The film opens with our introduction to The Joker. Batman may be the protagonist, but Joker is undoubtedly the star of this film. Actor Heath Ledger has perfectly portrayed the true essence of Joker; that is, as he openly acknowledges far into the movie, "Hey, I don't have a plan. I'm like a dog chasing cars: if I ever actually caught one I wouldn't know what to do with it!" He's a psychotic killer with no long-term plan or destination. He's a man "who just wants to watch the world burn." We've repeatedly witnessed this aspect of The Joker in Batman films and TV over the years. It used to be a cliche. Now, here it is in it's most definitive form, and it somehow comes across in an amazingly believable way and cool way. I can't emphasize enough what an amazing accomplishment this has been for Heath Ledger. It's something you have to see to believe.
Batman(Christian Bale), too, is much darker this time around. Violent and reckless well describes many of his actions, and self-contemplation causes him to fear for the city of Gotham, and for himself; the monster he's capable of turning into. In a new way, his character lends an essentially dark tone to the story.
The story's plot is incredibly extensive. So much had happened in so many intense ways by around the end of act two, I half expected the film to end right there. To my delight the story picked right up and kept going, the remainder of almost an hour of film time delivering more action and drama than the rest of the film put together! It was gripping, beautiful, and a rare quality. Less than a handful of films I've witnessed have achieved this level of quality plot construction.
There was hardly any blood, gore, or swearing, and yet it's the most intense superhero movie I've ever seen. It strikes the perfect balance: dark enough to be engaging and fun enough to be genuinely enjoyable. The only complaint I have is that the ending felt somewhat abrupt after all those plot twists and turns.
I didn't quite expect to see a better superhero film than Iron Man any time soon, but I'd have to say that The Dark Knight takes the cake.
Rating: 9 out of 10