Following the events of Batman Begins, the Caped Crusader is hunting down the men who escaped Arkham Asylum, including The Scarecrow. Meanwhile a new bad guy has come into town called The Joker and goes after both the bad guys and The Batman himself. Batman and Jim Gordon join forces with district attorney Harvey Dent in their mission to bring down the crime lords and stop the mysterious Joker.

The Lowdown

In my original review for The Dark Knight, I gave it a rather high 9.8 rating. I refused to give it a perfect ten for two major reasons. The first complaint I had was the Batman voice. People argued that it was meant to be threatening and was used to scare criminals. Someone actually asked if would be scared if he approached me on the streets and spoke in that voice. I might be scared of Batman, but not because of his voice. All the voice makes me want to do is offer him a Chloraseptic. My complaints about the voice are still valid and I am annoyed every time he opens his mouth.

My other complaint was the camera work. I feel Christopher Nolan relies a bit much on circling a camera around two men fighting instead of choreographing a solid fight sequence. This complaint is less noticeable this time around. I still feel Nolan needs to work on this area of his filmmaking because just about everything else in this movie is fantastic.

In a year where we get such solid comic book movies as Iron ManHellboy 2 and The Incredible HulkThe Dark Knight trumped them all and became the greatest comic book adaptation ever released. It is better than X-Men 2. It is better than Spiderman 2. It is better than the classic David Hasselhoff masterpiece Nick Fury: Agent of Shield.

If Christopher Nolan only directs movies his brother Jonathan writes, he will continue to have a remarkable career. The brothers Nolan were the creative minds behind Prestige and Memento before Jonathan co-penned the latest adventures of the Caped Crusader. In my eyes, that makes the brothers three-for-three and I anxiously await their next project. In this follow-up to Christopher’s very good Batman Begins, the movie fixes the problems that plagued the first movie.

Batman Begins handcuffed Christopher Nolan with the adaptation of Batman’s origin story. Much time had to be spent turning Bruce Wayne into Batman. It is such a great story that, when the over-the-top action battle royal ends the movie, it comes as a disappointment. The battle scenes in The Dark Knight are so much better than they were in Batman Begins that it is obvious it was written by a different man. Jonathan Nolan brought such energy to this script it made the movie miles better than the already good prequel.

What makes the movie so great is the acting on display in this film. Christian Bale continues to shine as Bruce Wayne and, his annoying “scary” voice aside, is quickly becoming the best Bruce Wayne in this franchise of movies. Returning in great style is also Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman in solid supporting roles. The underwhelming Katie Holmes was replaced by the much better actress Maggie Gyllenhaal. It is a replacement that improves an otherwise solid Batman Begins cast.

The highlight has to be Heath Ledger and his efforts in the role of antagonist The Joker. Since the release of the movie, much has been said about Ledger’s Oscar possibilities. He has already been nominated for a Golden Globe and I can see him winning a lot of awards for this role. It is sad to know that we lost him when he was reaching such a high level in his career.

Ledger provides the backbone for the movie, refusing to play the character in the same way Nicholson did before him. The Joker here is a true anarchist, a man who doesn’t care whether he lives or dies and exists purely to create havoc. His scenes with Batman are arguably the best appearance of the character in any variation of the Batman canon. The Joker provides the yin to Batman’s yang and Ledger’s attitude and expressions while playing the character is a perfect antithesis to Bale’s down key attitude. The two provide us with the greatest set of rivals I have ever seen in a film.

However, as great as Ledger was in this movie, not enough is said about Aaron Eckhart’s performance as Harvey Dent. This was a career turn for the always reliable Eckhart. Heath Ledger was able to take the role of The Joker and just run with it, either having fun or going to a very dark place, depending on who you talk to. Regardless, he was The Joker from beginning to end. Aaron Eckhart had the most difficult role of the movie changing from the Golden Boy of the movie, the one real hero in a city of darkness, into the darkly conflicted Two Face at the end.

