My Favorite Movies #11 – The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

2008

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Quick synopsis… In this sequel to Batman Begins, the caped crusader teams with Lt. James Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent to continue dismantling Gotham City’s criminal organizations. But a new villain known as the Joker threatens to undo their good work.

  • And here… we… go…
  • A gang in clown masks takes down a mob-controlled bank.
  • Each individual was given instructions by the unseen leader, calling himself the Joker, to kill another member of the gang before the robbery is over.
  • The Joker (Heath Ledger) reveals himself to be the last man standing.
  • His introduction is pretty freakin’ spectacular, in my opinion.
  • On a talk show, the recently elected mayor of Gotham makes a claim that the Batman is being pursued by the GCPD’s Special Crimes Unit.
  • In reality, Special Crimes is run by Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), who is Batman’s closest ally on the force.
  • Elsewhere, Batman (Christian Bale) busts up a drug deal between a Russian mobster and the previous film’s sub-villain, Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy).
  • However, before Batman actually arrived to break things up, there were a few copycat Batmen trying to enforce their own vigilante justice.
  • Batman ties them up along with Scarecrow as a gift for the police and one of the vigilantes shouts at him, asking what makes him different.
  • “I’m not wearing hockey pads!”
  • Afterward, Batman meets Gordon in the recently emptied vault where they discover another calling card left by the Joker.
  • In court, newly elected district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) is ready to put the new head of the Falcone family, Sal Maroni, away for good.
  • Dent and Bruce Wayne’s old flame, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), are now a thing… probably since they work so closely together now.
  • After an attempt on Dent’s life in the middle of the courtroom, he meets with Gordon, wanting to meet the Batman.
  • At Wayne Enterprises, Bruce “sleeps” through a meeting with Hong Kong businessman, Lau.
  • After the meeting, Bruce talks to Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) about the potential illegality of Lau’s business dealings.
  • Bruce was already aware of Lau’s connections to the mob, saying he just wanted to get a closer look at Lau’s financials.
  • Lau is very connected to Gotham’s crime families and has relocated all of the mob’s money in order to keep it out of the hands of the police or the D.A.
  • While Lau is discussing things with the various mob families via teleconference, the Joker interrupts.
  • He performs a magic trick then offers to take out the Batman in return for half of everything they’ve got.
  • Joker points out that, in spite of Lau’s flight back to Hong Kong, Batman has no jurisdiction.
  • One of the mob leaders, Gambol, refuses to deal and puts a price on Joker’s head, dead or alive.
  • By the way… Every scene with the Joker is gold.
  • Dent lures Batman in with the Bat-signal, needing to get his hands on Lau.
  • If Batman can get Lau back to Gotham, Dent can get him to spill on the crime families.
  • At Gambol’s place, some guys come in with Joker’s body.
  • Except they work for Joker and the guy’s still alive…
  • We get the first telling of Joker’s “origin” as he explains how he got the scars that make up his permanent smile.
  • Then he kills Gambol and makes three of Gambol’s goons fight to the death for the honor of which one of them will be part of Joker’s gang.
  • In Hong Kong, Lucius meets with Lau face to face to let him know that the deal is off, due to whatever potential entanglements Lau may have with the police in Gotham.
  • Lucius leaves behind a cell phone that will allow Batman to see inside Lau’s building through the use of sonar.
  • The phone also emits a pulse that screws with the building’s electrical system.
  • This allows Batman to fly in through one of the upper windows, take down Lau’s men, and snatch Lau.
  • Back in Gotham, Lau is found unconscious outside of GCPD.
  • Lau works out a deal with Rachel and Harvey… he won’t give up the money, but he’ll give up all of his clients.
  • Harvey figures out they can try everyone under RICO since Lau’s books have everyone in one fund.
  • Gordon does not want Lau to go to county, because he’ll be too exposed there before he can testify.
  • But Dent doesn’t trust Gordon’s people, as he’s investigated a number of them in the past when he was part of internal affairs.
  • In the courtroom, the judge over the arraignments finds a Joker playing card among her files and promptly ignores it.
  • On the news, Bruce sees that the Joker has captured and killed one of Batman’s copycats.
  • This is found footage that they would never show on the news in the real world.
  • Far too terrifying and graphic.
  • Bruce holds a gala fundraiser for Harvey Dent because he has begun to truly believe that Dent can make Gotham a better place in a way Batman never could.
