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The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

Released: July 18, 2008

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Song Credits

"BALMORAL"
Performed by THE PIPES AND DRUMS OF THE CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT


"SCATTERIN' MONKEY"
"4 A MOMENT OF SILENCE"
Written by MASAYUKI NAKANO and MICHIYUKI KAWASHIMA
Performed by BOOM BOOM SATELLITES
Courtesy of EPIC RECORDS & SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT (JAPAN) INC.
By arrangement with SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT
[[2]]

Movie Review: Dark Knight (2-disc Blu-ray), The

by Dan Goldwasser
on November 29th, 2008
[4.5 / 5] printable

There's not much sense in rehashing my review of The Dark Knight; my review is still available below.  The sequel to Batman Begins involves Bruce Wayne's alter-ego Batman (Christian Bale) and his continuing war on crime in Gotham City.  With the help of Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman starts to clean up Gotham - but the Joker (Heath Ledger) and his anarchistic approach threatens to thrust the city into complete chaos, and pushes Batman to crossing the line between hero and vigilante.  As a film, it was one of the best ones released in 2008, aided by an unnerving performance by the late Heath Ledger. In structure, The Dark Knight actually worked better as a crime movie than a comic-book movie, even if it ran a tad on the long side.  It was also the biggest film of the year so far, with about $530 million domestic in box office take.  Just in time for the holidays, The Dark Knight comes to home video on DVD in a single-disc and two-disc "special edition", as well as Blu-ray.  This review focuses on the Blu-ray release.

The image quality is, without a doubt, exceptional.  The Blu-ray contains the IMAX version of the film, with certain sequences opened up filling the top and bottom of the frame, with slight windowboxing on the sides.  It's not the full IMAX frame, but it looks absolutely stunning - the level of detail is truly a jaw-dropping one, and the action sequences that were shot in IMAX are going to remain the ultimate home theater demo material for a while to come.  The rest of the film is presented at the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen theatrical ratio that the film was shown in, and I can't say that it looks any worse than the IMAX sequences, although just a tad softer.  Still, this is an excellent image - even if it feels just a hair darker than I remember it being in theaters.  Blacks are so solid that just as I start to feel that detail is getting lost in them, the scene will change and it will look great.  Similarly the audio packs a whollop.  Presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 as well as standard English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks (as well as a handy "Descriptive Narration" English track), this audio will rock your home theater.  Immersive and punchy (especially during the action sequences), your subwoofer and rear speakers are sure to get a work-out from this film.  Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's score sounds great, and fills the rear channels nicely helping the atmosphere of the movie.

While the film delivers in terms of video and audio quality, it falls somewhat shorter when it comes to the extras.  On the first disc, the only real extras is a section called "Gotham Uncovered: Creation of a Scene".  Broken into 18 featurettes labeled "Focus Points" these HD segments can be viewed individually or all at once, or via an icon prompt as you watch the film.  It's not a picture-in-picture track (unlike the Batman Begins In-Movie Experience), but rather a little over an hour of very well done behind-the-scenes material.  There is a focus on IMAX shooting, costumes, vehicles, music, stunts, miniature effects, and some of the action sequences.  The focus points are "The Prologue" (9-minutes), "The New Bat-Suit" (5-minutes), "Joker Theme" (6-minutes), "Hong Kong Jump" (3-minutes), "Judge's Car Blows Up" (1-minute), "Challenges of the Chase, in IMAX" (4-minutes), "SWAT Van into River" (2-minutes), "Miniature Unit" (1.5-minutes), "Destruction of the Batmobile" (2-minutes), "Bat-Pod" (6-minutes), "Helicopter Crash" (1-minute), "Truck Flip" (4-minutes), "MCU Explosion" (1-minute), "Lamborghini Crash" (2-minutes), "Hospital Explosion" (7-minutes), "Mob Car Flip" (40-seconds), "String of Sausages Stunt" (2-minutes), and "Upping the Ante" (6.5-minutes).  What's great about some of these segments are the alternate camera angle seen for many of the action sequences, which were shot but not used.  (Also, witnessing the accidental destruction of an IMAX camera is a painful yet worthwhile moment!)  Sadly there is nothing on Two-Face and the amazing visual effects work, or anything on Heath Ledger and his untimely passing. The only other extra on the first disc is a "Warner Bros. BD-Live" section.  Supposedly you can record your own picture-in-picture video commentary for the film and share it with other users, plan a group screening with movie-chat, as well as view some streaming video versions of some Batman animated comic books.  But after trying to register with the WB BD-Live server a few different times, I kept getting an error and gave up.

The second disc contains two "Behind the Story" documentaries, both of which had aired on the History Channel around the time of the film's theatrical release, and presented in HD.  "Batman Tech" (46-minutes) takes a look at the gadgetry that Batman uses in the film, and how all of them are based on actual modern technology.  "Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight" (46-minutes) is a more analytical look at the internal conflicts brewing within Bruce Wayne and the villains he encounters, as they are psychoanalyzed by experts.  Both of these are interesting documentaries that help put The Dark Knight into a real-world context, but they offer very little in the way of the making of the film.

Offering even less information into the making of the film are the six "Gotham Tonight" segments (46-minutes).  Hosted by Gotham Cable News reporter Mike Engel (Anthony Michael Hall), these faux news segments appeared (in part) in the film, and give a little bit more back-story to the events that take place in the film.  They're mildly entertaining, but don't offer much replay value.  "The Galleries" includes an slew of production artwork and photos, with "Joker Cards", "Concept Art", "Poster Art" and "Production Stills".  "Trailers and More" (9-minutes) contains three theatrical trailers and six television spots, all in HD. A third disc is included, containing a Digital Copy of the film for viewing on your iPod or other portable device.

