I'll get right to it: this movie beat the bejeezus out of me with an Awesome Stick and I plan to go back for another thrashing because I f-ing loved it.
Batman Begins did a fantastic job of setting up Nolan's new Caped Crusader as a guy who fights crime for his own reasons--not because he's a self-righteous do-gooder, but because deep down he's just fracking angry. He doesn't hate crime because he feels sorry for the victims, he hates crime because of the criminals. Because of the attitude they swagger around with--the "I own this town" crap that Tom Wilkinson portrayed so well as Falcone. Because he can't stand the notion that the ones with all the guns and all the money can scare everyone else into submission.
And Batman's fierce pissed-offedness, his desire to bash the snot out of bad men, which was set up so well in Batman Begins, makes The Dark Knight's introduction of the Joker all the more fun to watch. This is a guy whose only agenda is to be bad. He's not after money or control. He's just out of his mind, and the best part is we never find out why. The film never explains him, and although he gives us a couple of pseudo-origin stories, we're not given to believe any of them--although they are fantastically creepy as hell. He's a bad guy without a reason to be a bad guy, a schizo-elemental, and Ledger takes that idea to a level that is scarily real. His last scene is absolutely brilliant. Ledger can freaking act. I seriously don't know how he got that look in his eyes--a mix of child-like wonder and Krueger-like sadism that actually freaked me out for half a second when he combined it with that laugh. You do not see Heath Ledger in this movie. You see the Joker.
Ledger's Joker takes the Batman of the last film and turns him onto one mean S.O.B., and for me, that's the best element of the movie. He's still technically on the right side, and there's still a line he won't cross, but in this movie he'll walk right up to that line and groin-punch it and spit on its grandma if he thinks it'll help clean up Gotham. This is a morally gray Batman. He's willing to hurt people. He's willing to use all of the resources at Bruce Wayne's disposal, even when he has to strain the bounds of morality to do it. And the best part is that it works...and at the same time, it doesn't. You'll have to see the end to know what I mean.
I can't go without mentioning the supporting cast. Gary Oldman takes Gordon to places I honestly didn't expect the character to go, and it just works. Aaron Eckhart, an actor that hasn't impressed me up to now, makes Harvey Dent/Tw0-Face into a character I wish we could have seen more of. Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes was a vast improvement over Katie Holmes' weak performance (I mean, seriously. Who actually found that Scientologically-brainwashed twelve-year-old believable as an assistant D.A. in a town like Gotham? No one, that's who.) Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman reprise their roles as Batman's moral compass and moral compass/gadget man, respectively, and both do a fine job of developing their characters both as Batman's support team, and as interesting people in their own right. (Hunting jewel thieves in southeast Asia? Who knew Alfred was such a deep well?)
If I haven't made it clear up to now, this is a great film and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Whether you saw the first one or not. Whether you like Batman or not. Whether you trust my judgement of film quality or not. After all the hype, I actually lowered my expectations a bit before going in to this one, just to avoid the kind of disappointment I experienced with Indy 4. Turns out I didn't need to do that. Like I said, I plan to see it at least once more, and I'll let you know if my opinion changes dramatically, but I suspect that I'll only enjoy it more the second time.
IMDb rating: 9.6/10
My rating: 9.8/10
5 years ago