The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight (2008)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Morgan Freeman
Extras: Featurettes, News Programs, Photo Galleries, Trailers

After his incredible resurrection of the comic book superhero with "Batman Begins, " director Christopher Nolan continues the story of the caped crusader in "The Dark Knight, " making sure Batman will forever take his place in the top echelon of movie superheroes, eclipsing the highly overrated "Spider-Man" in the process.

After having established his superhero persona in "Batman Begins," Batman (Christian Bale) has become an institution of Gotham City, taking care of evildoers wherever he encounters them. While some find his actions to be laudable, there is a loud voice among the general populace calling for the vigilante's prosecution.

As he fights the local mob, Batman teams up with Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) in order to put an end to their racketeering. But just as they are ready to bust the criminals a new face shows up in town. Calling himself "The Joker," this disfigured psychopath is not only robbing banks, taking pleasure in killing people and mocking the authorities in front of surveillance cameras, he also puts a stranglehold on the mob. Soon things get really ugly when the Joker begins to blackmail Batman also, calling for the dark knight to show his real identity or else the joker would kill people at random.

With an unknown like the Joker factoring into the mix who turns out to be entirely unpredictable, Batman has his hands full and seems to get the upper hand. But he soon learns that the Joker does not only stand for bad puns but the he truly is a wild card with no limits to his sick imagination.

"The Dark Knight" seamlessly integrates with "Batman Begins." Style, look and atmosphere are identical, giving the film an incredible sense of continuity. Nolan once again takes the pedal to the metal and opens up the throttle for this high octane actioner. The drama surrounding the key characters is played out wonderfully and with a masterful hand to make sure it never comes across as sappy or shallow. Unnecessary backstory is eliminated and the film focuses entirely on the right now, right here as it propels viewers through the rather complex story and its twists. While fans of the comic books will see some of the plot twists coming, of course, since they are taken from the comic books, but for casual viewers they will come unexpected no doubt, throwing them a nice curveball. But even if you're familiar with the general plot line, and you may be re-watching the film, the plotting and story is so solid that it will keep you engrossed over and over again.

If there is one real complaint I had about "The Dark Knight" it is that the film is too long. Running 153 minutes I felt it dragged at times. Especially towards the end, I could not shake the feeling that Nolan tried to cramp too much into that one film and I would not be surprised to see a 180+ minute Director's Cut some day because, frankly, there is enough material in this film to easily service two entirely separate movies. And yet, despite this shortcoming, I could not help but think "Wow!" to myself when the end credits began rolling. In the end, it was an utterly satisfying experience that almost left me physically drained, so involved had I been with the film.

The cast is splendid, featuring Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman in recurring roles to very good effect, but clearly it is Heath Ledger who steals the show in this film. His portrayal of the Joker is so sick and disturbing that it runs shivers down your spine. The way he talks and moves, and the way he looks, flicking his tongue nervously, Ledger managed to create the most intense and frightening movie psychopath since Anthony Perkins' Norman Bates, and I honestly hope he will be awarded posthumously with an Academy Award for this part.

Warner is serving up "The Dark Knight" on a 2-disc Blu-Ray release here, featuring a glorious 1080p high definition transfer. The presentation is of the highest quality, as expected, rendering the picture with incredible detail, some of the boldest colors imaginable and blacks that defy even the word super-black. Gotham's is a dark world, full of shadows, dark alleyways and dark characters and the movie's cinematography perfectly reflects that. It is great to see that the Blu-Ray version ensures it all remains fully intact without flaws. The level of detail in the transfer is also incredible, allowing you to see every little nuance in the textures, marks in the actors' skins, seams in the clothing.

The film is accompanied by a Dolby Digital 5.1 TrueHD audio track that restores the movie's original mix to perfection without losing nay detail to compression. The track is intense and aggressively making use of the split surround channels on a constant basis, making sure the viewer not only sees, but hears and feels the turmoil that rumbles through the city. This is an impeccable track with perfect balance and a wide sound field. No distortion mars the presentation and with its deep bass extension, the track will release enough sonic energy to make your pants flutter.

The release is stuffed with bonus materials, covering each and every aspect of the movie imaginable. Whether you're interested in the film's stunts, production design, special effects, gadgets and tools or whatnot, you will find a dedicated featurette on the subject on one of the two discs. Looking for more information about Batman and the psychology behind the character? Look no further than the featurette "Batman Unmasked." Also included is the news programming that flickers across TV screens in the movie for you to view in more detail, as well as extensive photo galleries and trailers.

"The Dark Knight" is a triumph, putting the foot down firmly to show that superhero movies can have substance and do not have to be mere CGI-orgies. While the film is filled with spectacular special effects and stunts of course, not once will you get the feeling that they have been added for their own sake. Instead Nolan always employs the technology as a tool to tell his story – just the way it should be. The result is one of the best superhero movies ever to grace the silver screen. You simply can't afford to miss this one!