The Dark Knight is one of the best films of 2008, and it's given an amazing presentation on Blu-ray.  The extras on the first disc are great, but serve more as a tease for what could be a double-dip down the road.  There is some interesting supplemental material, but don't hold up to the level of the behind-the-scenes material presented on the Batman Begins Blu-ray release.  Couple that with a second disc that is filled with mainly ancillary fluff, and you have a strong signal that we might be revisiting The Dark Knight in a year or two.  If that doesn't bother you, then definitely pick it up in stores on December 9th.

Movie Review: Dark Knight, The

by Dan Goldwasser
on July 9th, 2008
[4.5 / 5] printable
Back in 2005, director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia) brought us a rather unique and dark re-imagining of the "Batman" story. Until his film, most people's film experiences of Batman had come from Tim Burton and Joel Schumaker's versions in the 1990s, and the brightly kitsch-filled Adam West feature film based on the 1960s television show. Nolan's Batman Begins brought us an emotionally scarred Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), his trusting and reliable butler Alfred (Michael Caine), his assistant DA girlfriend Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), upright police sergeant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Wayne Enterprises inventor Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), all working in various ways against a city that is run by the mob, full of corruption, and general bitterness and malaise. As Batman, Wayne takes vigilantism to the next level, and creating a psychologically bleak superhero who skirts the line between good and bad. This line is explored even further in the new highly anticipated sequel, The Dark Knight.

While there are some in Gotham City who think that Batman is a force of good, many - including higher-ups at City Hall - see him as a vigilante out of control. When The Joker (Heath Ledger) offers the mob (led by Sal Maroni, played by Eric Roberts) his services to get rid of Batman, they balk at him - but soon they realize they just might need his services after all, no matter how unconventional they might be. Meanwhile, Rachel (now played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) is now seeing Gotham district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), and is caught between her love for him, and her friendship with ex-boyfriend Bruce Wayne (and the knowledge that he is Batman). As Gotham City endures a series of attacks by The Joker, the issue becomes whether Batman can save the city by taking out the Joker and his gang of criminals - or by succumbing to his demand that he reveal his identity. Can Bruce Wayne balance his dual identities, even if it means putting those he loves most at risk? It's a question that was posed in the first film, but taken to a whole new level in The Dark Knight.

As played by Ledger, The Joker is an unrelenting and unforgiving entity. He is, as Nolan has stated, a "constant" - he has no character arc, and his malicious and sadistic personality allows everyone else in the film to react to him, and that is where their character arcs are borne out of. The Joker sees himself as Batman's opposite - an agent of chaos where Batman tries to bring order. Ledger gives a phenomenal performance, one that will last with you for weeks after you see the film (especially the "disappearing pen trick"!). Similarly, Eckhart as Harvey Dent has to give a sympathetic portrayal of a character insistent on doing what is right, even at the expense of his own safety. But Dent's fate will take him on a darker path, one that he is not prepared for. Rachel Dawes has more depth in this film as well, as she tries to reconcile her feelings for Bruce, and her feelings for Dent. Bale does a solid job as Batman again, and shows that not only is he not an invincible superhero, but he's also as flawed as the people he's trying to combat.

Speaking of combat, the action sequences in the film - starting with the bank robbery at the beginning and going all the way through to the end - are excellent. It's a major step up from the convoluted and hard-to-follow action from the first film, and I'm glad that Nolan calmed down enough to allow the scenes choreography to be showcased nicely. There's a lot of action amidst the drama, and audiences will not be disappointed. Visual effects are solid, and the music score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard builds on the palette created in the first film, and takes it up to the next level. While it still doesn't have the balls-out theme that some people want (in fact, it doesn't even use the big theme heard briefly in the first film), it still works effectively to get your heart pumping and to add an extra emotional layer to Harvey Dent's dramatic turn of events. The motif that Zimmer came up with for the Joker is such a memorable use of sound design and instrument recording and manipulation that it becomes instantly identifiable with only one note.

The best way to see The Dark Knight, if you're fortunate, is on the IMAX screen. It's not just your 'typical' IMAX DRM upconversion; rather, they actually shot a few sequences on IMAX film, in the full glory of the format. So while you're watching the film, it will shift from the widescreen format to suddenly filling the entire square screen, throwing you right into the the scene. It's not distracting at all; in fact it's just mindblowing at how good the image looks. If you don't see it in IMAX, you're not missing any extra information, it just changes how you view the film, and it makes it more of a real-world experience than anything else. Incidentally, the dark Gotham City shown in the first film, with the steam and bridges and monorail, seems to be missing most of those traits, and while it might just feel like the Chicago locations that they filmed at, it's actually more effective to make the film feel like it could be happening in our real-world. And that's one of the best parts about The Dark Knight - it's not a fantasy comic book movie. It's a movie that is plausible and realistic. From the action to the dramatic situations, nothing seems overdone or out of place.

When leaving the theater, I commented to my guest "Well, the summer's over!". It's not entirely true, and there are other movies coming out in the next few weeks that I am looking forward to. But it's hard to see how any of them could be on the same level as The Dark Knight. It's a movie that just succeeds on every possible level - it is the movie of the summer (if not the year), and I can't recommend it enough.


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Trailer Music

The trailers for The Dark Knight featured music by Hans Zimmer / James Newton Howard, X-Ray Dog, and VideoHelper Music Library.

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