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The Dark Knight
Information about The Dark KnightThe Dark Knight is a 2008 (5 years ago) superhero movie directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, the movie is part of Nolan's Batman movie series and a sequel to 2005's Batman Begins. Christian Bale reprises the lead role. The movie follows Bruce Wayne/Batman (Bale), District Attorney Harvey Dent/Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart), Assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), and Police Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and their struggles and journey in combating the new rising threat of a criminal who goes by the name of the "Joker" (Heath Ledger (5 walls)).
Nolan's inspiration for the movie was the Joker's comic book debut in 1940 (73 years ago), and the 1996 (17 years ago) series The Long Halloween, which retold Two-Face's origin. The Dark Knight was filmed primarily in Chicago, as well as in several other locations in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong. Nolan used an IMAX camera to movie some sequences, including the Joker's first appearance in the film. On Jan. 22, 2008 (5 years ago), after he had completed filming The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger (5 walls) died from a toxic combination of prescription drugs, leading to intense attention from the press and moviegoing public. Warner Bros. had initially created a viral marketing campaign for The Dark Knight, developing promotional websites and trailers highlighting screen shots of Ledger as the Joker, but after Ledger's death, the studio refocused its promotional campaign.
The movie was released on Jul. 16, 2008 (5 years ago) in Australia, on Jul. 18, 2008 (5 years ago) in North America, and on Jul. 24, 2008 (5 years ago) in the United Kingdom. Before its box office debut in North America, record numbers of advanced tickets were sold for The Dark Knight. It was greeted with positive reviews upon release, and became only the second movie to earn more than $500 million at the North American box office, setting numerous other records in the process. It is also the fourth highest grossing movie worldwide, and only the fourth movie to earn more than $1 billion, worldwide. The movie received numerous awards nominations and two Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing and Best Supporting Actor for Ledger's performance.
PlotIn Gotham City, the Joker robs a mob bank with his accomplices, whom he tricks into killing one another, ultimately killing the last one himself. That night, Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon contemplate including new district attorney Harvey Dent in their plan to eradicate the mob. However, Batman wonders if Dent can be trusted. Bruce runs into Rachel Dawes and Dent, who are dating, and after talking to Dent, he realizes Dent's sincerity and decides to host a fundraiser for him. Mob bosses Sal Maroni, Gambol, and the Chechen meet with other underworld gangsters to discuss both Batman and Dent, who have been cracking down on the mobster's operations. Lau, a Chinese mafia accountant, informs them that he has hidden their money and fled to Hong Kong in an attempt to preempt Gordon's plan to seize the mobsters' funds and hide from Dent's jurisdiction. The Joker appears and offers to kill Batman for half of the mafia's money, but they flatly refuse and Gambol places a bounty on the Joker's head. Not long after, the Joker kills Gambol and takes control of his men.
In Hong Kong, Batman captures Lau and delivers him to the Gotham City police, where Lau agrees to testify against the mob. In retaliation, the mobsters hire the Joker to kill Batman and Lau. The Joker issues an ultimatum to Gotham: people will die each day until Batman reveals his identity. When Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb and Judge Surillo are killed, the public readily blames Batman, prompting Bruce to decide to reveal his identity. Before Bruce can turn himself in, Dent holds a press conference to try and persuade the public not to sell Batman out just because of one terrorist, but the public, though grateful for everything Batman has done for the city, insists that things have now reached a point where Batman must make the sacrifice, so Dent announces that he himself is Batman and is arrested as part of a plan to draw the Joker out of hiding. The Joker attempts to ambush the police convoy carrying Dent, but Batman and Gordon intervene and capture him. In recognition of his actions, Gordon is appointed the new police commissioner.
Later that night, Dent and Dawes disappear. At the police station, Batman interrogates the Joker, who reveals that Dent and Dawes' police escorts were corrupt cops and have placed them in warehouses rigged with explosives on opposite sides of the city — far enough apart so that Batman cannot save them both. Batman leaves to save Dawes, while Gordon and the police head after Dent. With the aid of a smuggled bomb, the Joker escapes police custody with Lau. Batman arrives, but finds Dent instead of Dawes. Batman successfully saves Dent, but the ensuing explosion disfigures Dent's face (effectively making him Two-Face). Gordon arrives at Dawes' location too late, and she perishes when the bomb detonates. Unable to cope with this new level of chaos, Maroni goes to Gordon and offers him the Joker's location. Aboard a cargo ship, the Joker burns Lau to death atop a pile of half the mob's money, and has the Chechen killed before taking control of his men.
