The Dark Knight (2008) - Two-Disc Special Edition

Genre(s): Action / Drama / Fantasy
Warner Brothers || PG13 - 153 minutes - $34.98 || December 9, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-12-11


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer(s): Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer (story), Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan (screenplay)
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman


Theatrical Release Date: July 18, 2008


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Gotham Uncensored: Creation of a Scene
  • The Dark Knight IMAX Scenes
  • Gotham Tonight
  • Still Galleries
  • Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.40)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

[Note: Portions of this review is taken from my Blu-ray review.]

Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to 2005’s Batman Begins, which reboot a franchise struggling after the abysmal Batman & Robin, The Dark Knight is a complex but highly entertaining that resembles a crime drama rather than a “superhero movie”. And quite frankly, it is perfectly fitting for a character like Batman. He never has been, nor will ever be, a Superman, Spider-Man or one of the X-Men. He has no powers and must use pure brawn and, especially, brains to win a fight. Obviously he relies on nifty gadgets but unlike his DC Comics counterpart, Superman, he has one huge weakness: mortality.

What I think I enjoyed the most about Nolan’s and Ledger’s interpretation of The Joker was that they gave him a background... without actually giving him one. A scene between The Joker and Gamble (Michael Jai White), one of Gotham’s mob bosses, The Joker tells the story of his childhood. He had an abusive and alcoholic father who, in a night of drunkenness, gave him the scars around his mouth. Yet later in the movie after he crashes a part at Bruce Wayne’s penthouse, he tells another story. Which is true? Is either of them real? I doubt The Joker really knows the only commonality is that he has father issues.

Ok, I must be upfront now. On the Internet I watch as fanboys of Spider-Man or X-Men watch in glee as “their guy” gets mucho dollars at the box office and critical acclaim (at the same time), and while Batman Begins certainly went a long way to patching relations with the fans and general public alike, people were still skeptical. Also, Begins still had its fair share of problems, most of which were corrected this go around: 1) upgrading from Katie Holmes to Maggie Gyllenhaal and 2) sharper dialog -- I respect Goyer, but some of that writing was pretty bad at times.

First, Heath Ledger... the hype is real. Ledger disappears into The Joker in a way Jack Nicholson could never do. The character he and the Nolan Brothers (Chris and Jonah) created was spot on to how I always envisioned him from the comic books. He’s cold hearted, somewhat calculating and utterly brutal. He takes pleasure in besting Batman even if it means getting captured. Here, his goal is to get Batman to break his one rule and boy does Bats ever come close. That’s all Ledger. He doesn’t steal every scene, it’s more that he grabs you by the throat and never releases. This is truly an Oscar worthy performance, folks, and no doubt about it. Ledger’s Joker is right up there with Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter and he at the very least deserves an Oscar nomination. This is the performance for the ages.

Unlike Batman ’89, while Ledger truly is a big reason to see this film, the ensemble really work very well together. Christian Bale as (public) Bruce Wayne plays it perfectly as a rich playboy who seemingly could care less about Wayne Enterprises while the real Bruce entrenches into deep thought about his role as Batman. And then, of course, as The Caped Crusader, he keeps that raspy voice that so many either loved or hated. Me? I more leaned toward tolerance with prejudice.

And though this movie is like a WWE event with Batman and The Joker in the ring, the supporting cast that Nolan put together pays dividends. Obviously Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon was spot on casting and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox was inspired casting and a good way to add some class to a franchise that lost it all before, but it is Aaron Eckhart who also shines as Harvey Dent. You really believe he is a man who believes in Gotham City and that he can take it to a better place. And even though The Joker gets the bulk of attention, this is Harvey’s story and it plays out like a Greek tragedy.

Taking my Batman fan boy hat off, I did have an issue with a couple of things (warning, very minor spoilers):

1. The film did feel a tad long. Clocking in at over two and a half hours, The Dark Knight has so much plot that I think a couple of things could’ve been cut. This is not to say these scenes weren’t good, but I think after the two hour mark, it lost some of its focus.

2. Speaking of focus, I do think at a certain point, with a certain transformation, it just felt like two different movies. I don’t know if it was on purpose or if, because of Heath Ledger’s death, Nolan and company had to rework some things meant for the third movie...

