Day 352: Batman Begins/The Dark Knight

#368/ 365 – ‘Batman Begins’ (2005) – 140 mins
IMDb Challenge #240 / 250 – Ranked #111 – DVD Collection

Billionaire down-and-out Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), traumatised since the murder of his parents, is recruited by The League Of Shadows, ninja assassins devoted to eradicating society’s ills. Rejecting their methods, he returns to Gotham and embarks on a one-man war against crime.

Needless to say, director Christopher Nolan is the real hero of Batman Begins. Sure, Christian Bale dresses up as the giant bat and brilliantly dominates the screen time, but it’s Nolan working from behind the scenes who really makes this back-to-basics Batman work exceptionally well.

Nolan uses Batman Begins as the opportunity to carve out a proper origin story about the caped crusader, something that hadn’t been done in the 80’s and 90’s manifestations of the franchise. This is a hard-core, down-and-gritty story that through flashbacks takes us to the dark corners of the life of billionaire, Bruce Wayne.

There are exciting action scenes, scorching stunts, and of course, the Batmobile which impresses as it skids and screeches over skyscrapers and screeches. Nolan understands how to elevate the adrenaline level. The dialogue is sharp and intelligent, but ultimately, Batman Begins works because you believe in the character. This Dark Knight is definitely here to stay.

#369/ 365 – ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008) – 152 mins
IMDb Challenge #241 / 250 – Ranked #10 – DVD Collection

Batman (Christian Bale) hopes to hang up his cape and hand over crime-fighting duties to District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). But the arrival of clown-faced master criminal The Joker (Heath Ledger) forces the masked vigilante to question everything he stands for.

“You can die a hero or live long enough to be a villain”

The Dark Knight goes beyond the fascinating gothic visuals and harsh realistic tone founded in ‘Batman Begins’ to give us an even richer and multi-layered story, to make it arguably the moodiest superhero film ever to grace to screen.

Opening up with the greatest bank robbery since Michael Mann’s Heat, visually, the film is luxurious, expensive, sophisticated and with awesomely staged stunts throughout, with a huge truck which Batman lassos proving to be the highlight.

All the original cast of Batman Begins are back. Christian Bale continues to own the role as our caped hero. It is always a pleasure to spend time in the company of Michael Caine as Bruce Wayne’s ever-loyal butler Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius, Batman’s version of ‘Q’. One of the major new characters to join the ranks is Aaron Eckhart as Gotham’s charismatic, District Attorney Harvey Dent is Gotham’s Knight ‘White Knight’, and that’s how Eckhart plays him – an individual who makes his own luck. Maggie Gyllenhaal has replaced Katie Holmes as the assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes, but the change is a welcome one as Gyllenhaal is a better actress and makes the character her own from her first scene.

However, it is the Joker who is the biggest and most welcome addition. Heath Ledger’s posthumous Oscar winning performance is one of pure revelation; he drives the entire movie as Batman’s seriously disturbed “why so serious?” nemesis. He is the embodiment of terror and rage, who takes a disturbed pleasure in twisting the city and its heroes. It is impossible to go away after watching The Dark Knight without feeling a sense of poignancy in Ledger’s performance.

For me The Dark Knight is the greatest superhero movie ever made and being a huge fan of the genre, I don’t say that lightly. It is a truly an outstanding and unforgettable achievement from Nolan that works on every level. Whether he will ever top what has been accomplished here remains to seen, but on July 20th, 2012 the world will get to find out if he can with concluding part in this epic franchise – ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

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