The film begins featuring a man standing on a corner in the heart of Gotham City, casually sporting a trench coat in the bright afternoon sun; not long before the camera pans up closer to this shadowy figure, does the audience see a vehicle speed up to the side of the curb and in a swift yet discreet movement, the shadowy figure pulls on a clown mask and joins those who are inside. The focus stays on the noiseless, brooding character while those around him are excitedly chattering amongst themselves from beneath their similar clown masks about who the Joker is; their fear yet potent worship of this man is evident as they pull in front of a stone-laden building, the attention now settling upon the citizens of Gotham casually walking in and out of the doors, almost painfully unaware of their surroundings or the imminent danger that could be thrust upon them at any moment in time. Ascending from their car, the heads of clown-faced men scan their surroundings, agilely making their way up the concrete stairs and into the building with black, canvas bags slung over their shoulders. Other members involved in the attack accessing the building through the roof to make their way to the vault. The group down below enters the bank with such an abruptness that those inside cower, first noticing their grotesque masks set to hide their true identities and then their Beretta 92FS handguns with their fingers securely on the triggers as a warning. Upon noticing this, the bank manager inconspicuously reached for the shotgun that is hidden in his office, in an attempt to be the hero, to save the innocent Gotham citizens around him. Each of the group members carrying out the tasks that were given to them, and meeting their end shortly thereafter to the hands of another member until none of them are left except for the man who hasn't made a sound since his arrival. Shots are fired until they come in contact with the flesh of the bank manager, his attempt at becoming the hero falling short. Realizing his imminent demise and understanding that he only has his last words to bear, his face twists with disgust as he says,
"Think you're pretty smart, huh? The guy that hired you's, he'll just do the same to you. Oh, criminals in this town used to believe in things: Honor, respect. Look at you! What do you believe in, huh? What do you believe in?"
The clown-mask sitting securely on his face, the man thinks to himself for a moment and then leans down and utters, "I believe whatever doesn't kill you, simply makes you..."
He peels off his mask to reveal that he is in fact, The Joker.
It is no surprise that 2008 film "The Dark Knight," made its way into theaters on July 18, and didn't even show symptoms of faltering until March of 2009. The man who directed this, Christopher Nolan, went above and beyond the finished product of the first Batman installment, proving to his audience that he could build upon what he had already created and shape it into this stimulating, thought-provoking, dark masterpiece. "The Dark Knight," is a mind-blowing film because the story-line stays committed to its comic book roots for the duration, the characters are not only well-developed but they also accurately resemble those they are portraying, and the director, Christopher Nolan, has a truly engaging and insightful perspective on the way the characters should be perceived by both the actors and the cult-following that it attracts.
It's astounding to think about how many stories could be adapted from the Batman comic books and remade into films, what's more is that the stories that have been chosen become the faces of the menacing, masked vigilante eventually. One of the few criteria that I feel should be noticed during this movie, is how well the characters were taken from the comic books and brought onto the big screen. In "The Dark Knight," Batman's arch-nemesis, The Joker, all but stumbles into Gotham City "with no rhyme and less reason" (Dargis) intending to create fear and chaos for all of those who inhabit it; he wants to show the caped crusader who people truly are when they are pushed to their breaking point, he wants Batman to understand that it isn't a long fall from good to evil and most of all, that the two are more alike than they are different. Speaking of The Joker, Christopher Nolan's standpoint on who the self-proclaimed agent of chaos played by Heath Ledger rivals that of Jack Nicholson's Joker, and in my opinion, ultimately wins that contest. The character was so well-developed on screen, exhibiting different shades of mania, violence and dark philosophy in each scene he stars in, that it is almost dumbfounding that the adaptation grew from a comic book that was primarily sold to children. Nicholson's variation proved to be more humorous than severe. Adding on to that, the world's greatest detective also known as Batman, differs largely from his counterparts played by Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer by bringing his inner demons into the outside world for all of Gotham to see while they kept it to themselves and dealt with it as such; the intensity of the emphasis on Batman's struggle between saving the city and saving himself is one that he has come to realize will never end (again, this was somehow extracted from a comic book that was written for children).
The second point of criteria that I would like to highlight upon, is the way Christopher Nolan views a troubled man such as Batman. Unlike many others who see Batman in a black and white fashion, holding on to the thought that he is either a bright inspiration to the city of Gotham or a bad influence, Christopher Nolan has a unique approach to the masked vigilante: "As we looked through the comics, there was this fascinating idea that Batman's presence in Gotham actually attracts criminals to Gotham, attracts lunacy," he said. "When you're dealing with questionable notions like people taking the law into their own hands, you really have to ask, where does that lead? That's what makes the character so dark, because he expresses vengeful desire," (Halbfinger). I find it intriguing that Batman can be seen in so many varying lights, that one minute he can be seen as a hero and the influence that Gotham needs to turn their city around but the next, he's simply a criminal fighting other criminals and that he is no better than the Joker himself; In the words of Commissioner Gordon, "he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one that it needs right now," (The Dark Knight: Memorable Quotes. IMDB).
One of the aspects that this film exerts that makes it truly memorable, also another well made criteria, is the fact that Christopher Nolan tirelessly referred the origins of Batman throughout his installments of it. If there was a detail thrown in for the audience's enjoyment, such as Maggie Gyllenhaal's fictional character Rachel whose only appearance is made in the movie, it was simply there to tie the loose ends of the story together rather than implying that she was a character inside of the comic books. Nolan stays true to who Bruce Wayne was as a child as well as who he has become as an adult throughout the storyline that he has created, as well as the effects that Gary Oldman's character Commissioner Gordon and his numerous foes have on him during his day-to-day life. "The Dark Knight," is a rich tale filled with explosions, romance and suspense, above all giving a nod of the head to where the series started out all that time ago. He took a chance and instead of directing the movie and all the while adding in mindless humor, he decided to take it in a more serious route and showed the caped crusader's fans a look into Bruce Wayne's troubled head; needless to say, it knocked the socks right off of critics and naysayers, so when the third movie comes out this summer, what does one lose by going to see it but their bad expectations?