3. [MINOR SPOILER] - This is more technical, but there were moments when James Newton Howard’s and Hans Zimmer’s score was too dang loud, drowning out important dialog at the end. It took some ear straining to make out what was being said. It’s a shame, because the montage at the end was pretty cool.

4. Although Maggie Gyllenhaal was certainly an upgrade over Katie Holmes, I still didn’t really care for the character. It’s not that she wasn’t likeable, but as a character she failed to impress me. I liked how the love triangle dynamic played out between Bruce, Rachel and Harvey (far more well done than in Spider-Man 3, well, which goes for just about everything else), and the character is very important to the story, but if it had been done right in Batman Begins, maybe it would’ve been held over to TDK.

Now, for those who are not Batman fans, I would give this movie a ****Ľ out of *****. But given that this is my only fan boy franchise and the fact they got a good portion of it right when it comes to The Joker/Batman dynamic as well as a certain other villain, I added 0.5 stars to the rating.

Christopher and Jonathan Nolan have given fans as perfect of a Batman movie as possible. Although it is not a flawless movie, The Dark Knight is a near masterpiece of crime-drama that reinvents how we see superhero movies. If any franchise could pull this off, with a rising genius behind the camera, it’s Batman. He’s not Superman or Spider-Man. He has no powers and fights in a gritty city who pretty much loathes him. In The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne discovers that he needs Batman as much as Gotham needs Batman. There’s a certain sadness to it that never was examined in previous entries. This film adds so much depth to the character but without being obvious about it. I only wonder how the Nolan Brothers are going to top this...



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Gotham Uncovered: Creation of a Scene (64:10) - This is a fantastic look into individual scenes from the prologue to the chase sequence to Batman’s high tower jump in Hong Kong. There are also segments on the new Batsuit and the development of the Batpod. But because this is the only feature truly pertaining to The Dark Knight, I wish Warner had included more featurettes, especially one’s with more input from the cast.

Gotham Tonight (46:41) – This was a cool mock news cast starring Anthony Michael Hall as his TDK character, Mike Engel. In these 6 short news segments, Engel interviews the likes of Salvatore Maroni (Eric Roberts) and even Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) with minor footage of Wayne and Gordon.

The Dark Knight IMAX Scenes are the six “action-packed” scenes shown on IMAX screens and incorporated into the film on the Blu-ray version. I actually wish these were available separately on the Blu-ray edition as it’s kind of cool to see them individually.

The Galleries features “Joker Cards”, “Concept Art”, “Poster Art” (5/5) and “Production Stills”. These are all very cool for the Batman fan, getting to see all the pics we’ve come to love in anticipation for the film.

Last and definitely NOT least are 3 theatrical trailers and all 6 TV spots. The amazing assortment of trailers are an absolute blast to watch and each are great as they do provide those alternate lines that we’d hope Nolan would put on the DVD but we know never will.

Also included is a digital copy for use on your portable device including the iPod. If mine wasn’t running out of space, I might’ve tried it...



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

At first glance the DVD transfer looks nice, but on closer inspection I found there to be heavy edge-enhancement and plenty of pixilation/artifacts throughout. I don’t know what’s going on at Warner because this is the second time I’ve had a less-than-stellar video picture quality. Now, for those wondering, the IMAX aspect ratio is not inserted retaining the film’s original 2.40 AR. Depending on your preference, which may be good or bad. Before I thought it was bad but having seen how cropped those scenes were, I have to change my mind on that preferring the IMAX footage to remain intact.

The Dark Knight DVD comes with a standard English Dolby Digital 5.1 track that is probably one of the best tracks I’ve heard in a long while, and easily near the top compared to other DD5.1 tracks.



.::OVERALL::.

The Dark Knight isn’t merely the best ‘Batman’ movie ever made; it truly is one of the best movies I’ve seen in quite a while. It features an amazing performance from Heath Ledger and an overlooked yet also truly great turn for Aaron Eckhart in a dual performance.

This Two-Disc Special Edition isn’t the greatest in terms of features, I’ve seen better featurettes/documentaries on some of Marvel’s titles, but for what’s here it’s really not too bad. As per Nolan’s wishes, there is no commentary and no deleted scenes nor those alternate takes we so often hear in the trailers.