Meanwhile, an accountant at Wayne Enterprises, Coleman Reese, finds out Batman's identity and after failing to blackmail the company, decides to go public. However, realizing that he does what he does only because of Batman, The Joker changes his mind about revealing Batman's identity and issues a public ultimatum: either Reese is killed, or he will blow up a hospital. When the police refuse to carry out his demands, The Joker goes to the evacuated hospital, disguised as a nurse, and frees Dent from his restraints, convincing him to exact revenge on the people responsible for Dawes' death, as well as Batman and Gordon for not saving her. Dent begins by flipping for the Joker's life, and spares him. The Joker destroys the hospital on his way out, and then escapes with a hijacked bus full of hospital patients.
Out of the hospital, Dent goes on a personal vendetta, confronting Maroni and the corrupt cops one by one. Now with complete control over the Gotham mob, the Joker announces to the public that anyone left in Gotham at nightfall will be subject to his rule. With the bridges and tunnels out of the city closed due to a warning by the Joker, authorities begin evacuating people by ferry. The Joker has explosives placed on two of the ferries—one ferry with convicts, who were evacuated in an effort to keep the Joker from freeing them, and the other with civilians—telling the passengers the only way to save themselves is to trigger the explosives on the other ferry; otherwise, he will destroy both at midnight. Batman locates the Joker and the hostages he has taken. Realizing the Joker has disguised the hostages as his own men, Batman is forced to attack both Gordon's SWAT team and the Joker's henchmen to save the real hostages.
The Joker's plan to destroy the ferries fails after the passengers on both decide not to destroy each other. Batman finds the Joker, and after a brief fight, is able to subdue him, preventing him from destroying both ferries. When Batman refuses to kill the Joker, the Joker acknowledges that Batman is truly incorruptible, but that Dent was not, and that he has unleashed Dent upon the city. Leaving the Joker for the SWAT team, Batman searches for Dent. At the remains of the building where Dawes died, Batman finds Dent holding Gordon and his family at gunpoint. Dent judges the innocence of Batman, himself, and Gordon's son through three coin tosses. As the result of the first two flips, he shoots Batman in the abdomen and spares himself. Before Dent can determine the boy's fate, Batman, who was wearing body armor, tackles him over the side of the building. Gordon's son is saved, but Dent and Batman fall to the ground below resulting in Dent's death. Knowing that the citizens of Gotham will lose hope and all morale if Dent's rampage becomes public news, Batman convinces Gordon to hold him responsible for the murders. images (wallpaper) are shown of Gordon delivering the eulogy at Dent's funeral and smashing the Bat-Signal. Police swarm the building, and Batman flees as Gordon and his son watch.
About the castChristian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman, a billionaire dedicated to protecting Gotham City from the criminal underworld by night. Bale said he was confident in his choice to return in the role because of the positive response to his display in Batman Begins. He continued training in the Keysi Fighting Method and performed many of his own stunts, but did not gain as much muscle as in the previous movie because the new Batsuit allowed him to move with greater agility. Bale described Batman's dilemma as whether "[his crusade is] something that has an end. Can he quit and have an ordinary life? The kind of manic intensity someone has to have to maintain the passion and the anger that they felt as a child, takes an effort after a while, to keep doing that. At some point, you have to exorcise your demons." He added, "Now you have not just a young man in pain attempting to find some kind of an answer, you have somebody who actually has power, who is burdened by that power, and is having to recognize the difference between attaining that power and holding on to it." Bale felt Batman's personality had been strongly established in the first film, so it was unlikely his character would be overshadowed by the villains, stating: "I have no problem with competing with someone else. And that's going to make a better movie."
Heath Ledger (5 walls) as The Joker. Before Ledger was confirmed to play the Joker in Jul. 2006 (7 years ago), Paul Bettany, Lachy Hulme, Adrien Brody, Steve Carell, and Robin Williams publicly expressed interest in the role. Yet Nolan had wanted to work with Ledger on a number of projects in the past (though he had been unable to do so), and was agreeable to Ledger's anarchic interpretation of the character. When Ledger saw Batman Begins, he had realized a way to make the character work consistent with the film's tone: he described his Joker as a "psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy".
