The Dark Knight is the second instalment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and is seen by many as one of the greatest film adaptations of a comic book to date. In recent years the film has become the benchmark that both thrillers and action movies try to emulate. After the events of Batman Begins, crime in Gotham is on the decline as the majority of mob bosses and criminals are being put away thanks to Batman, Lieutenant Gordon and aspiring mayoral candidate and attorney Harvey Dent. However due to the rise of Batman it is almost fate that an opposing force will also rise, this force is of course Heath Ledger’s Joker.
Anyone who is aware of The Dark Knight will no doubt know the extreme lengths that Heath Ledger went to in preparation for the role that would eventually define his career. The weeks on end that Ledger endured alone in a hotel room to perfect the role has become almost a legend in itself. Whilst method acting is a contentious subject among some actors and film critics, this is most certainly an instance though where the technique works perfectly. The performance was enough to earn Ledger the best supporting actor award at the 2008 Oscars, which considering how comic book films are generally seen by members of the academy, it is quite a remarkable achievement.
The Dark Knight changed the way people saw films about comic films, it revolutionised the genre for the new millennium and shaped the tone of future blockbusters to follow. Before the Nolan trilogy comic books adaptations for the most part were either quite camp or tame in subject matter ad tone. Whilst films like Sam Rami’s Spider-Man films or the X-Men trilogy feel like natural adaptations of their original source material, The Dark Knight wasmore like Michael Mann’s Heat than the original batman comics. This may have been an unfaithful re-creation of the original comic books, but in essence that is probably why the film is so successful. It is an evolution for the genre that was stagnant for a long time before, it was current, it was new but perhaps most importantly it was culturally relevant.
The Dark Knight may be for some just a simple comic book film, at least of the surface that is what it appears. It could be argued on the contrary that it represents something much more meaningful. I believe it is a look at Post 9-11 America and the moral complexity of a society hurt by terrorism. With The Joker terrorising the city, Gotham falls into a state of panic and paranoia as explosions and killings happen almost daily resulting in scenes reminiscent of the fallout of terrorism events like the 7/7 bombings or the recent attacks in Paris along with others. The Joker revels in the chaos he creates, yet despite his terrorising his plan is eventually foiled by the morality of the citizens along with Batman and the police. Although perhaps it isn’t immediately obvious, film has always been influenced by the politics of its time as seen in the wave of spy thrillers released during the cold war. The Dark Knight is not only one of the defining action films of the new millennium but perhaps also a film that is a little more than a billionaire who likes to fight crime in his spare time dressed like a giant bat.
If you would be interested in watching The Dark Knight you can watch the Falmouth Film Society’s screening of the film today at 18:30 in the SOFT cinema on the Penryn Campus.