THE DARK KNIGHT (Dir. Christopher Nolan, 2008)
As the best of the movie franchise re-boots over the last decade, BATMAN BEGINS differentiated itself from the rest of the pack by taking the whole Batman thing so damn seriously. It was gritty yet precise and had a roster of amazing actors (well except for Katie Holmes) who brought a gravitas to a comic book legend which made it into glorious epic cinema.
The long awaited follow-up, made even more anticipated by the untimely death of Heath Ledger, is even grander with an operatic majesty that even the best superhero movies have never even gotten close to attempting. Christian Bale returns as Bruce Wayne/Batman and with the sharp focus of a heat-seeking missile proves himself, yet again as one of the most solid actors working today.
Also returning is the laconically witty Michael Caine as butler Alfred, a haggardly effective Gary Oldman as Lt. James Gordon, and Morgan Freeman as Luscious Fox who provides Batman with a new line of crime-fighting toys. It has been called an upgrade for Katie Holmes to be replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaall in the role of Rachel Dawes and I definitely agree.
Aaron Eckhart is also a new addition as Harvey Dent, a noble D.A. that Batman believes is the real saviour of Gotham City despite that he's dating the caped crusader's true love (Gyllenhaal).
As suspected, and fortold by nearly everybody on the internets, Heath Ledger steals the show as the Joker and appears to have a had a great time with the part. Ledger has a frenetic energy and unique tone to his version of the classic character that takes over every scene he's in; sometimes disturbing, sometimes funny in a sick twisted way, but always intense and compelling completely justifying the "too soon" talk of a posthumous Oscar.
I'll avoid any further story description; there are so many powerful surprising plot-points that it would be a shame to spoil but the action sequences are all top notch and despite its length it never lags.
To label or consider this film just a superhero movie seems an incredible injustice for it's more aptly a crime epic that definitely is in the league of Martin Scorsese's and Michael Mann's forays into that territory. One of the most satisfying and electrifying movies of the year if not the decade, THE DARK KNIGHT doesn't just live up to its hype - it blows it away again and again.