Much like the spoken lines of the film, The Dark Knight is the film we deserve, but without the “not the one we need right now“. It is without a doubt that the Batman franchise has seen better days. What was once one of the front runners in superhero films with Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale‘s take on the character, has mostly gone down in quality since one of the greatest superhero trilogies wrapped up with The Dark Knight Rises. His next two appearances, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the Justice League were panned by critics. Not only was The Dark Knight the movie we deserved from the franchise, but also an inspiration for the movie we need right now. One to restore Batman as one of the best superhero properties in media.
The Dark Knight is largely considered one of the best Batman movies of all time. Thinking back to watching the trilogy for the first time, I remember watching The Dark Knight most out of the films. The dynamic between the Joker and Batman is a match made in heaven. Not only does Heath Ledger remain as my favorite iteration of the infamous villain – even if not comically accurate – but his ability to so easily bounce off of Christian Bale‘s Batman is one of those dream pairings in modern media. The two actors act out the relationship between these opposites amazingly. Batman is portrayed as the morally aligned superhero that does not care about fame and only cares about the people of Gotham. Joker, on the other hand, is the perfect portrayal of “some men just want to watch the world burn”.
This dynamic between the hero and villain carries this movie. Not to say the rest of the film is bad, the movie basically perfected the modern superhero genre. However, when you have such a standout part of a movie, it’s hard not to accidentally overlook the rest of the film’s strengths. That being said, not all of the movie has aged well 14 years later. The plot still stands firm, the cinematography is still amazing, yet the combat, however, stood out to me in my recent rewatch. Once again, I do not think this is a fault of the movie, the combat was definitely ahead of its time and nothing in the film is going to be considered qualified for eternity. It was a tad jarring going back to one of the most beautifully shot superhero films and going back to stiff action scenes compared to the fanfare we see in today’s films in the genre.
Superhero films today are flashy, from acrobatic magical martial artists to colorful guns with a mix of explosion and beauty. Modern technology has progressed the abilities for moviemakers to put us into the colorful and flashy pages of a comic book. While this does make the combat of the film feel stiff nowadays, I can’t help but feel this departure from the common superhero tropes of the modern-day really makes The Dark Knight stand firm as one of the most unique superhero films. And in a good way, opposed to the unique but odd Batman Forever.
The Dark Knight is gritty, dark, and violent. The Joker in this form just couldn’t be done without this atmosphere. The man with no morals is sinister, manipulative, and even worse, fearless. This excellent villain to the already serious Batman really puts the character on his toes, I don’t think I have quite seen a hero so powerless since this film. Not even mind control in Jessica Jones and Avengers: Age of Ultron can quite compare. When powers or physical control are involved, there is a thing to break, a thing to fix.
The thing with Joker is that none of that is involved. This is a man with no powers or high-tech machines, just a desire to take down the heroes of the world and prove humanity’s flaws. This desire and his cunning makes him powerful. His insanity and his unpredictability, that is what give him power. That power makes him real, a man that could exist, one that would terrify even the best of us in the real world. That is what makes the Joker easily one of the best villains in modern media.
I didn’t have a definitive ranking of my favorite Batman films, but upon rewatching many of them leading up to The Batman releasing next month, I think it’s safe to say The Dark Knight easily tops my list. The Nolan trilogy of movies is easily the highest quality in my eyes, and this is the movie that makes the trilogy. From a perfect atmosphere to an amazing villain and hero, the film is almost perfect. Now looking back, not only is this easily my favorite DC film, but one of my favorites of all time, and that is coming from a die-hard Marvel fan. The Batman is looking like a snapback to this amazing quality, and I truly hope it leads Batman back to being in the spotlight like when The Dark Knight launched to critical and financial success more than a decade ago.