The Dark Knight: Why I think it is so much more than another superhero movie
There certainly is no shortage of reviews for this film (during the time of this writing there are 300 on Amazon for the Single Disc DVD and over 1000 on the iTunes store), but there has been such a strong response both in favor of and against this movie that I wanted to throw in my two cents.
What makes this film, in my opinion, a masterpiece and not just another summer blockbuster is how deeply it involves the viewer in the action itself. The masterful artistic element is how Christopher Nolan immerses the viewer. For the first thirty minutes, the viewer does not expect much more than a well-done action flick, replete with special effects and hyperbolic action galore. Bad guys are still being bad guys in Gotham City and Batman is still up to his old tricks (fancy gadgets and all) in his efforts to stop them. However, Nolan gradually and carefully raises the stakes, and the movie develops from a typical action movie into an unnervingly honest appraisal of the natures of good and evil. Unlike most superhero movies, The Dark Knight reaches further than GothamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s city limits Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it demands a very personal reaction from the viewer.
At two and a half hours, the Dark Knight is a very mentally and physically taxing experience for the viewer, as Nolan clearly intended it to be. He carefully balances which emotions he elicits from the viewer, oscillating from uncertainty to laughter to outright terror. This fragile balance can be (and often is) shattered at a momentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s notice and then just as quickly restored through some well-timed comic relief, only heightening the overall sense of instability that dominates this film. The viewer is constantly being denied the cathartic sense of relief so desperately needed by the filmÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s end. The most triumphant moments are consistently thwarted, interrupted, or otherwise overturned Ã¢â‚¬â€œ so much so that the majority of the film feels dominated by desolation and hopelessness. Since that feeling of uncertainty is so crucial to experience the full impact of the film, I wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t reveal any of the story specifics or plot devices that create these Ã¢â‚¬Å“overturnsÃ¢â‚¬Â, but they are obviously felt while viewing. Nonetheless, everything Nolan does in the Dark Knight serves to further disquiet and rattle the viewer. From the unearthly screeching of Hans ZimmerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s score, to the chillingly familiar video threats made by the Joker (evoking a sense of very real terror, imitating the style of so many terrorist videos seen during newscasts these days), to the ultimate blurring between the lines of good and evil (incredibly likeable but twisted villains Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the Joker Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and sometimes morally ambiguous superhero in Batman), The Dark Knight complicates the traditional understanding and expectations of a superhero movie.
Unlike other movies of the genre, NolanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s masterpiece presents a very complex understanding of morality and forces the viewer to analyze his own morality in the tense Ã¢â‚¬Å“What would I do?Ã¢â‚¬Â moments throughout the film. And while everything else about the movie is entirely epic and grandiose, morality is very realistically complicated and personal. Nolan is able to successfully individualize the epic and takes the viewer through a wide range of emotional experiences. The culmination of all the uncertainty, moral ambiguity, and terror built upon during the film make the ending of this movie, without spoiling it, one of the most rewarding experiences in modern cinema.