DVD Review: The Dark Knight - Special Edition

DVD Review: The Dark Knight

This is a strange, and possibly very sad, collection.

Usually, when one gets a DVD set from a blockbuster movie, its extra content is so self-aggrandizing and self-important it’s a miracle it fits in the DVD player. They are filled to the brim with “making of” docs and just about everyone from the various producers to the lowliest grip adding their two cents.

Not so with the Special Edition of The Dark Knight.

For starters, as advertised, it does contain two discs. The first is strictly the movie, all 2 ½ hours of it. 151 minutes, the Dark Knight’s actual run time, is a ton of time, even for a digital transfer. It’s amazing to think there was actual room for the subtitle and language options.

It makes one wish director Christopher Nolan heard of brevity. The Dark Knight is seriously 30 minutes too long. It spends so much time setting up the premise that Gotham City needs a “shining knight,” but ending up with a dark one, that the superlative, inventive action sequences get lost.

Think about it. Didn’t they just stretch the river ferries sequence just too far? Does one really need the Joker (Heath Ledger) hanging upside down lecturing about being an avatar of chaos, and the Caped Crusader is responsible for it? Was the entire sequence of Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart) holding Jim Gordon’s (Gary Oldman) family hostage, and its consequences, really necessary?

One critic said there were three superlative endings in this film. The problem is you only needed one.

The film was so long it wasn’t uncommon for members of the audience to feel as beat up as one of Gotham’s minor thugs. The Dark Knight could be called too much of a good thing. It would have been a better viewing experience if Nolan and company shot an extra 30 minutes and then split it into two films, say before and after Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face.

Considering this movie is a true billion dollar baby, its international box office gross is $996 million as of December 7th, it’s something to consider. Considering Warners is splitting the last Harry Potter film in such a fashion, it’s surprising that wasn’t done.

The second disc is another dense pack, but not in ways one would consider. The usually mandatory “making of” features are held to a very taut 23 minutes. Further, they only cover the creation of Batman’s new uniform/toys and the soundtrack created by Hans Zimmer. No usual shout outs about the hiring the likes of Ledger, Eckhart or even Eric Roberts (crime boss Salvatore Maroni), even though they earned them. The same goes for returning actors Christian Bale (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Michael Caine (Alfred Pennyworth) and Oldman.

The bulk of this two-hour disk then is split into two main areas. The first segment is 40 minutes of scenes adapted to IMAX. They’re probably great if you have a flat screen or some such technology to watch movies. If not, it’s somewhat wasted time.

Where things get interesting is the next 45-plus minutes of EC coming under the title of “Gotham Tonight.” Ostensibly broadcasts from Gotham City’s premiere news service, the CNN-like news bits feature news anchors and reporters giving an outside perspective of the events occurring in the plot. They feature Bale as Bruce Wayne dodging a number of reportorial bullets. There’s also Roberts doing an additional turn as Maroni that’s both amusing and chilling. There are also random shots and lots and lots of debate about what the citizenry of Gotham thinks of its masked vigilante.

What’s not on this disc is any homage to the late Ledger. There’s no talk about the importance or the origins of the Joker in the Batman mythos. There isn’t even a bit about Harvey Dent/Two-Face or past interpretations of the various characters, live action or animated. Heck, there is no commentary, no commentary track, and no interviews with Paul Levitz. Dan DiDio or Denny O’Neill, which is a little different from previous DVD released with characters based on DC Comics properties.

Finally, and it just has to be said, it probably would have been a very different beast if Ledger hadn’t died so suddenly and tragically. Instead fans get this very strange beast.

In the end what one has here is one dark, magnificent train wreck. It has some truly eye popping battle sequences, amazing special effects and superlative acting. Is it the best superhero movie ever made? No. Not by a long shot.

Just sit back and watch this film top the billion dollar mark next week. With plans slowly developing (so it seems from the cryptic hints Nolan is giving) for a third Nolan/Bale film, let’s hope it doesn’t carry the excessive baggage The Dark Knight does.

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