To prepare for the role, Ledger lived alone in a hotel room for a month, formulating the character's posture, voice, and personality, and kept a diary, in which he recorded the Joker's thoughts and feelings. While he initially found it difficult, Ledger eventually generated a voice unlike Jack Nicholson's character in Tim Burton's 1989 (24 years ago) Batman film. He was also given Batman: The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, which he "really tried to read and put it down". Ledger also cited A Clockwork Orange and Sid Vicious as "a very early starting point for Christian [Bale] and I. But we kind of flew far away from that pretty quickly and into another world altogether." "There’s a bit of everything in him. There’s nothing that consistent," Ledger said, and added, "There are a few more surprises to him." Ledger was allowed to shoot and mostly direct the videos the Joker sends out as warnings. Each take Ledger made was different from the last. Nolan was impressed enough with the first video shoot that he chose to not be present when Ledger shot the video with a kidnapped reporter (Anthony Michael Hall).
On Jan. 22, 2008 (5 years ago), after he had completed filming The Dark Knight, Ledger died of an accidental prescription drug overdose, leading to intense press attention and memorial tributes. "It was tremendously emotional, right when he passed, having to go back in and look at him every day [during editing]," Nolan recalled. "But the truth is, I feel very lucky to have something productive to do, to have a performance that he was very, very proud of, and that he had entrusted to me to finish." All of Ledger's scenes appear as he completed them in the filming; in editing the film, Nolan added no "digital effects" to alter Ledger's actual performance posthumously. Nolan has dedicated the movie in part to Ledger's memory.
Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent / Two-Face, the district attorney who is hailed as Gotham's "White Knight". Dent's battle with the Joker transforms Dent into a murderous, disfigured vigilante called "Two-Face". Bruce sees Dent as his heir, demonstrating his realization that Batman will be a lifelong mission, and furthering the tragedy of Dent's downfall. Nolan and David S. Goyer had originally considered using Dent in Batman Begins, but they replaced him with the new character Rachel Dawes when they realized they "couldn’t do him justice". Before Eckhart was cast in Feb. 2007 (6 years ago), Liev Schreiber, Josh Lucas, and Ryan Phillippe had expressed interest in the role, while Mark Ruffalo auditioned. Hugh Jackman was also considered for the part of Dent. Nolan chose Eckhart, whom he had considered for the lead role in Memento, citing his "extraordinary" ability as an actor, his embodiment of "that kind of chiselled, American hero quality" projected by Robert Redford, and his subtextual "edge".
Eckhart was "interested in good guys gone wrong", and had played corrupt men in movies such as The Black Dahlia, Thank You for Smoking, and In the Company of Men. Whereas Two-Face is an evil villain in the comics, Nolan chose to portray him as a twisted vigilante to emphasize his role as Batman's counterpart. Eckhart explained, "[He] is still true to himself. He's a crime fighter, he's not killing good people. He's not a bad guy, not purely." For Dent, Eckhart "kept on thinking about the Kennedys", particularly Robert F. Kennedy, who was "idealistic, held a grudge and took on the Mob". He had his hair lightened and styled to make him appear more dashing. Nolan told Eckhart to not make Two-Face "jokey with slurping sounds or ticks".
Gary Oldman as James Gordon, a lieutenant in the Gotham City Police Department and one of the few police officers who is not corrupt. He forms a tenuous, unofficial alliance with Batman and Dent. When the Joker assassinates Police Commissioner Loeb, Mayor Garcia gives Gordon the position. Oldman described his character as "incorruptible, virtuous, strong, heroic, but understated". Nolan explained that "The Long Halloween has a great, triangular relationship between Harvey Dent and Gordon and Batman, and that's something we very much drew from." Oldman added that "Gordon has a great deal of admiration for him at the end, but [Batman] is more than ever now The Dark Knight, the outsider. I'm intrigued now to see: If there is a third one, what he's going to do?" On the possibility of another sequel, he said that "returning to [the role] is not dependent on whether the role was bigger than the one before".
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes, the Gotham assistant district attorney and childhood friend of Bruce Wayne. Before the events of the film, she told Bruce that if he ever decided to stop being Batman, they would be together. She is one of the few people to know the identity of Batman. Gyllenhaal took over the role from Katie Holmes (57 walls), who played it in Batman Begins. In Aug. 2005 (8 years ago), Holmes was reportedly planning to reprise the role, but she eventually turned it down to do Mad Money with Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah. By Mar. 2007 (6 years ago), Gyllenhaal was in "final talks" for the part. Gyllenhaal has acknowledged her character is a damsel in distress to an extent, but says Nolan sought ways to empower her character, so "Rachel's really clear about what's important to her and unwilling to compromise her morals, which made a nice change" from the many conflicted characters whom she has previously portrayed.
Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne's trusted butler and adviser. His supply of useful advice to Bruce and his likeness to a fatherly figure to him has led to him being labeled as "Batman's batman".
Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, the recently-promoted chief executive officer of Wayne Enterprises who, now fully aware of his employer's double life as Batman, serves more directly as Bruce's armorer in addition to his corporate managerial duties.
Ng Chin Han as Lau, the accountant who handles the money for the mobs.
Eric Roberts as Sal Maroni, a gangster who has taken over Carmine Falcone's mob. Bob Hoskins and James Gandolfini auditioned for the role.
Colin McFarlane as Gillian B. Loeb, the Police Commissioner of Gotham until his murder at the hands of the Joker.
The film's Gotham officials and authorities include Nestor Carbonell as Mayor Anthony Garcia, Keith Szarabajka as Detective Gerard Stephens, Monique Curnen as Anna Ramirez, and Ron Dean as Detective Michael Wuertz. While Stephens is an honest and good cop, the latter two are two corrupt officers who betray Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes to the Joker. The movie also cast Anthony Michael Hall as Gotham Cable News reporter Mike Engel, Nydia Rodriguez Terracina as Judge Janet Surrillo, Joshua Harto as Coleman Reese, Melinda McGraw and Nathan Gamble as Gordon's wife and son, and Tom "Tiny" Lister, Jr. as a prison inmate on one of the bomb-rigged ferries. The film's criminals include Michael Jai White as gang leader Gambol, Ritchie Coster as the Chechan, and William Fichtner as the Gotham National bank manager. David Banner originally auditioned for the role of Gambol. Cillian Murphy returns in a cameo as Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow, who is captured early on in the movie by Batman.
Musician Dwight Yoakam was approached for the roles of either the manager or a corrupt cop, but he chose to focus on his album Dwight Sings Buck. Another cameo was made by United States Senator Patrick Leahy, a Batman fan who was previously an extra in the 1997 (16 years ago) Batman & Robin and also was a guest voice actor on Batman: The Animated Series. Leahy cameos as a guest who defies the Joker at a fundraiser thrown by Bruce Wayne.
DevelopmentAs we looked through the comics, there was this fascinating idea that Batman's presence in Gotham actually attracts criminals to Gotham, [it] attracts lunacy. When you're dealing with questionable notions like people taking the law into their own hands, you have to really ask, where does that lead? That's what makes the character so dark, because he expresses a vengeful desire.
—Nolan on the theme of escalation
Before the release of Batman Begins, screenwriter David S. Goyer wrote a treatment for two sequels which introduced the Joker and Harvey Dent. His original intent was for the Joker to scar Dent during the Joker's trial in the third film, turning Dent into Two-Face. Goyer, who penned the first draft of the film, cited the DC Comics 13-issue comic book limited series Batman: The Long Halloween as the major influence on his storyline. While initially uncertain of whether or not he would return to direct the sequel, Nolan did want to reinterpret the Joker on screen. On Jul. 31, 2006 (7 years ago), Warner Bros. officially announced initiation of production for the sequel to Batman Begins titled The Dark Knight; it is the first live-action Batman movie without the word "Batman" in its title, which Bale noted as signaling that "this take on Batman of mine and Chris' is very different from any of the others."
After much research, Nolan's brother and co-writer, Jonathan, suggested the Joker's first two appearances, published in the first issue of Batman (1940, 73 years ago), as the crucial influences. Jerry Robinson, one of the Joker's co-creators, was consulted on the character's portrayal. Nolan decided to avoid divulging an in-depth origin story for the Joker, and instead portray his rise to power so as to not diminish the threat he poses, explaining to MTV News, "the Joker we meet in The Dark Knight is fully formed...To me, the Joker is an absolute. There are no shades of gray to him—maybe shades of purple. He's unbelievably dark. He bursts in just as he did in the comics." Nolan reiterated to IGN, "We never wanted to do an origin story for the Joker in this film", because "the arc of the story is much more Harvey Dent's; the Joker is presented as an absolute. It's a very thrilling element in the film, and a very important element, but we wanted to deal with the rise of the Joker, not the origin of the Joker." Nolan suggested Batman: The Killing Joke influenced a section of the Joker's dialogue in the film, in which he says that anyone can become like him given the right circumstances.
