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The Dark Knight (2008)

Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 12/9/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/4/2008, Updated 12/21/2017

I approach reviews with various levels of excitement. There are times when I can't wait to review a hidden gem, such as Charlie Bartlett, and let everyone know about it. Conversely, there are some movies which are so dreadful, like Stuck, that I cringe at the thought of having to re-visit them. However, there's another category which trumps both of those. It doesn't come along very often, but it certainly does exist. This is the "why bother?" review. This attitude doesn't apply to my motivation, it applies to the reader's potential response to my critique. The latest entry into this exclusive club is The Dark Knight. Seeing as how the movie made over $500 million at the box-office in the United States alone, I'm guessing that some of you saw it. Heck, some of you could have seen it twice. So, if I were to tell you something like the movie causes temporary blindness, that wouldn't stop you from running out and buying it. The good news is that you'll suffer no ill effects from the DVD, and I'm going to review it anyway.

The Dark Knight picks up not long after the conclusion of Batman Begins. Bruce Wayne's (Christian Bale) goal of making Batman (also Bale) a symbol of justice in Gotham City is beginning to work. The good news is that criminals are afraid to walk the streets when they see the Batsignal. The bad news is that copycat Batman-wannabe vigilantes are putting themselves in harm's way. While Batman works the streets, District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) has pledged to fight organized crime in Gotham. He is also dating Wayne's former flame and childhood friend, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Things in Gotham City begin to change when someone begins to rob the banks controlled by The Mob. This criminal reveals himself as The Joker (Heath Ledger), and he's risked these crimes to get the attention of the mob bosses. He offers to kill Batman for them...for a price. Thus, The Joker begins a reign of terror on Gotham City, showing no respect for human life in any form. As the death-toll rises and massive property damage ensues, Batman, Dent, and Lieutenant Gordon (Gary Oldman) always feel that they are one step behind The Joker. Determined to stop this maniac, both Batman and Dent put separate plans into action, neither realizing that they are racing towards their doom.

Perhaps it says something about my tastes, but it seems that the movies that I like are always swimming at the shallow end of the critical pool. Horror, sci-fi, and bizarre comedies are my forte and they never seem to get the respect that they deserve. So, it's nice, for once, to have my kind of movie not only break records at the box office, but to also be showered by critical praise and to receive Oscar buzz. And it's also nice, for a change, to see a film actually deserve this sort of attention, as The Dark Knight is a monumental achievement.

While Batman Begins was certainly not a small movie (it was full of action and grand locations), it seems like small potatoes compared to The Dark Knight Director Christopher Nolan (and his brother, co-screenwriter Jonathan) have packed this movie with elements of an action film, a crime drama, a thriller, and a psychological horror movie. These genres have blend blended very well into a dark noir stew which creates a movie which is full of action and yet very emotional as well.

There are three key elements of The Dark Knight which make the film work. The first is the story. Nolan & Nolan have taken the trajectory from Batman Begins and blended this with elements from the Batman comics to create a compelling, cohesive script. The story has some very nice twists and they aren't afraid to let our heroes suffer. More importantly, they don't pull any punches with The Joker, allowing him to be pure evil and insanity. Secondly, we have the acting, which is simply top-notch. Here's the bottom-line: if you were to show this movie to an audience who were unaware of its existence, they would have no idea that it was Heath Ledger playing The Joker -- He's just that good. Despite Bale's annoying "Please give that man a lozenge" voice he uses when he's Batman, he's good as both the charming and the brooding Bruce Wayne. As in the first film, Michael Caine adds a touch of class and humor to the proceedings. Maggie Gyllenhaal does something in the role of Rachel which Katie Holmes couldn't; she acts. The third element is the level of filmmaking going on here. From the use of IMAX film for the action scenes to the scale of the car chases and battles to the elaborate explosions, Nolan and company have gone all out to make this movie as good as possible.

I only have one quibble with The Dark Knight, besides the fact that it's an emotionally draining experience -- It's too long. The film's pacing never really suffers, but at 153 minutes, the movie beats the audience over the head with the story and it simply becomes too much after a while. Considering the repeat business that the movie got in theaters, there are clearly a lot of people who disagree with this assertion, but I think that the whole Lau subplot could have been removed (including the trip to Hong Kong) and the movie would not have suffered for it.

To say that The Dark Knight is a modern-day classic is an understatement. The movie will be remembered not only for the business that it did or for Ledger's last role or for its technical accomplishments, but for the fact that it garnered unprecedented respect for a movie based on a comic book.

The Dark Knight swoops down onto DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. (For more on why this is interesting, please see Blu-ray review below.) The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. For a DVD, there is a nice amount of detail here, and the image is rarely soft. The colors look very good, and given that this is a dark movie, the action is always visible. I noted no distracting artifacting or video noise. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is an excellent track as it offers good surround sound and fantastic bass. The film's score sounds great, and stereo effects show true stereo separation.