  • At the GCPD headquarters, they discover that the Joker card that was pinned to the fake Batman contained three traces of DNA…
  • Joker is targeting the judge, the police commissioner, and Harvey.
  • The judge is killed in a car bomb.
  • The commissioner is killed by poison scotch.
  • And the Joker tries to take down Harvey himself, showing up at Bruce’s party.
  • Bruce knocks out Harvey and hides him away just as the Joker and his men arrive.
  • When Joker meets Rachel, we get another telling of his “origin.”
  • Different than the last time…
  • Before he can hurt anyone, Batman shows up.
  • Joker throws Rachel out the window and Batman jumps after her, saving her life.
  • But he leaves the Joker and all his men up there in a party full of Gotham’s elite.
  • What stops the Joker from massacring every last one of them?
  • Seriously… I want an answer to that question, but I know it’ll never come.
  • Alfred (Michael Caine) has Joker’s number, telling Bruce, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
  • A douchey accountant for Wayne Enterprises confronts Lucius with the implication that Bruce Wayne is Batman and demands $10 million a year for the rest of his life.
  • Seems excessive.
  • Lucius’ response is perfect: “Let me get this straight. You think that your client– one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the world– is secretly a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands… and your plan is to blackmail this person? Good luck.”
  • Joker has threatened the life of the mayor next, which everyone thinks could happen during the funeral for Commissioner Loeb.
  • Bruce tracks down where Joker has tied up the police honor guard… their guns and uniforms have been taken.
  • As the fake “honor guard” give the 21 gun salute, Joker turns to shoot the mayor on the final shot.
  • Gordon leaps into action, saving the mayor and taking the bullet for him.
  • The police manage to injure and capture one of the Joker’s men.
  • Dent steals the ambulance carrying him when he sees he’s wearing a name tag with Rachel’s name on it.
  • Harvey calls Rachel and tells her to find somewhere safe, so she tells him she’ll go to Bruce’s, knowing it’s the safest place in the city.
  • Batman’s not playing nice anymore…
  • He grabs Maroni for info on the Joker and throws him off a roof, shattering his legs.
  • Maroni tells Batman he can’t play in the Joker’s league… Batman has rules… guys like Joker have no rules.
  • Meanwhile, Harvey interrogates the Joker’s lackey basing whether or not he’ll shoot him on the flip of a coin.
  • Batman catches the coin on the second flip and tries to get through to Harvey that he is the legitimate hero that Gotham needs.
  • He also tells him that he’s going to turn himself in, revealing his true identity to the world.
  • At the press conference, Harvey instead makes the claim that he’s Batman.
  • Harvey’s plan is to let Batman take down the Joker when he’s drawn out to strike while Harvey is en route to central holding.
  • And strike he does.
  • It’s a fantastic chase scene where Joker very nearly gets the upper hand… but then Gordon reveals he was never really dead.
  • Joker is arrested and they all live happily ever after!
  • Except that’s not what happens at all…
  • Joker wanted to be captured.
  • And he arranged for Harvey and Rachel to both be taken by corrupt cops from Gordon’s Special Crimes Unit and taken to two separate locations, both rigged to explode.
  • Thinking he’s going to save Rachel, Batman finds Harvey instead.
  • He gets him out, but half of his face is horribly burned, turning him into the classic Batman villain, Two-Face.
  • Joker sets Harvey on a path seeking vengeance against everyone who had a hand in Rachel’s death.
  • It’s funny how Joker tells Harvey he’s an agent of chaos… that he doesn’t make plans… “I’m like a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it.”
  • Fact is, Joker has plans on top of plans on top of plans, as we’ve seen throughout the entire movie.
  • Batman manages to put a stop to Joker’s chaos, capturing him (we assume) for good.
  • Batman then finds Harvey at the end of his vengeful road, ready to kill Gordon and his family, having warned Gordon over and over about the corrupt cops in his unit.
  • We’re brought back to Harvey’s foreshadowing statement from earlier in the movie: “You either die the hero or live long enough to become the villain.”
  • In the confrontation with Batman, Two-Face is killed…
  • Batman tells Gordon that he’ll take the fall… Harvey was the hero that Gotham needed.
  • Batman can become the villain in the eyes of the citizens of Gotham, leaving Harvey to have died a hero who tried to save the city.
  • Kids, this really is a brilliant movie and I don’t just mean as a comic book movie.
  • If you haven’t seen it, you definitely should.
  • I mean, you should probably watch Batman Begins first, but that’s just so you’ll understand the back story.
  • And try not to let it bother you that Rachel was played by Katie Holmes first…

Next week we get into the Top 10 with my favorite of the Harry Potter movies.

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