The Dark Knight (2008)

The Dark Knight is a very impressive title for this film. And unlike the title of the first film -Batman Begins- it is taken from the comic book sagas that are the copyright protected source of these two films. I wonder, because it has double meaning in English, what its translation into Chinese is. I know it was presented according to the Devnagri script without translation into Hindi in many north Indian cinema halls and on many North Indian posters and I wonder if it was presented according to the Katakana script (which is used by the Japanese to transcribe foreign/non-Japanese words) in many Japanese cinema halls and on many Japanese posters. I also know that equivalents of the words knight and dark exists in several European languages. But Chinese, like Hindi, does not have any equivalent of the. And the only translation into Hindi of the second film’s title thought up by me -Andher Yoddha- has single meaning.

I used to keep awing myself by replaying the second shot of this second film in my mind. The music during that shot is the first nineteen seconds of the music track released separate from the film as Why So Serious? along with two other sounds. One of them is a beat whose variants are present in other parts of that music track. The other may be an effect made by the film’s sound engineer(s), since it is not present anywhere in the music track and is like a mechanical machine’s rumble. All this is the second film’s second shot. The first shot on the other hand is a silent display of Batman’s symbol. The difference between the first and second films starts here itself. The first shot of the first film is an aurally piercing display of Batman’s symbol. And the colours dominant in the first film’s first shot are brown and black whereas the colours dominant in the second film’s first shot are blue, white, black and grey. These colour schemes are also evident in many other shots of the two films. The second film’s second shot has black and grey. The sequence in the second film of Batman illegally arresting someone in Hong Kong has blue and black. The second film’s end credits are bluish grey or greyish blue. And the shot in the second film of Batman listening to radio conversations has blue, whereas the shot in the first film of Batman surveying Gotham city has brown.

A railway network suspended above ground and spanning that city, a snowy cum icy location of The League of Shadow’s headquarters, an asylum for the criminally insane, a slum like region separated from the rest of Gotham city by water, a highway, a manor at the periphery of that city, and the Batcave are the pieces of architecture focused on in the first film. Labyrinthine regions of that city, a penthouse serving as a substitute for the aforementioned manor, a set of rooms under the ground of what is perceived by the outside world to be a derelict warehouse, and roads beneath railways suspended above ground are the pieces of architecture focused on in the second film. Both films are set in and outside Gotham. The first film presents the country Bhutan, etc. along with Gotham city. The second film presents the city Hong Kong along with Gotham. And actually the city Chicago stood in for Gotham. So both films present actual as well as fictional stuff. A railway network atleast partly suspended above ground does exist in Chicago, after all, thus being included in one shot and two sequences of the second film (the railway network in the first film was a set rather than a location).

I have been very hypocritical about the second film. As I mentioned above, I kept awing myself by replaying a shot. But I also instinctively labeled its action scenes as scenes of violence. This film is definitely one to be avoided by kids i.e. persons below 19 years of age, though the violence in it is conveyed without blood and gore. So this film has several unrealistic moments that ensured it was given a PG-13 rating by the MPAA. None of the shootings involve bloodshed. But this film just about managed to get the PG-13 rating because it also has moments such as the shocked examining of a peeling instrument, implying that the villain used it to peel the skin off some of his victims.

I have been listening to two of this film’s music tracks: the first one and the last one. The first – Why So Serious? – I have already mentioned. And the last -A Dark Knight- too has a starting that awes me, though it did not do so during my first viewing/listening of the film (when it almost made me cry because Batman was sacrificing people’s faith in him in order to maintain people’s faith in Harvey Dent).

This second Batman film co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan has one thing in common with the first Batman film directed by Tim Burton. The villain is the Joker. But it is different in all other respects. Rather than first presenting the origin of the Joker, The Dark Knight introduces him “as an absolute”. It also has a very dramatic point that seems like it will end for the Joker the way Tim Burton’s Batman did, but then brings a twist in it. Watch /hear or read the plot details of the 1989 Batman, then watch/hear The Dark Knight to find that twist.

Nirbhay Bhogal

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