“The night is darkest just before the dawn, and I promise you, the dawn is coming”, proclaims District Attorney Harvey Dent, instilling hope and inspiration into the hearts of the fearful citizens of Gotham City. Both the innocent citizens and the criminal underworld of Gotham City have been living in a crescendo of unequivocal fear, intense trepidation, and unadulterated chaos after the emergence of the psychopathic criminal mastermind, the Joker. Born from a marination of mystery, mayhem, and madness, the Clown Prince of Crime infiltrates the very psyche of Batman – the dark Caped Crusader who had sworn vengeance on the criminal underworld and vowed to silently protect the innocent lives populating his broken city.
Auteur blockbuster filmmaker Christopher Nolan gracefully took these beloved, iconic comic book characters and transcended the expectations and popular perceptions enthusiasts had of them and their source material. Warner Bros had originally hired Christopher Nolan in the wake of his critically acclaimed, mind-bending, time-distorting psychological thriller Memento in the hopes of exploring grander themes with a cinematic, rebooted vision of the Batman character and mythology. Nolan expressed his ambitious grounding of such an extraordinarily theatrical heroic figure, one with a fascination of bats and nocturnal life, by delving into the character’s inner mental duality, and juxtaposing human drama against gritty, contemporary realism. Nolan also intended to finally reintroduce the chaotic anarchist Joker as a morally ambiguous and complex arch-nemesis to the Batman – exposing the corruption of government and the police force as well as the deterioration of society, all while taking inspiration from Alex DeLarge, the pivotal main character in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
I think that was very relevant when we first looked at what constitutes Batman. What is the character of Batman? In looking at the comics and the history of the comics, really Gotham, his relationship with the city is a very defining feature of why Batman exists and who he is.
The Dark Knight was released in the United States on July 18th, 2008, right in the middle of the summer season, and it completely redefined the landscape of summer blockbusters by cementing the success of darker, grittier, and grounded superhero spectacles. The film became an overnight sensation that continued into a monumental theatrical run and received near-unanimous critical acclaim, with many deeming the film to be not only the greatest superhero film of all time, but also one of the best films of the entire 21st Century. One of the darkest, most auteur superhero blockbusters ever made, it went on to reach gargantuan box office success, making over $1 billion worldwide. The exploration of profound ethical dilemmas, the poisonous codependency of two characters with opposing views of morality and righteousness, and the dazzling spectacle of action sequences and set designs were all consistently lauded to the point of achieving high prestige. Heath Ledger in particular was widely acclaimed for his frightening yet mesmerizing and unforgettable performance as the Joker, which lead him to ultimately win a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
A complete decade has passed since the release of this cinematic landmark, and in those 10 years no superhero film has yet to surpass Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus take on the iconic bat vigilante. Showing off meticulous craftsmanship, an engrossing tragedy, and an epic saga of gothic cityscapes and psychological turmoil, The Dark Knight definitively and ferociously continues to set the gold standard for what superhero filmmaking is capable of and continues to be the reigning king of haunting and immaculate visionary experiences.