It is Harvey Dent that the movie relies upon to provide its moral core. In a world of darkness, it is Dent who faces the greatest conflict and changes that destroy the greatest man in the movie. It is an attribute to Eckhart’s acting abilities that he is able to take a character that could be as stereotypical as the district attorney and make him human and realistic. I compare his character to Guy Pierce’s similar character in L.A. Confidential, yet unlike that character’s arc, you feel nothing but pity for Dent as he loses everything he ever loved and falls into the Shakespearian tragedy that forms the end of the movie.

Upon re-watching this movie on its home release, I find some other minor complaints about the story and realize this is not the perfect movie that many claim it to be. Other than the horrible Batman voice and the lesser fight choreography, I find big action sequences that make me question their inclusion in the movie. While these action sequences may be explained away as a war Batman must fight against The Joker, I feel the hero is a bit sloppy. His job is to protect and serve the innocent citizens of Gotham City, yet while chasing down his enemies, he poses as great a threat of death and injury to these innocent people as The Joker does. As Batman drives down the streets both in his car and on his Bat-Pod, he endangers everyone he encounters. It is, in my opinion, sloppy storytelling in an otherwise great movie.

I mentioned this movie is the greatest comic book adaptation of all time. It is. However, more than that, it is one of the best movies period. It is not a perfect masterpiece, but it is a great caper flick that rises to the level of movies such as L.A. Confidential and Heat. This movie is much more like those two masterpieces than it is like any superhero flick. When The Dark Knight is spoken of this award season, it should not be as a man-in-tights flick but as a well constructed movie with very few glitches. It is not perfect, but it is the most entertaining movie of 2008.

The Package

Gotham Uncovered: Creation of a Scene Focus Points (01:21:11) – You can watch the movie with the Focus Points option on or watch them separately. These are behind-the-scenes features which are available when a small disc appears on the screen. Click them and you get lots of interviews and footage from the shoot over a variety of things including shooting in IMAX, the new bat-suit, the music, the stunts, using miniatures, the Bat-Pod and the script. There is some great stuff here.

Warner Bros. BD-Live – The first thing you get when you log in is the theatrical trailer. I also played around and got trailers for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Terminator Salvation, and some streaming Batman cartoons and trailers. You can also create an avatar based on The Dark Knight. This is nothing more than a time waster.

Behind the Story: Batman Tech (45:59) – This is a feature exploring the gadgets, weapons and vehicles used in the both the comics and the movies and goes into detail about the scientific reality of these items. It looks at the items Batman uses and includes cutting edge gadgets presented in comics throughout the years. It is very interesting to see technology he used in the past that is readily available today. I found this feature fascinating.

Behind the Story: Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight (46:02) – This is a feature that looks at what made Bruce Wayne become Batman and how those psychological motivations compare to real people. This takes us back to the creation of Batman by Bob Kane and discusses the changes made to the character over the years. We hear from comic book creators, authors, psychiatrists as well as cast and crew members from the movies.  It argues that Batman is the true persona and Bruce Wayne is the mask. The second half of the feature talks about the psychological abnormalities of the villains in the Batman Universe. The title of the feature sounds boring as hell but it actually works.

Gotham Tonight (46:41) – This is the fake news program from The Dark Knight hosted by Mike Engal (Anthony Michael Hall). It’s only purpose is to (1) provide you something to do when you’re bored and (2) give Hall some more screen time.

The Galleries – There are four sets of image galleries: Joker Cards, Concept Art, Poster Art and Production Stills.

Trailer Gallery – We get three theatrical trailers and six TV spots.

Digital Download – There is supposed to be a third disc with a digital download but somewhere before the Blu Ray reached me, it had been opened and the digital download disc had been removed. As a result, I can’t comment on this.

I have heard a lot of complaining about the three-disc standard special edition and its lack of special features. There is a nice amount of extras here adding up to almost four hours of stuff. Even if you skip the fluff, the FOCUS POINTS and two Behind-the-Story featurettes gives you almost three hours of solid extras. The moral of this story? Go Blu.