Nolan also cited Heat as "sort of an inspiration" for his aim "to tell a very large, city story or the story of a city": "If you want to take on Gotham, you want to give Gotham a kind of weight and breadth and depth in there. So you wind up dealing with the political figures, the media figures. That's part of the whole fabric of how a city is bound together."
According to Nolan, an important theme of the sequel is "escalation", extending the ending of Batman Begins, noting "things having to get worse before they get better". While indicating The Dark Knight would continue the themes of Batman Begins, including justice vs. revenge and Bruce Wayne's issues with his father, Nolan emphasized the sequel would also portray Wayne more as a detective, an aspect of his character not fully developed in Batman Begins. Nolan described the friendly rivalry between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent as the "backbone" of the film. He also chose to compress the overall storyline, allowing Dent to become Two-Face in The Dark Knight, thus giving the movie an emotional arc the unsympathetic Joker could not offer. Nolan acknowledged the title was not only a reference to Batman, but also the fallen "white knight" Harvey Dent.
FilmingWhile scouting for shooting locations in Oct. 2006 (7 years ago), location manager Robin Higgs visited Liverpool, concentrating mainly along the city's waterfront. Other candidates included Yorkshire, Glasgow, and parts of London. In Aug. 2006 (7 years ago), one of the film's producers, Charles Roven, stated that its principal photography would begin in Mar. 2007 (6 years ago), but filming was pushed back to April. For its release in IMAX theaters, Nolan shot four major sequences in that format, including the Joker's introduction, and said that he wished that it were possible to shoot the entire movie in IMAX: "if you could take an IMAX camera to Mount Everest or outer space, you could use it in a feature movie." For fifteen years Nolan had wanted to shoot in the IMAX format, and he also used it for "quiet scenes which pictorially we thought would be interesting."
Warner Bros. chose to movie in Chicago for thirteen weeks, because Nolan had had a "truly remarkable experience" filming part of Batman Begins there. Instead of using the Chicago Board of Trade Building as the location for the headquarters of Wayne Enterprises, as Batman Begins did, The Dark Knight used the Richard J. Daley Center. While filming in Chicago, the movie was given the false title Rory's First Kiss to lower the visibility of production, but the local media eventually uncovered the ruse. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times commented on the absurdity of the technique, "Is there a Bat-fan in the world that doesn't know Rory's First Kiss is actually The Dark Knight, which has been filming in Chicago for weeks?" Production of The Dark Knight in Chicago generated $45 million in the city's economy and created thousands of jobs. For the film's prologue involving the Joker, the crew shot in Chicago from Apr. 18, 2007 (6 years ago) to Apr. 24, 2007 (6 years ago). They returned to shoot from Jun. 9, 2007 (6 years ago) to early September. Shooting locations included Navy Pier, 330 North Wabash, James R. Thompson Center, LaSalle Street, The Berghoff, Millennium Station, Hotel 71, the old Brach's factory, the old Van Buren Street Post Office, and Wacker Drive. Pinewood Studios, near London, was the primary studio space used for the production. Marina City was in the background throughout the movie.
While planning a stunt with the Batmobile in a special effects facility near Chertsey, England in sep. 2007 (6 years ago), technician Conway Wickliffe was killed when his car crashed. The movie is dedicated to both Ledger and Wickliffe. The following month in London at the defunct Battersea Power Station, a rigged 200-foot fireball was filmed, reportedly for an opening sequence, prompting calls from local residents who feared a terrorist attack on the station. A similar incident occurred during the filming in Chicago, when an abandoned Brach's candy factory (which was Gotham Hospital in the film) was demolished.
Filming took place in Hong Kong from Nov. 6 to Nov. 11, 2007 (6 years ago), at the Central-Mid-Levels escalators, Queen's Road, The Center, and International Finance Centre. The city's walled city of Kowloon influenced the Narrows in Batman Begins. The shoot hired helicopters and C-130 aircraft. Officials expressed concern over possible noise pollution and traffic. In response, letters sent to the city's residents promised that the sound level would approximate noise decibels made by buses. Environmentalists also criticized the filmmakers' request to tenants of the waterfront skyscrapers to keep their lights on all night to enhance the cinematography, describing it as a waste of energy. Cinematographer Wally Pfister found the city officials a "nightmare", and ultimately Nolan had to create Batman's jump from a skyscraper digitally.
