This is a great superhero movie. Not only is it a great superhero movie, but it's a great Batman movie, and not only is it a great Batman movie, but it's a great movie ... and not only is it a great movie, but it's a great film.
The Dark Knight is most definitely 'The Godfather II of superhero movies', and indeed so it is the T2 and Aliens of the Batman 'Nolan-verse' (to quote Kevin Smith, who recently ranted and raved passionately about how simply awesome the film is).
Now, at a hefty two and a half hours, you might think it's a tad long - but not once did I check my watch, or think "I wonder how far through is it now?" ... actually I tell a lie, about mid-way through I wondered how far through we were, and hoped that we were only a quarter through the movie, it was that good and I was enjoying it that much.
It's grand, it's epic, it's weighty and it packs a powerful punch.
Just the acting talent on show alone sets this movie high above all other films in its genre. Bale as the eponymous hero continues to rock copiously after his triumphant turn in Batman Begins. Oldman continues to paint Gordon with due care and attention, creating a character you truly respect. Caine again steps up to the plate as Alfred the Butler, the sort of chap anyone would love to have as their uncle, a man of pin-sharp wit and never-bending loyalty.
Now - the two villains - firstly, I'll have to say that Eckhart as Harvey "Two Face" Dent was fantastic, so much so that yes - I too believe in Harvey Dent. It is a shame that his sheer acting talent in this film will end up being kicked aside somewhat, due to the demise of Heath Ledger - who, quite simply, was astonishingly good at being The Joker.
Indeed, with this being Ledger's final full performance, he most definitely went out on one of the highest career notes in cinematic history. Just the scene where The Joker exits an exploding hospital (which was done for real, in one take), leaves you completely entertained as well as staggered. Jack Nicholson definitely created a legendary Joker in Batman 1989, one that was somewhat dark but mostly full of comic exaggeration. Indeed, Burton's Batman - often described as being dark and brooding - is comparatively light and fluffy when sat next to Nolan's shockingly bleak and complex entry. Only in the world of Nolan could The Joker be so exceedingly pitch black, while still managing to raise a wry grin and hearty chuckle from the audience - his "magic trick", or his fussing over a faulty detonator, exemplify this humorously dark tone that Ledger so beautifully captured.
Action wise - again - it leaves you staggered. From the technical marvel of a one-take, Ledger-involving, razing of a hospital, to Batman taking out a semi truck as only he knows how, to many other set pieces, you're just left nothing short of clamped to your seat.
Indeed, certain action sequences demonstrate such a potent and skillful understanding of tension building, that you are desperately strapped in position, and - when a character suffers a certain fate - you're genuinely blown away. In terms of the gloves coming off, I can only think back to the season five opener of 24 as being this shocking.
Why is the movie so involving? The script - which is truly adult in nature - no, I don't mean there are titties flopping around all over the shop. What I mean is, the issues at hand are often deeply complex, and there are some amazingly deep ethical scenarios played out throughout the film that left myself and a friend talking all the way back home again.
Through no action of my own, The Dark Knight remained one, two or three steps ahead of me. I barely was allowed room to stop for breath (or time to grow weary), and by the time the final shot cut to black and the title appeared before the credits, I was gagging for more.
I would have gladly watched another hour of something this well scripted, this well acted, this well directed, and this well assembled. Yes, there is a lot of hype surrounding the film - but try and forget about as much of that as possible - and just get swept away by literally the best film of 2008.
I'd previously said that WALL.E was my #2 of 2008 because I was holding #1 open specifically for The Dark Knight - I was not left disappointed, and am still swooning over how bloody brilliant it all was days later.
One final note - here in the UK it's a 12A, which is an advisory rating. As such there were kids as young as eight (guestimate) in the audience, and at times I did wonder (as Kevin Smith has also), what are they getting out of this movie? This film works on so many levels, most of which circle the depths of the grown up world, that you start to think - is this serving to entertain the kids as much as previous, far lighter installments did?
Well, it must do (at least for some), because when the trailer-bothering shot of the semi truck getting flipped over front-wards, some kid near the back just yelled out "WOOOOOOWWW!!!!", and indeed wow, it was a bloody cool sequence (especially Batman's idea of an about-turn).
Indeed, The Dark Knight stands up and shows the world that even a comic-book-based film can become something to be taken very seriously, that even ballsy box-office-owning entertainment can leave you mulling over a myriad of issues - from the superb acting, to the complicated ethical choices that characters must face throughout.
Now, actually finally, The Dark Knight is occasionally fairly shocking - the sheer detail in the revealing of Two Face alone made my jaw clatter to the floor (both in terms of Nolan's execution, and the CGI wizardry). Truly, this film won't be forgotten anytime soon - and yes, you miserable old farts on Newsnight Review, in a decade The Dark Knight will be looked back upon as a milestone in cinematic history and not just superhero movie history.
Truly great filmmaking, full stop. See it now.
Now gimme a top notch DVD to pre-order, chop-chop!