The film is so relentlessly bleak that, paradoxically, its blackness is not given its full due. But this comic-book movie is more disturbing, and has more freakish power, than anything else I've seen all year.
This film is not only one of the year's best; it may well end up as the finest of 2008. At the very least, it deserves consideration for Best Picture and Best Director, along with the expected Oscar kudos for Ledger.
See this one on the biggest screen you can (IMAX, ideally), and experience both the magic of top-notch technical filmmaking and the bittersweet pleasure of watching a young actor, gone too soon, giving a performance that won't be forgotten.
Christopher Nolan wanted to make an action movie that was different from other action movies -- darker, more twisted, more despairing, more bleak -- and he has mostly succeeded in this latest Batman installment. He can thank Ledger for a lot of that.
This is not merely a Batman movie. It is not merely a comic-book movie. It is not merely gripping summer entertainment. It is, with Wall-E, one of the two best mainstream films to be released all year and far and away the most hypnotic chiller.
To see it is to understand that Nolan and his co-writer brother Jonathan saw a chance to go deeper into familiar characters and mythology, a chance to meditate on darker-than-usual themes that have implications for the way we live now.
The Dark Knight [sounds] like heavy stuff -- and it is. But I should add that Nolan also delivers the kick-ass goods, from an opening bank heist a la Michael Mann to a climactic episode of vehicular mayhem a la William Friedkin.
Nolan paints an inky portrait of a city falling apart, and in a movie rife with two-faced masquerading freaks, the Joker is merely the least conflicted of the bunch. Ledger's work is improbably droll, impossibly creepy, meticulously detailed.
Iron Man and even more so The Dark Knight move the genre into deeper waters. They realize, as some comic-book readers instinctively do, that these stories touch on deep fears, traumas, fantasies and hopes.
Visually impressive, but any hack can do a halfway decent job with trailer-ready tangents. Not everyone can push the genre forward, and the fact that Nolan's padded popcorn flick isn't the streamlined masterpiece it could have been is a real buzzkill.
In this, the last performance he completed before his death, Ledger had a maniacal gusto inspired enough to suggest that he might have lived to be as audacious an actor as Marlon Brando, and maybe as great.
This movie is grim and jammed together. The narrative isn't shaped coherently to bring out contrasts and build toward a satisfying climax. The Dark Knight is constant climax; it's always in a frenzy, and it goes on forever.
Pure adrenaline. [Nolan], having dispensed with his introspective, moody origin story, now puts the Caped Crusader through a decathlon of explosions, vehicle flips, hand-to-hand combat, midair rescues and pulse-pounding suspense.