What it's about:
Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is confronted with a brand new, clown-shaped villain in the form of the bloodthirsty and insane Joker (Heath Ledger), who has managed to gain control of Gotham's various organised crime outfits. Bruce must also deal with his former fiancée Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is now dating Gotham's volatile new District Attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). As the Joker commits acts of terror across Gotham, Batman and Harvey must work together to capture him, while the bodies pile up. But are they just pawns in the Joker's diabolical game?
What we thought of it:
The Dark Knight has been a long time in the making, and for comic fans and those who loved Batman Begins (2005), the wait has been almost unbearable. The tragic death of Heath Ledger has been both a curse and a blessing for the franchise, generating unbelievable publicity, but also cutting off the reappearance of the Joker in any sequels unless he is replaced by another actor (just as Heath Ledger caused outrage in some circles by replacing Jack Nicholson in the role). Given the divided focus, how does the film itself compare to the hype?
The Dark Knight is the best entry into the franchise since Tim Burton's striking original, and it all but purges the disgusting taste of Joel Schumacher's putrid offerings (Batman Returns  and Batman and Robin ). Christopher Nolan has not only managed to make one of the decade's best superhero films, but has also created a compelling thriller that should appeal to people who are put off by Marvel and DC. Succeeding in ways that Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008) and Hancock (2008) could only dream of, The Dark Knight combines the wonder and escapism of the comic world with real life protagonists that act like actual people.
Screen time is split quite evenly between the various characters and story threads to create an expansive picture of Gotham, as well as a complex and gripping plot. The impressive cast is helped immensely by a sharp script that rarely descends into cheese, with a focus on characters rather than spectacle. By striking such a balance, Nolan has managed to make a far more cohesive film that doesn't have people yawning through dialogue and embarrassing 'character development' while they wait for the next giant robot or CGI fight sequence.
Not to say that The Dark Knight lacks action – there are countless fights, explosions and a spectacular chase through the inner city with trucks, vans and Batman's newly renovated Batcycle. Despite this, the stunts don't often go over the top and Nolan keeps things personal by focusing on the crack of a breaking bone, or the expression on a henchman's face as Batman hurls him through a window.
Given the circumstances, all eyes will be on the Joker and Heath Ledger more than lives up to expectations. He is far more brutal than Jack Nicholson's Joker or any Batman villain in recent memory – a filthy, twitchy clown with a grudge against the world. From his weird gate to his facial tics, he is the embodiment of everything foul about clowns, villains and terrorists.
The Dark Knight is making waves, and rightly so. It's the best superhero movie in a very long time and stands up as a good film regardless of genre. It has everything you could possibly want from a blockbuster and it all works together as part of a nail-biting plot. But then what do you expect from someone like Christopher Nolan, who gave us a masterpiece like The Prestige (2006)?
Do yourself a favour and go watch this on the big screen.
- Ivan Sadler