Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine
Have I Seen it Before: Oh, yes.
Did I Like It: While my love for Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) is a pure love that can never be diminished or destroyed, it’s pretty hard to argue that this isn’t a superior film on every measurable level.
I’ve damned with faint praise some movies as being the best possible version of the material. Saban’s Power Rangers (2017) is the best possible film about Power Rangers. Halloween II (2009) is the best possible Halloween film directed by Rob Zombie. And—although I haven’t seen it yet—Bumblebee (2018) is likely the best possible film about Transformers.
So it is, too, that the middle-entry of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is the best possible Batman movie. Thing is, I love Batman, and therefore this film is instantly propelled into contention for one of the best movies of all time.
It’s odd having a verified classic that’s this new. There is the awkward period where every douchebag of woman born ran around yelling “Why So Serious?” like it was a symptom of Tourettes. It also illuminates how truly bad some of its contemporaries are. I remember that summer of 2008 being more positive about Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull than I had any right to be because I truly believed that it would age better with time. It didn’t, and now The Dark Knight was also a transcendent experience on first viewing and holds up under continued scrutiny.
Equal parts James Bondian adventure and epic Michael Mann crime drama, Nolan is not just imitating these forms, but can stand toe-to-toe with them. Gotham is always a city, and never a soundstage. Every character has a thoroughly and elegantly designed motivation and a scheme to accomplish their goal, until they run headlong into the one person who never met a plan he didn’t like to destroy.
I love every inch of this film. But, my goal here is to provide some measure of criticism. I reach desperately for some flaw, and come up tragically short. All right, all right, there are two little editing things that never quite make sense to me, and that’s to be expected as somehow editing can become the one glaring flaw in Nolan’s body of work.
First, I have no clue how Batman (Bale) arrives at Harvey’s (Eckhart) fundraiser to battle the Joker (Ledger). The camera turns, and all of a sudden, he’s there. Sure, The World’s Greatest Detective is a master of the disappearing act, but this particular stealthy entrance happens in the middle of a well-lit, heavily populated penthouse apartment. There isn’t even some kind of air vent he could have popped out of?
Second, it’s not at all clear if Sal Maroni (Eric Roberts) survived the wreck caused by Two-Face, or, if he didn’t survive, how Two-Face managed to walk away from the wreck.
Oh well. Given how the rest of the movie runs like the most exquisitely designed machine ever created, I don’t want to dwell on those nitpicks too much. I love this movie, and I’m glad I live in a world where it exists.