Believe the hype: THE DARK KNIGHT is the summer's best movie. The perfect blend of popcorn-spectacle and complex human drama. Oh yeah, and it's also the greatest Batman movie ever committed to film.
Director/writer Christopher Nolan's gritty and realistic take on Batman blew me away in 2005's BATMAN BEGINS--the sequel ups the ante by not only giving us an interesting (and flawed) hero...but unlike BEGINS, we also get not one but two incredible villains. (there are two in BEGINS, but only one has any menace).
Much has been said about Heath Ledger's take on the Joker. I was skeptical, but believe me when I say that for me, Heath IS the Joker. For get Romero, forget Nicholson. Ledger's sadistic clown has been updated for the post 9/11 world as an psychopathic-anarchist who's crimes have nothing to do with "loot" and everything to do with undermining society. In short, the Joker is a terrorist. But he's more than that, he's also a metaphor for all the evils that try to chip away at world we live in. From the first scene you can't take your eyes off him.
The story (no spoilers) is all about how much it sucks to be the good guy (and how hard it is to do the right thing). Like another famous sequel, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, this movie is all about the good guys losing. Over and over again. It's a dark and gloomy world, and until the final few scenes--one without a single ray of hope. It's easy to do nothing, to sit back and let the world crumble...it's very difficult to stand up and fight for what you believe in.
And the costs are high.
Whereas Marvel's IRON MAN (the summers other great superhero flick) is the world we wish we had--THE DARK KNIGHT is world we're stuck with. Fear and corruption rule, and the only people that can do anything about it is you and me.
THE DARK KNIGHT is an amazing achievement of populist entertainment, one that demands to be seen on the big screen. Ledger will be nominated come award season. Nolan will be nominated come award season. Ten years from now, critics will look back and cite this as THE watershed film that turn comic book films to art.