July 18th, 2008. The movie: The Dark Knight is unleashed into the world. The budget is large but the profit generated was so much larger. After amassing nearly a billion dollars in revenue, the Dark Knight is considered the most successful film of 2008. Many wished to focus on Heath Ledger’s death as a major source of the generated revenue. However, the film benefited from strong performances from its cast and production crew. This tied into the fact that Heath Ledger put on an Oscar worthy performance and his unfortunate overdose made the movie huge. So, if you are one of the eighty people who have not seen this movie (78 of which are living outside of the United States), please step inside for the 2-disc review of the Dark Knight dvd, a must own for the holiday season.
There is a new district attorney in Gotham City. He is described as a white knight and his name is Harvey Dent (played by Aaron Eckhart). He wishes to clean up the streets of Gotham with the help of the assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal). However, the resistance against Dent is strong and headed by the mob, in particular mob boss Sal Maroni (played by Eric Roberts) and other crime families around the city. But there is a new villain on the horizon and his name is the Joker (played by Heath Ledger).
The Joker is not your normal villain. He’s a psychopath, a mass murderer, and a schizophrenic. That’s just his demeanor on his days off. The man is also incredibly brilliant and by the film’s opening scene has made off with a sizable sum of money from a mob controlled bank. These banks are also under fire from the city’s police department who is lead by Lieutenant James Gordon (played by Gary Oldman) who wish to seize the mob’s assets and prevent them from further corrupting the city.
Lau (played by Chin Han), the mafia’s accountant has come up with a plan. In a secret meeting and with Lau on a closed circuit television, he tells the mob families that he has a plan to keep their money safe. This involves hiding the money and fleeing to Japan. Joker arrives on the scene and insists he has a better idea. He offers to kill their true threat, Batman but for a hefty price: half of the mobster’s money. The mobsters initially refuse but soon rethink their actions.
Meanwhile, the Dark Knight himself: Batman (played by Christian Bale) sits and watches the chaos beneath him. The line between hero and vigilante forever blurs for him and he struggles each day to find out what he was destined to be. He deals with impersonators, mob crime and new villains in search of a hero he can trust the city to not somebody dressed up like a bat.
As Bruce Wayne, the Bat enjoys the billionaire lifestyle running Wayne Enterprises with his CEO Lucius Fox (played by Morgan Freeman). At home, Bruce is tended to by his butler Alfred (played by Michael Caine) who is increasingly worried about Master Bruce’s alter ego’s bruises and constant beatings. Can Bruce Wayne keep up his two personas and can the Batman defeat the new menace known simply as the Joker?
There are many things that struck me about the Dark Knight movie. Acting was key. Christian Bale does a fine job again in the dual role of Batman & Bruce Wayne. He keeps them so different but at the same time, he keeps them so closely tied together like any super hero should. The supporting cast had strong performances all around and the new actors and actresses fit in rather well with the exception of Maggie Gyllenhaal who I felt did an okay job of Rachel Dawes. Maybe I was too used to Katie Holmes from Batman Begins, I’m not sure but she didn’t fit very well here.
However, I would be doing a disservice to the entire picture if I didn’t comment on Heath Ledger’s performance. Every single scene that the Joker was in, he stole the show. Every time he spoke a word, one would watch and wait to see what was going to happen. His mannerisms and demeanor were some of the best I’ve ever seen. If you didn’t tell me that was Heath Ledger until the credits rolled, I wouldn’t have believed you. I was in awe and after repeated viewings my reaction is still the same. Utter amazement.
The plot takes many twists and turns. The movie was an A show but I did find myself having issue with a few of the twists as it turns out. The villain of Two-Face for me didn’t get enough playing time in my opinion. As soon as we get to enjoy him for what he really is, he seems to fade out with hardly a whisper. As hokey as it sounds, I didn’t care for Batman’s voice too much either. Does he need to go to an ear, nose and throat specialist to check out the hoarseness in his voice or what exactly? Lay off the smokes or something. That aside, this for me is still the best movie I’ve seen in 2008.
The film is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. The scenery is excellent and the production value really shows whether inside a bank vault or a long picturesque view of the Gotham City skyline. The camera work is top notch and colors are always bold even if their attempt is an understated one. It does suffer from some compression artifacts and I do wonder if Warner Bros took their time with this one as I was expecting better. Still a quality presentation of a fine movie.
The audio is provided in 5.1 English, Spanish or French Dolby Digital. This is simply the best audio I think you could pull out of a normal 5.1 set. Explosions are fantastic, cars screeching are unbelievable and even the smallest thing such as a safe opening is on the level of magnificent. Don’t even get me started on Batman jumping from the top of a parking garage onto a moving car. Cinema sound doesn’t get any better than this without Blu-Ray equipment. Subtitles are also provided for the same languages.