DesignCostume designer Lindy Hemming described the Joker's look as reflecting his personality — that "he doesn't care about himself at all"; she avoided designing him as a vagrant but still made him appear to be "scruffier, grungier", so that "when you see him move, he's slightly twitchier or edgy." Nolan noted, "We gave a Francis Bacon spin to [his face]. This corruption, this decay in the texture of the look itself. It's grubby. You can almost imagine what he smells like." In creating the "anarchical" look of the Joker, Hemming drew inspiration from such countercultural pop culture artists as Pete Doherty, Iggy Pop, and Johnny Rotten. Ledger described his "clown" mask, made up of three pieces of stamped silicone, as a "new technology", taking much less time for the make-up artists to apply than more-conventional prosthetics usually requires — the process took them only an hour — and said that he felt he was barely wearing any make-up.
Designers improved on the design of the Batsuit from Batman Begins, adding wide elastic banding to help bind the costume to Bale, and suggest more sophisticated technology. It was constructed from 200 individual pieces of rubber, fiberglass, metallic mesh, and nylon. The new cowl was modeled after a motorcycle helmet and separated from the neck piece, allowing Bale to turn his head left and right and nod up and down. The cowl is equipped to show white lenses over the eyes when the character turns on his sonar detection, which gives Batman the white eyed look from the comics and animation. The gauntlets have retractable razors which can be fired. Though the new costume is eight pounds heavier, Bale found it more comfortable and less hot to wear. The original suit was also worn during part of the film, where Batman employs hydraulic assistance on the gauntlets to bend a gun barrel and cut through steel.
The depiction of Gotham City is less gritty than in Batman Begins. "I've tried to unclutter the Gotham we created on the last film," said Crowley. "Gotham is in chaos. We keep blowing up stuff, so we can keep our images (wallpaper) clean."
EffectsThe movie introduces the Batpod, which is a recreation of the Batcycle. Production designer Nathan Crowley, who designed the Tumbler for Batman Begins, designed six models (built by special effects supervisor Chris Corbould) for use in the film's production, because of necessary crash scenes and possible accidents. Crowley built a prototype in Nolan's garage, before six months of safety tests were conducted. The Batpod is steered by shoulder instead of hand, and the rider's arms are protected by sleeve-like shields. The bike has 508-millimeter (20-inch) front and rear tires, and is made to appear as if it is armed with grappling hooks, cannons, and machine guns. The engines are located in the hubs of the wheels, which are set 3 1/2 feet (1067 mm) apart on either side of the tank. The rider lies belly down on the tank, which can move up and down to dodge any incoming gunfire that Batman may encounter. Stuntman Jean-Pierre Goy doubled for Christian Bale during the riding sequences in The Dark Knight.
Aaron Eckhart with make-up and motion capture markers on set. Below is the finished Two-Face effectNolan designed Two-Face's appearance in the movie as one of the least disturbing, explaining, "When we looked at less extreme versions of it, they were too real and more horrifying. When you look at a movie like Pirates of the Caribbean – something like that, there's something about a very fanciful, very detailed visual effect, that I think is more powerful and less repulsive." Framestore created 120 computer-generated shots of Two-Face's scarred visage. Nolan felt using make-up would look unrealistic, as it adds to the face, unlike real burn victims. Framestore acknowledged they rearranged the positions of bones, muscles and joints to make the character look more dramatic. For each shot, three 720-pixel HD cameras were set up at different angles on set to fully capture Aaron Eckhart's performance. Eckhart wore markers on his face and a prosthetic skullcap, which was acted as a lighting reference. A few shots of the skullcap were kept in the film. Framestore also integrated shots of Bale and Eckhart into that of the exploding building where Dent is burned. It was difficult simulating fire on Eckhart because only having half of something being burned is inherently unrealistic.
MusicBatman Begins composers Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard returned to score the sequel. Composition began before shooting, and during filming Nolan received an iPod with ten hours of recordings. Their nine-minute suite for the Joker, "Why So Serious?", is based around two notes. Zimmer compared its style to that of Kraftwerk, a band from his native Germany, as well as bands like The Damned. When Ledger died, Zimmer felt like scrapping and composing a new theme, but decided that he could not be sentimental and compromise the "evil [performance] projects". Howard composed Dent's "elegant and beautiful" themes, which are brass-focused.