The Dark Knight DVD contains only a few bonus features, all of which are found on Disc 2. "Gotham Uncovered: Creation of a Scene" is made up of two segments. "The Sound of Anarchy" (6 minutes) explores the film's score through comments from Nolan and composer Hans Zimmer, and we also see some footage of Zimmer working in his studio. "The Evolution of the Knight" (18 minutes) explores the changes which have been made from Batman Begins to The Dark Knight. The piece looks at the new Batsuit, the Batpod, the look of the film (including the use of IMAX), and sound. This is done through comments from the filmmakers and crew involved, production stills, and some behind-the-scenes footage. "The Dark Knight IMAX Sequences" is an odd extra, as it simply allows us to watch the six scenes which contain IMAX footage individually -- with no making-of or comments. "Gotham Tonight" (46 minutes) contains six episodes of the fictional TV show hosted by Mike Engel (Anthony Michael Hall). This is an interesting feature, as it's all played straight -- as if we had suddenly gained access to a TV station from Gotham City. But, at whom is this aimed? Yes, it ties into the film, but it gets tedious after a while. The DVD contains two GALLERIES, "Poster Art" and "Production Stills". The extras are rounded out by three TRAILERS for the movie.

Warner Home Video has also brought The Dark Knight to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at both 1.78:1 and 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The letterboxing changes from 2.35:1 to 1.78:1 for the IMAX shots. This seems sort of odd at first, but eventually you won't notice it. The question is, on the DVD, where the letterboxing stays as a uniform 2.35:1, is some of the image missing? For the Blu-ray, the image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. The picture has a nice crispness to it, and this lends to the nice depth, where the foreground is obviously separated from the background. The colors look good and are never oversaturated. The image is quite detailed as well, and we can make out bits and pieces of certain shots which weren't evident on DVD. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.7 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. I hate to say this, but Warner doesn't have the best track record for Blu-ray sound, and I was afraid that they would mess up The Dark Knight. Well, this track rocks! The bass effects are great. Simply go to the 56-minute mark (the scene with the bullet test) and you'll experience a "thud" like never before. The stereo effects are well-done and are highly detailed. We hear every voice and piece of breaking glass in great clarity. The surround sound effects are good as well, most notably during the action scenes. (Hear the Batpod race past!) The way in which the audio will accurately shift from the front to the rear, reflecting the on-screen action, is impressive. Overall, a nice Blu-ray package.

The Blu-ray Disc offers an additional extra on Disc 1. The film can be watched with "Focus Points". This will bring up an icon during the movie which will lead the viewer to a behind-the scenes segment. These can also be watched individually, totalling 64 minutes. The bulk of these segments focus on the major stunt scenes, especially large explosions. Disc 2 contains "Batman Tech" (46 minutes) which explores the history of Batman through the comics, focusing on the technology which Batman uses (and looks as if it were originally a TV special). This looks at the Batsuit, the Batmobile, and the various gadgets used by the Caped Crusader. We get comments from the filmmakers, comic experts, and real-life scientists. "Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of The Dark Knight" (46 minutes) takes a very serious look at Bruce Wayne and what drives him to be Batman. Featuring interviews with experts in psychology, the piece does an analysis on the fictional character and examines what makes him tick. It also looks at the villains and what they symbolize. The Blu-ray contains two additional galleries, "Joker Cards" and "Concept Art". The Disc also sports 6 TV spots. It should be noted that "Gotham Uncovered: Creation of a Scene" is not on the Blu-ray.


On December 19, 2017, Warner Home Video released The Dark Knight on 4K UHD.  The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 60 Mbps.  The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials.  The colors look very good, most notably blues, and the image is never overly dark or bright.  The picture is well-balanced and doesn't show the fluctuation from light-to-dark which hamper some 4K UHDs.  The image shows a great level of detail, as we can make out textures on objects.  The depth looks good as well, making the actors appear separate from the backgrounds.  The video is certainly an upgrade from the Blu-ray Disc.  The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  While the bitrate is higher than the audio found on the previous Blu-ray Disc release, one can't help but wonder why this release doesn't have a 7.1 or Dolby Atmos track, as one would find on most 4K UHD releases.  As it stands, but the audio is certainly good, but not great.  The subwoofer effects are notable, as they punctuate each explosion, gunshot, and roar of the Batmobile.  The action sequences deliver detailed surround sound effects, and the stereo effects highlight sounds coming from off-screen.  Again, the audio isn't bad, it's just not what we would expect on a 4K UHD.

The Dark Knight 4K UHD contains the same extras as the previous release.

Review Copyright 2008/2017 by Mike Long