regular DVD of the movie for fans that might not have more than one Blu-ray player or if someone else in the house wanted to watch the film. Disney is actually doing this with "Sleeping Beauty" Blu-ray which I believe is an innovative and much more useful extra that will help the transition from DVD to Blu-ray since fans can watch it now and have the Blu-ray for the future. ***

DVD PRESENTATION: All the extras are the same for the 3 Disc edition including the Digital Download disc EXCEPT for the option to access BD Live and record your own commentary track. ---

Final Words:

I wouldn't call "The Dark Knight" the "greatest comic book movie ever" simply because that limits the film making it a big fish in a small point. Stepping out of the comic book ghetto Nolan has fashioned an outstanding film. A visually stunning tour-de-force that echoes some of the great thrillers directed by Lumet, Pollock and Hitchcock, Nolan elects to eschew the "comic book" look that many other directors choose to do but, instead, approaches it as a morally complex thriller in the tradition of the great 70's films from the suspense genre. Nolan's approach here as with "Batman Begins" was to look beyond the limitations of the "comic book" genre trying to make THE BEST film he possibly could that transcends the genre itís a part of.

 

 
 
 
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