ReceptionUpon release, the movie had met with critical acclaim. Based on 263 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has an overall approval rating from critics of 94%, with an average score of 8.5/10. Among Rotten Tomatoes' Cream of the Crop, which consists of popular and notable critics from the top newspapers, websites, TV, and radio programs, the movie holds an overall approval rating of 90%. By comparison, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, the movie has received an average score of 82, based on 39 reviews. CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade cinemagoers gave the movie was "A" on an A+ to F scale, and that audiences skewed slightly male and older.
For seven years, IMDb's Top 250 Movies of All-Time (a list of the top movies based on user ratings on a scale of 1 to 10) had The Godfather ranked number one and The Shawshank Redemption ranked number two. On Jul. 19, 2008 (5 years ago), however, The Dark Knight dethroned The Godfather from that number one position. The last time The Godfather hadn't been ranked number one was in 2001 (12 years ago) when it was dethroned briefly by The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. As of Aug. 11, 2009 (4 years ago), The Dark Knight is ranked eight in the list, following 12 Angry Men.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times describes The Dark Knight as a "haunted movie that leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy." He praises the performances, direction, and writing, and says the movie "redefines the possibilities of the comic-book movie". He named it one of his twenty favorite movies of 2008 (5 years ago). Peter Travers of Rolling Stone writes that the movie is deeper than its predecessor, with a "deft" script that refuses to scrutinize the Joker with popular psychology, instead pulling the viewer in with an examination of Bruce Wayne's psyche, Travers has praise for all the cast, saying each brings his or her "'A' game" to the film. He says Bale is "electrifying", evoking Al Pacino (6 walls) in The Godfather Part II, and that Eckhart's portrayal of Harvey Dent is "scarily moving". Ebert states that the "key performance" is by Heath Ledger (5 walls), and pondered whether he would become the first posthumous Academy Award winner since Peter Finch in 1976 (37 years ago) (Ledger ultimately did win the Oscar). Travers says the actor moves the Joker away from Jack Nicholson's interpretation into darker territory, and expresses his support for any potential campaign to have Ledger nominated for an Academy Award, a call echoed by filmmaker Kevin Smith.
Travers says that the filmmakers move the movie away from comic book cinema and closer to being a genuine work of art, citing Nolan's direction and the "gritty reality" of Wally Pfister's cinematography as helping to create a universe that has something "raw and elemental" at work within it. In particular, he cites Nolan's action choreography in the IMAX-tailored heist sequence as rivaling that of Heat (1995, 18 years ago). Emanuel Levy wrote Ledger "throws himself completely" into the role, and that the movie represents Nolan's "most accomplished and mature" work, and the most technically impressive and resonant of all the Batman films. Levy calls the action sequences some of the most impressive seen in an American movie for years, and talks of the Hong Kong-set portion of the movie as being particularly visually impressive. Levy and Peter Travers conclude that the movie is "haunting and visionary", while Levy goes on to say that The Dark Knight is "nothing short of brilliant".
David Denby of The New Yorker holds that the story is not coherent enough to properly flesh out the disparities. He says the film's mood is one of "constant climax", and that it feels rushed and far too long. Denby criticizes scenes which he argues are meaningless or are cut short just as they become interesting. Denby remarks that the central conflict is workable, but that "only half the team can act it", saying that Bale's "placid" Bruce Wayne and "dogged but uninteresting" Batman is constantly upstaged by Ledger's "sinister and frightening" performance, which he says is the film's one element of success. Denby concludes that Ledger is "mesmerising" in every scene. While Denby has praise for Pfister's cinematography, he does not rate the movie as a remarkable piece of craftmanship. He puts forward that while a lot happens in the film, it is often difficult to follow due to the close, dark photography and editing. Denby says the movie is too grim and is seemingly "jammed together". He surmises that the "heavy-handed" score and "thunderous" violence only serve to coarsen the property from Tim Burton's vision of the franchise into a "hyperviolent summer action spectacle", and that the movie embraces the themes of terror that it purports to scrutinize.
The Dark Knight was ranked the 15th greatest movie in history on Empire's 2008 (5 years ago) list of the "500 Greatest Movies of All Time", based upon the weighted votes of 10,000 readers, 150 movie directors, and 50 key movie critics. Heath Ledger's interpretation of the Joker was also ranked number three on Empire's 2008 (5 years ago) list of the "100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time".
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