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Category:    Home > Reviews > Superhero > Action > Adventure > Martial Arts > Gangster > The Dark Knight (2008/Batman/Warner Blu-ray + DVD-Video Sets)

The Dark Knight (2008/Batman/Warner Blu-ray + DVD-Video Sets)

 

Picture: A*/B-†††† Sound: A-/B†††† Extras: B/B-†††† Film: B

 

 

Before we begin exploring the success and content of Christopher Nolanís blockbuster Batman Begins sequel, The Dark Knight, I want to address Heath Ledgerís work singularly.I have seen the film several times since before its release and looking at it again, it is a performance that offer so much that it takes multiple viewings just to see how much he did with the character, how he managed to give a performance so good that it could succeed great performances by great actors like Cesar Romero and Jack Nicholson who left extremely strong, memorable and influential stamps on the character in their own way.Bringing things out of the comic book version of the character no actor (live action or animated) did before that was always on the printed page (especially from the early 1970s) is remarkable, effective and would have made this film a huge hit no matter Legerís sad and terrible passing.

 

Of course, The Joker is Batmanís #1 nemesis and this film got more out of that antagonistic relationship than any other version ever did, with none of the previous versions slacking.This also the first time any pair of hero/villain combos have appeared on the big screen with a third pair of actors playing them.After the origins of Batman were covered with a new zeal in the first film, this film opens with the return of The Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy back again) after we see that the rise of The Joker is at hand, starting with a daring robbery from a mob-controlled bank.

 

It is the beginning of a scheme to benefit from the rise of Batman and new hope for Gotham City as the mobsters scramble with the end of the free reign bubble they have enjoyed as the city has decayed and been wrought with corruption.Adding to this has been the rise of District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart in a much underrated performance) who is the new love interest of Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal, succeeding Katie Holmes after her falling out with producers) while still very much in Bruce Wayne/Batmanís heart.After a smart set-up, then things start to happen and once they get going, this film becomes more and more compelling throughout to the point that once you get involved, you canít stop watching what happens next.

 

Some have called this the best Superhero film yet, which is what some were considering surprise hit Iron Man (reviewed elsewhere on this site) released a few months before, but what has really happened is that the mainstream genre (allotted serious growth through its massive commercial series of hits) is the films from both DC and Marvel finally caught up with the first Robocop (1987) with its violent, realistic edge that originally earned it an X-rating.These films are not as outright bold, sardonic, brutal or nihilistic, but on some levels they certainly are and that Dark Knight was a step further than Iron Man in this respect just made both seem like a logical progression of the genre.

 

Because you have a fine cast of actors cast so well and a very clever screenplay by Director Nolan, Johnathan Nolan and David S. Goyer, plus the financial backing of Warner and DC, you get a first rate, high class, solid A-level Hollywood product that is sadly the exception to the shallow, silly, would-be blockbusters that keep getting greenlit no matter how obviously bad the idea.Unlike most commercial films since the 1980s, the makers (all the way to the studio) actually care about the characters, film, story and audience, which is why it was poised to became a runaway hit even before Ledgerís passing.The fact is he aced this role and was highly formidable, giving a darkly comic performance as well as being a very threatening presence.This is even more so since ultra-vivid IMAX filmmaking (used for about 25% of the film and far superior to the best HD shooting you can do) is something you cannot hide from or behind.The fact that there are so many great scenes and moments only builds the picture up and with only a few minor false notes, it becomes the kind of great experience a fun film with some substance to offer can deliver, the kind Hollywood used to make all the time.

 

Christian Bale is underrated here too, giving new dimension to one of the most successful heroes of all time, Gary Oldman is even better as a slowly & increasingly confident Jim Gordon and veterans like Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman (who made the first film so effective) complete the early making of the Batman Family that has sent this film into the stratosphere.Though it can be uneven in parts and the move to IMAX changed the dark-throughout look and feel of the first film, it is a home run on so many levels and on Blu-ray in particular, offers a new perspective when seeing it on a home theater system.

 

 

*The 1080p digital High Definition image has two aspect ratios going for it at the same time.Outside of documentaries, Stanley Kubrickís Dr. Strangelove (1965) switched between 1.33 and 1.66 X 1, but Dark Knight goes from the amazingly vivid IMAX shooting in 1.78 X 1 here to the 2.35 X 1 anamorphic 35mm Panavision frame (much superior to too often generic looking Super 35mm shooting that tries to look like scope) that brings us back to the dark approach of the first film and is exclusive to Blu-ray.The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on the DVD is never 1.78 X 1 and is much like the 35mm reduction prints in looking inkier when that IMAX footage is reduced.The DVD looks pretty good for the format, but cannot handle the amazing detail, depth, nuance and film black the Blu-ray can handle.I rate the IMAX footage as good as the best 70mm shooting we have seen so far in previous transfers (Baraka, 2001, Grand Prix; all reviewed elsewhere on this site) and the 35mm a letter grade below, with is excellent for real Panavision on Blu-ray.Wally Pfister, A.S.C., does another winning cinematography job here, while locations and production design also impress.

 

Then there is the sound.Released in IMAX in the Sonics-DDP format, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix here is a knockout, amazing demo material as good as any film issued on Blu-ray (or any other format) to date and between its integration as a thorough soundfield and the clever music by Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard, that soundfield suddenly becomes an expansive world, enclosed on the one hand, yet paradoxically opening the cinematic space to more possibilities, suspense and a feeling that anything can happen.Baleís voice as an angry Batman is clearer and more articulate here than in my three (yes, 3!) IMAX screenings (and they changed the balance by the third one) and you get new detail here that maybe other IMAX screens had but mine did not.The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the DVD is decent too; though DTS would have helped the DVD, Blu-ray and True HD are the way to go.Could the Blu have been better with DTS and/or a 7.1 mix?Possibly, but not by much since the 5.1 TrueHD is that enveloping.

 

All of the Warner/DC Superhero genre films (like V for Vendetta, Superman Returns and even graphic novel comic adaptation 300) have been getting top sonic release treatment, but Dark Knight is the next step forward and even after Wall-E, will be the Blu-ray to beat for amazing sound from a modern feature release and certainly one in live action.

 

Extras in both formats (excluding a single DVD we are not covering, which has less extras) include Gotham Uncovered: Creation Of A Scene featurette, Batman Tech featurette about the gadgets, Batman Unmasked: The Psychology Of The Dark Knight featurette, the actual stand-alone version of all the Gotham Tonight news segments, some great still sections, trailers and TV spots.The Blu-ray adds the interactive BD Live feature and a special gift edition (we did not get) even includes a Bat Pod.That will be plenty of versions to satisfy everyone, but if you can play Blu-ray, you must get this set above all others!

 

 

For more on Batman Begins, you can start with the Blu-ray review at this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/7223/Batman+Begins+(2005/Blu-ray)

 

 

-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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