- Automatic Trailers:
Disc One: Piracy (apparently it was right up there with bootlegging alcohol back in the day), Blu-Ray, Batman Begins, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Watchmen, and an Anti-Smoking Ad
Disc Two: Batman: Gotham Knight & the Dark Knight soundtrack. Can I just say one thing? I never want to see an Anti-Smoking ad on my dvd ever again. I don’t smoke but these ads are horrible and are in bad taste.
- Gotham: Uncovered – Creation of A Scene 23:50: Disc Two starts out with a bang with two featurettes. There is one on the score of the Dark Knight (in particular the themes behind the Joker) and the other is about the new toys of the Batman.
The Sound of Anarchy (6:25) sits down with primarily Hans Zimmer and goes over the haunting sounds that went behind Joker when he appeared onto the scene. The time and pleasure he seemed to take showed and I don’t even want to know how much money was spent on the equipment they showed. Wow.
The Evolution of the Knight (17:35)starts off with how the suit has changed over the years and even from Batman Begins by giving the wearer a full range of motion especially around the head and neck area. They also go into detail about the motorbike with the two huge wheels and how they designed it from the ground up and it is my friends: completely functional. The use of Imax in scenes also gets some good mention.
- The Dark Knight Imax Sequences 36:40: Six scenes interlaced with the Imax footage they did on the film. The Imax screens are about 1.43:1 aspect ratio and are mixed in with the movie. These scenes are just as fantastic as the originals and I did wish they had put these on the first disc with the option to branch.
The Prologue (6:22)
Hong Kong (3:51)
The Armored Car Chase (8:28)
The Lamborghini Crash (7:55)
The Prewitt Building (7:22)
The Dark Knight (2:42)
- Gotham Tonight 46:29: An interesting idea. This series of mock news reports serve as a good backdrop for the movie. In fact, it takes events that happened right before the movie’s plot and leads up to the bank robbery that Joker performs in the beginning of the movie. These reports are typically hosted by Mike Engel (played by Anthony Michael Hall)with a few other “on the spot” type reporters. The best episode probably has to be the fifth one with the smug Eric Roberts playing the crime boss Sal Maroni who spends the seven minutes talking down the host and the Comissioner. Other topics among the six reports include Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne, & Lt. Gordon.
Episode 1: Election Night(7:58)
Episode 2: Billionaire Without A Cause (9:40)
Episode 3: Escalation (7:52)
Episode 4: Top Cop (6:14)
Episode 5: Cops & Mobsters (7:05)
Episode 6: Gotham’s White Knight(7:40)
- The Galleries : About a hundred pictures total of everything from poster art to plenty of production stills. Be sure to find your favorite.
Poster Art (12)
Production Stills (89)
- Trailers 5:33: A set of original trailers for the Dark Knight. The first one is a teaser but the other two are full trailers. The second trailer is probably the best of the set.
Trailer 1 (0:56)
Trailer 2 (2:07)
Trailer 3 (2:30)
- Digital Copy : The new craze of dvds. Here is a convenient copy of the movie to put on your Ipod or other device that can show movies. I might be in the minority but I think Digital Copies are a poor excuse for an extra and would be better server filling the space with real extras. At least Warner Bros had the sense not to advertise this as a 3-disc special edition and putting the digital copy by itself on a disc.
For those who bought the Circuit-City Limited Edition, we were treated to a nice slip case (one that matches more closely to the Batman Begins deluxe edition) with the Joker art on the front with the phrase: “Why So Serious?” Inside the slipcover is the 2-disc dvd set with a different Joker pose and the back has been doctored up to look like the Joker took a sharpie and some crayons to it. The Circuit City edition also comes with a journal. I was hoping for some cool pictures inside but honestly it is just a blank journal with the Bat-symbol on the front. I would take the journal out but it helps keep the set together with the dvd and the slip cover. Awesome Joker art do make this the one to own in my opinion among the dvd specials out there.
So the Batman goes into the night to fight the evils of Gotham City. He is the hunter and the hunted. For you see, he leads a complicated life of hunting to get the villain but also hunting to find the real Batman, vigilante or hero for the free world. However, he is hunted by those villains, demons and even the people who benefit from his guiding light. The movie is fantastic and above it all, Heath Ledger as the Joker gives one of the best performances ever on modern day screen. Sure the film has its questionable moments but in the end it serves as the best film of 2008. The disc holds up strong with awesome audio and above average video. The extras are quite lengthy but somewhat vapid of real depth on the film. A commentary would have been nice but more production notes or interviews would have also been welcomed. The disc is certainly recommended as everybody should take the time to watch this masterpiece. Just remember for those who dive into the world of Gotham: “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”