Hype is the worst thing in the world. It really is. It leads to nothing but disappointment. When was the last time hype actually delivered upon itself? And this is yet another example of it letting this reviewer down. The other question was whether it could stop the trend of sequels being worse than the originals. The Dark Knight is good, but the greatest movie ever according to the IMDB it is not. Hell, it's not even as good as its predecessor. Infact the one thing this film does do excellently is show how astonishing, not The Dark Knight is, but Batman Begins.
I'll start off with Ledger and his portrayal of The Joker. Easily the best thing about the film. It's in another league to everything else. He lives up to his character's name, he lives up to what you'd expect from someone named The Joker, and he transforms him from a comedy character to a psychopathic murderer. What Nicholson did was very good, but there were too many jokes. Too many jack in the boxes, too many guns with 'Bang!' flags coming out of them, too much...fun. But Ledger gets rid of all that. While there is humour, it doesn't come at the expense of seriousness. Calls of 'Oscar certainty' are misdirected, and while he certainly deserves a nomination, I fear that it may only be awarded due to his unfortunate passing.
Sadly there is little else to enthuse me about TDK. The plot is extremely complex, ridiculously so. And 4 villains is bordering a joke - it reminded me of Casino Royale. While 2 of them only play bit roles, the Chinese accountant Lao is an utter waste of time and space, he does nothing for the film at all. It dillutes the plot and also the emphasis given to each character, and the film ends horribly precisely because of this. Why am I concentrating on Villain B when Villain A has been doing pure evil for the duration of the film? It's very backward.
The length is perfect, it really suits the Joker character. You get 90 minutes through and despite the unspeakable things he's done, you realise there's another hour and that he's going to go even further and cross the boundaries even more. And he does. He really does. He's the most naturally sadistic killer ever made up. Like he says in the film, The Joker never has a plan - the ideas and plots he comes up with all come instinctively to him.
It's really very hard to talk about this film, but I will say this. While the showing did get a small round of applause at its conclusion, when you see a great film, especially when with friends, you expect to be talking about that film non-stop afterwards. But I got no feeling of excitement at having seen a great film. Actually I was left feeling very underwhelmed and my friends could say very little about it. I was even given a chance to watch the film for free for a 2nd time 30 minutes later and I turned it down. I'm taking my mother to see it on Sunday and I'm not even looking forward to it then, so I can't imagine how it would be for a 3rd time.
But one question stuck in my mind after we left the cinema. Which would I rather watch at this moment - Batman Begins or The Dark Knight? The answer came instantly to me. It wasn't the latter.