LIST POSITION: #19
TITLE: The Dark Knight
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Morgan Freeman
BUY IT AT AMAZON!
WHY IT’S ON THE LIST
Released in 2008 to massive success, The Dark Knight had the biggest opening weekend in cinema history. A sequel to Christopher Nolan’s reimagining of possibly the most well-known superhero in the world, it seems like the entire world was waiting for the release of this film. Not only that, but hype reached a fever pitch when just months before the film opened, star Heath Ledger died in a hotel room in New York City. With expectations already running high to replace all previous incarnations of Batman’s famed nemesis The Joker, the media went into full tailspin.
But once the audience settled in and the first helicopter flying over the city images came on screen, we were all hooked. The bank heist that opens the film plays like gangbusters, a Heat-meets-Batman fantasy that countless geeks had only dreamt of. This is the way we are introduced to one of the most iconic performances in cinema history, Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker. It was unlike anything anyone thought possible, with his trademark makeup, walk, laugh, costume, knives, attitude- you name it- everyone wanted to be Ledger’s Joker for Halloween. It was the kind of performance that struck a chord, all the creepier because of its ties to Ledger’s real life, and ended up winning him countless posthumous awards, including the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award.
Batman Begins had been released on the IMAX format using an up-conversion process to make it suitable for the 70mm prints. But for The Dark Knight, Nolan decided to actually shoot the biggest scenes using the massive IMAX cameras. What was a total learn-as-they-went along process, making on location sound recording and many taken for granted filming techniques impossible, Nolan and director of photography Wally Pfister pushed the limits of what was possible. As the frame ratio expanded, so did the action. For those lucky enough to have seen the results on the IMAX screen, it presented the breathtaking experience of having the image literally open up for the biggest moments of the film.
That theatrical presentation is now gone, but for those of us with home theaters and The Dark Knight on blu-ray, the blissful experience can be relived, albeit on a smaller scale. Expanding from the 16×9 2.4:1 widescreen format to a more screen-filling 1.78:1, you actually feel the action envelop you as a viewer. Blu-ray, being a high definition format, is only as good as the source material it is presenting, and the 70mm film negative makes for a practically flawless transfer to disc. While the DVD only includes the IMAX sequences as a separate feature, here you get to see the film as it was intended, creating a spectacle as the story demands.
Coupled with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio mix, all the whizzes, thumps and eerie string plucks are brought out in great detail. So many sequences push your surround speakers. From the Batpod whizzing down the street to exploding hospital, one can only marvel at the levels of detail put into this mix. It deservedly won Richard King the Achievement in Sound Editing Academy Award, the only win besides Ledger of the eight nominations The Dark Knight received.
Audiences may still be debating whether or not this is the greatest comic book-based film of all time, but the fact that the debate exists shows how memorable the film is. Politically the film is all over the place, and no matter your opinion there are many themes to discuss. The way the film plays out surely doesn’t bore, and rather convincingly cribs from the pace of a series of comic books with several story shifts and cliffhangers. With anticipation increasing for the impending The Dark Knight Rises, The Dark Knight is a film worth revisiting, especially in such a glorious presentation as this blu-ray package.
WHY DIDN’T IT RANK HIGHER?
Though the picture and sound is top notch, this disc suffers from a lack of worthwhile bonuses. The second disc’s main features are the Batman Tech and Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of The Dark Knight featurettes, which were both originally produced for The History Channel. They’re fine, but why nothing about developing the film itself? The omission of a piece delving into this breathtaking new Joker is especially egregious, considering it is the legacy Heath Ledger left behind. From the moment this disc was released, fans have been grumbling about an inevitable double dip, and I’d wager it’s because of the lack of in-depth material for such a big film.
THE BEST SUPPLEMENT
Gotham Uncovered: Creation of a Scene is the type of interactive feature that puts the blu-ray format above DVD. While watching the film, you can branch over to making of featurettes that take you behind the massive production. Cumulatively, the behind the scenes add up to around an hour. What’s more, you can watch them on their own if you don’t like your movie disturbed. Additionally, the BD-Live community screening was a onetime event upon the disc’s release. But the fact that an interactive showing of the film with Christopher Nolan doing live commentary was a pretty cool bonus back in late 2008, something blu-ray owners had exclusive access to.
Apologize for Ultraviolet. APOLOGIZE!
Little fucker thought he could sell me a story made up of names off a bulletin board. Who the hell did he think I was? Chazz Palminteri?
Mr. Nicholson, I apologize again for taking your role. I know that killing me is on your Bucket List, I just ask that you sit on that thought for a few months. If you’re still pissed, come find me.
What a shitty garage. I expect this kind of shit from Ted Kord, not Bruce Wayne.