Batman Begins was the best Batman film since the original with Michael Keaton, and not just because of the focus on back story. The characters in Batman Begins, all well acted, just seemed to pop, not to mention feel a bit more human than those in the previous outings. This set not only the stage for The Dark Knight, but also anticipation. What would Christopher Nolan do next?
As we all know by now, Nolan didn’t himself do all that much, but Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker was nothing short of magical, psychotic and 110 percent disturbing. All the posthumous praise and Oscar buzz is more than deserved; Ledger flat-out made The Dark Knight the blockbuster it is. The flip side of this is that outside of Ledger’s Joker, the rest of the film tends to drag and try to accomplish too many things with too many plotlines.
The Dark Knight picks up a year after the end of Batman Begins, a period during which Batman has somehow lost some respect and public support, not to mention the support of local law enforcement. The public outcry is enough to make Bruce Wayne think Gotham City doesn’t want or need a Dark Knight; it needs a White Knight instead. Enter Harvey Dent, the popular District Attorney who himself has done a good job wiping out many of the City’s mobsters. But the Joker is no mobster. In fact, he has a penchant for killing a few of them. But the Joker’s mission isn’t to be a super villain or a knight of his own merit, but to thrust Gotham into disorder and create death, destruction and anarchy at every turn. The scarred freak’s escalated campaign of chaos forces everyone, including Batman himself, to venture into darker territory to stop him, blurring the line between hero and vigilante.
As has been well chronicled, Ledger’s Joker is the best performance by any actor in 2008. His role it disturbing, and he had great writing with which to work, but his portrayal and adoption of the character and his psychopathic nuances are sheer brilliance. The rest of the movie, though, seems to fall a bit short. Bruce Wayne sounds normal; Batman sounds like a chain-smoking Darth Vader. Harvey Dent makes an intriguing moral turnaround, but it’s a bit too fast. The director tries to fill in many plot holes and story lines, but in the end delivers a muddled, branching tale that could’ve done with about four fewer story arcs. Still, The Dark Knight is definitely worth watching if for no other reason than seeing the brilliance of Ledger’s Joker.
As luck would have it, Warner Bros. released The Dark Knight on a dual-layered BD-50 Blu-ray Disc packed with bonus features and including a darn good video and audio transfer. For some reason, the audio defaults to 5.1 Dolby Digital, and you have to go in and manually select the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track to get that option. And you should. The Dark Knight’s audio is incredible, with immersive and clear sounds coming from all channels and bass that would shake you even in the Bat Cave.
In Focus Points, the only bonus feature on Disc One, these 18 short behind-the-scenes peeks range from 39 seconds to nearly nine minutes. You can access these during the movie when a spinning gold disc pops up in the left-hand corner of the screen, you can watch them individually by selecting from the pop-up menu, or you can simply watch them as one 64-minute mini-doc. They would’ve made for an interesting picture-in-picture feature, but so be it. It’s better to have them than not.
Disc Two is kicked off with Batman Tech: The Incredible Gadgets and Tools, a 46-minute special that looks at the Caped Crusader’s gadgets and suit from the Nolan films, while also showing their real-life counterparts. The special isn’t bad, but this is hardly what I would consider an important supplement as it seems to be more about real-life applications and less about Batman.
Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of The Dark Knight: The second of two History Channel specials, also clocking in at 46 minutes, is the better of the two. This special looks at the psychology of the Caped Crusader as well as some of the more popular villains in the Batman Universe. Since the Nolan films have made psychology such a major factor, I found this special to be fascinating and could actually see myself sitting down to give this a second spin somewhere down the road, something I rarely do with bonus features.
Gotham Tonight: These six shorts, which can be played individually or as one 47-minute segment, were shown on Comcast Cable’s On Demand section this past summer as a promotional tie-in to the new movie. Hosted by Anthony Michael Hall (Farmer Ted!) and featuring many of the cast members of the film, these serve as a nice bridge of events that take place between Dark Knight and Batman Begins.
Galleries: There are four still galleries to browse through here. You have the option of either still-stepping each section or you can let them run on their own as a slideshow. Joker Cards (9:44) is a rather disturbing (but pretty cool) collection of the Joker’s “calling cards.” Poster Art (1:36) displays the film’s theatrical one-sheets. Production Stills (12:00) offers both behind-the-scenes and publicity photos of the cast and crew, while Concept & Art (7:44) looks at the various clown masks used by the Joker and his gang, the new Bat-Suit, Bat Weapons and the Bat Pod.
My WB Commentary: This feature lets any viewer with a webcam create their own visual commentary and share it with friends. Although this could be fun if you have some drinks in your system — not to mention buddies online who care what your non-critic self has to say about the movie — I actually found it sort of pointless. Neat technology, I suppose, but so is WiMAX, and I don’t personally see any need for it right now.
Warner Home Video has given the mega-blockbuster of The Dark Knight a Blu-ray release with excellent picture and audio, but bonus features that could have been a bit beefier. Maybe we’ll see an even more-deluxe version released when the next Batman movie hits theaters, or perhaps when the eventual trilogy is released as a Blu-ray box set.
Buy The Dark Knight on Blu-ray at Amazon.
- Score: 9