The Dark Knight: Nolan’s Breakout

Nolan gives us another character super good at his job, this time, it just happens to be the villain.

REPPED: Calm down, literates, now’s not the time for Ledger praise. That comes later! Instead, I wanted to highlight Wally Pfister’s brilliant cinematography. Wally Pfister and Christopher Nolan are the power couple of the film world; the Brangelina for cinephiles, if you will. With Pfister’s work in The Dark Knight, he effectively conveys the characters’ feelings to the audience while also establishing the mood of each sequence. My favorite sequence is between The Joker and Rachel where he tells the story about his scars. The way the camera circles around both characters perfectly captures Rachel’s feelings of dread and unease. I don’t know about you, but this is probably how I’d feel if a clown came up to me at knifepoint. As I’ve been trekking my way through Nolan’s filmography I’ve learned that he loves push-in shots. I’ve noticed it since Batman Begins but it’s used quite a bit for The Dark Knight. The best push-in shot is definitely during the dinner sequence with Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. As Dent’s giving his “die a hero” monologue, the camera pushes into Bruce and it drives home the idea that Bruce believes that Harvey could be the man to make Gotham great again (MGGA). I also see it as Bruce hoping that Harvey could be Bruce’s way out of his responsibilities as Batman. The creative and purposeful use of camera movement in The Dark Knight makes it one of the most uniquely shot films in the superhero genre.

NEGGED: The only problem with setting Batman in our world is that you risk making Gotham look like a generic Metropolitan city. If there’s one thing Batman Begins does better it’s that it creates a Gotham City that feels tonally consistent with the Gotham City of the comics while walking the line just enough to where it feels like it could exist in our world. I’m not a comic book purist and I never have been so I can understand the choice to depict Gotham City the way it is in The Dark Knight. On this rewatch, it’s obvious that The Dark Knight is a story about Gotham City so why not play up that theme and give Gotham a bit more of a personality? Anyway, it’s a small grievance.

FINAL VERDICT: It’s not fair to call this a good Batman movie or even a good superhero movie. Nolan’s aspirations are larger than simply delivering another solid superhero film. Through his use of score, cinematography, and performance, Nolan ended up making a near-perfect film that just happens to have Batman in it. I think it’s time to talk about the Ledger performance because this is a performance that will transcend the ages. What do you say when everything’s already been said? It’s terrifying, it’s engrossing, and it’s funny. This feels like the performance Ledger was born to play and it will forever be a moment immortalized through time. The Dark Knight is a crime epic set in a world where superheroes exist and taking these larger-than-life icons and placing them in real world situations with real world consequences is what continues to make The Dark Knight ahead of the curve.

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