I saw a screening last night with a couple of 501st friends, and all I can say is that I was completely blown away by the movie. It held such an intensity, darkness and brilliance that I'm not at all reluctant to say that it's possibly my favorite comic book movie to date. As a friend of mine mentioned, nobody is going to care about a drunk in a tin-can after this one.
Plot details are everywhere, so I don't think that I will have to say what the film is about. What really makes the story here is it's intense plot that is very twisted and packed with subplots and characters. It's a little overwhelming, and I think that it's the one drawback to the film, because point A at the beginning is nearly forgotten from point q way at the end. That being said, it's an amazing ride between those points, and it's nice to see a film that doesn't pander down to an audience, but takes them along for a wild ride.
Everyone is singing the late Heath Ledger's performance as nothing short of brilliant, and I'm inclined to agree. Ledger's Joker is a far cry from Nicholson's performance, fitting the style of the new franchise - dark, gritty and completely without social inhibitions of right and wrong. He is, essentially, the perfect counterpoint to Bale's Batman. One is a source of justice, the other is one of chaos and anarchy. As Alfred, played by the great Sir. Michael Cane says, some men just want to see the world burn, and that is what Ledger's joker is all about.
The usual suspects, Bale, Caine, Freeman and Oldman are in top form as they were in Batman Begins, and are joined by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who makes a far better Rachel Dawes, and Aaron Eckhart, who plays Harvey Dent, who pulls out a brilliant performance as Gotham's new DA and later as the villian Two Face. There's even a short appearance from Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow, which was a nice touch, and Heroes' Eric Roberts as a crime lord was also a cool appearance. I also spotted William Fichtner from Prison Break in the beginning, which was cool.
What the Dark Knight shows the world is that comic book films are not necessarily something solely for a younger audience. This film is dark and bloody, intelligent and borders on something like a horror film at times. It's a far cry from other batman movies such as Batman and Robin or the Fantastic Four. Like Iron Man, which came out earlier this summer, it wraps real world relevance with the fantastic.
Additionally, the movie delves much more into superhero mythos than most films or comics that I've read, really exploring the nature to which good and evil interact, as well as the intentions and consequenses of those actions. The Joker is a force for anarchy, but to what extent has be been brought into being by the mere existance of Gotham's Dark Knight? Caine's character tells Bruce Wayne that this is somewhat the result of his existance:
Bruce Wayne: I knew the mob wouldn't go down without a fight. But this is different. They crossed the line. Alfred Pennyworth: You crossed the line first, sir. You hammered them. And in their desperation they turned to a man they didn't fully understand.
This is mirrored (no pun intended) by the introduction of Harvey 'Two Face' Dent in the form of Aaron Eckhart. The DA of Gotham is a force for good, but essentially becomes enamored of the idea that there is two sides to everything, and this is shown a lot in the movie, especially after half of his face is burned off. It goes to show that the best of the best can have two sides, and that the good can become the worst type of evil. The Joker is essentially a catalyst, and knows it - he tells Batman that he's out there to give Gotham a better class of criminal. Two Face represents a more organized, type of evil, and I wonder if this, as well as the villification of Batman at the end, foreshadows some of what might come up in the next Batman film, which would be interesting.
The film is downright brilliant, and hopefully, I'll be able to catch it in theaters again at some point.