A dangerous new criminal, known as ‘The Joker’, sees Gotham City as his new playground and uses the city’s unwitting mobsters for their money. Meanwhile, the city’s District attorney, Harvey Dent, is working hard to clean up the streets of Gotham by putting criminals behind bars. Unfortunately, The Joker is a whole new type of criminal: unpredictable and seemingly without an overall cause. Now Batman, Dent and Lieutenant Gordon must work together to bring The Joker down but the criminal has other plans, using anything and anyone to get what he wants.
The Dark Knight (2008) – Director: Christopher Nolan
Running Length: 152 mins
Starring: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Heath Ledger
Genre: Comic Book, Action, Crime
The second film of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy, ‘The Dark Knight’ sees Batman facing his most dangerous foe to date – ‘The Joker’. Perhaps the most famous and most loved villain of the Batman comic book universe, the version of The Joker that we see here is possibly the most frightening, disturbed and hilarious to date. As one of Heath Ledger’s last movies before his death in 2008, his portrayal of The Joker is what makes ‘The Dark Knight’ so good and he deservedly won a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The film looks gorgeous too. Much more so than before Gotham is painted as a dark metropolis seething with criminality.
That’s isn’t to leave out the other cast. Aaron Eckhart plays Harvey Dent superbly. He oozes with charm and self-assurance, thumping his chest in pursuit of his high-profile quest to rid Gotham of the mob. Gary Oldman’s Lieutenant Gordon is a man trying to fight the good fight but struggling at every step, and Michael Caine’s faithful servant Alfred is lends a strong gravitas of wisdom and experience into the mix.
The story itself is a force to be reckoned with, from the explosive bank robbery at the start to the devastating choice that has to be made at the end. The main criticism of ‘The Dark Knight’ is that there is too much going on. Jumping from one situation to another, the story suffers as not enough time is given to certain elements which require further exploration, and whilst it’s difficult to pick a particular part that could be cut, come the third Joker set piece there is a feeling that the film is dragging its heels, not wanting to step away from its own cleverness.
However, ‘The Dark Knight’ is an excellent film which has a lot of fresh ideas as well as plenty of nods to the comics to keep everyone happy. This is an action-packed, exciting movie which will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
IS ‘THE DARK KNIGHT’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
The opening scene sees several men wearing scary clown masks as they prepare to rob a bank. Some of these men are shot and killed; the camera focuses on the shooter and when the shot is heard, the camera cuts away so these deaths are implied rather than seen. Later in this scene, a man kills one of the robbers with a shotgun; a small spurt of blood is seen before the body falls to the floor.
Afterwards, a man has a grenade put into his mouth by one of the robbers; a long piece of wire is attached to the grenade which is rolled out by the robber. The man is clearly terrified and, when the pin is pulled out, thick smoke is emitted; this was just a scare tactic rather than an effort to kill anyone but this moment (and the whole scene) is likely to be very frightening for young children. While there are more violent moments in this movie, which we will describe within this review, this is a good indicator of whether a child will be able to cope with the rest of the ‘The Dark Knight’.
When The Joker first meets Gotham City’s mobsters, he shows them a ‘magic trick’. While a man walks towards him to kill him, The Joker balances a pencil on a table so that its point stands upright, as the man approaches him, The Joker grabs the back of his head and slams it onto the pencil, killing him. He continues the ‘magic trick’, as if nothing has happened, saying ‘ta da!’ because the pencil has now ‘disappeared’ (it is now embedded in the dead man’s skull).
A short while later, The Joker visits one of the mobsters and puts a knife into his mouth. After talking about his abusive father who he claims gave him the slashes on his face, he kills the mobster. The camera cuts to the reaction of one of the other men in the room which shows that the murder was gruesome and then the body is seen from behind as it falls to the floor. The Joker then takes a snooker cue, breaks it in half (so that both ends have sharp points) and gives them to the two men who worked for the mobster. They are then expected to fight to the death so that the survivor can work for The Joker.
Later, Gotham’s mayor is looking out from his office and is suddenly frightened when the body of a man in a Batman costume slams against the window. He has a noose around his neck and a video tape attached to his body. A news report shows the tape; it shows the man before he was killed, tied to a chair, being threatened by The Joker. He is terrified, whimpers in fear and has cuts and bruises all over his face. The Joker’s voice is heard in the background and his voice constantly changes from light-hearted giggling to extreme aggression. The camera is then picked up and spun around and the man is heard to cry out in fear and/or pain. As the body of the man has already been seen, it is clear that The Joker kills him shortly afterwards.
The Joker then goes to an event where he threatens the guests there. He puts his knife in the mouth of a woman and tells her that he got the scars on face after his wife was attacked by loan sharks. They ‘carved her face’ and to make her feel better, The Joker used a razor to cut his own face. Later in the movie, The Joker explains he enjoys using knives to kill as they are more personal and slower than guns.
There are many other violent moments in ‘The Dark Knight’, however we have described the most extreme scenes and therefore and child who can watch them should be ok with the rest of the movie.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
‘The Dark Knight‘ is an excellent film which is widely recognised as Heath Ledger’s shining moment. His portrayal of the terrifyingly funny ‘Joker’ is nothing short of brilliant and brings some welcome anarchy to the proceedings. While it is based on a comic book and previous instalments of ‘Batman’ in film and TV have been very child friendly, ‘The Dark Knight’ is definitely a movie for adults. The excessive use of violence throughout and the unpredictable, psychopathic nature of The Joker is likely to be too frightening for most children. We therefore would not recommend this movie for under 12s.
- Violence: 5/5 (one character is dropped from a height and the camera shows his ankles breaking as he hits the ground)
- Emotional Distress: 3/5 (more than one major character is killed. Each one is mourned by their loved ones)
- Fear Factor: 5/5 (the Joker’s psychotic nature is very scary. One character has part of his face badly burned. The wounds are then shown graphically several times)
- Sexual Content: 1/5 (at a party, a male and female character are disturbed when in a quiet area and quickly adjust their dishevelled clothes)
- Bad Language: 2/5 (infrequent cursing and blasphemy)
- Dialogue: 5/5
- Other notes: Deals with themes of fighting against unpredictability, coping with loss, making difficult choices, using intelligence as well as strength to defeat an enemy, the devastating effect of corruption and accepting that telling a lie is sometimes better than the truth.
Words by Laura Record