This review is a few days post-release because I only saw it today. Trust me, if you were me and had the same experiences I did during the first few days of release, you wouldn't have wanted to bother either. I dreamt of work because of this movie...
For the record, though I don't really need to go into all of this, The Dark Knight is the second in Christopher Nolan's successful rebooting of the Batman movies, giving them a sense of reality versus Tim Burton's hypercartoonish, but oh so much fun, version. Starring as the Dark Knight is Christian Bale and as his arch-nemesis, the Joker, is the late Heath Ledger.
In this film, we are starting to see the effect Batman has on Gotham. He's giving the citizenry strength to stand up for what's right instead of cowering in fear of the bad guys who plague them, inspiring men like District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) to fighting the good fight. He's also forcing the hand of the bad guys; they accept, albeit reluctantly, the help of a vicious psychotic with no known past in order to quash the hopes of the people. Meanwhile, all the Joker wants is chaos and chaos is exactly what he serves up.
I'm no fangirl. I haven't read any Batman comics EVER. I like the two Burton movies beause they're fun and I like what Nolan is doing with the series because he doesn't treat the story as a joke even though, c'mon...a dude dresses up like a bat in order to fight a criminals, including one who paints his face like a clown? Eh, what?
The film was excellent across the board, especially with the extremely welcome addition of Maggie Gyllenhaal taking over for Katie Holmes as assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes, but it's killer at nearly three hours long (including trailers), especially if you bought the 54 ounce Bladderbuster at the concession stand. Wrapping up the Scarecrow storyline was nice, and it was great to see Cillian Murphy even if was for only two seconds, but that sequence was around twenty minutes long and seemed to be there only to set up that Bruce Wayne wanted some changes made to the suit to give him more flexibility and speed. Unnecessary. I don't mind long movies, but after a while it felt like the infinite non-ending ending of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (a great flick, but I think it's still going...)
Also, Bruce Wayne playing CSI was a bit much. It was distracting and even a tad frustrating. The Joker seemed to be very experienced at what he was doing, thinking thirteen steps ahead of everyone else. If he'd been that active in Gotham, they would've already had a rap sheet on him, including fingerprints and DNA. Unnecessary. Batman doesn't need to play detective so much...he's got Lucius Fox and Alfred (and, eventually, Barbara Gordon...at least in the books, he does.)
Other than those quibbles, I really liked the film. Everything else about it was fantastic: the score, the music, the performances, all really top notch work.
This is the film the fans have been salivating for ever since the end credits rolled on Batman Begins. When Heath Ledger was announced as the Joker, and various photos were leaked, I was, personally, very sceptical. I'm happy to report that I was wrong. Ledger's Joker was amazing and I only heard Jack Nicholson in his voice two, maybe three, times. It's definitely Oscar-nomination worthy, but I would have to see the other performances that are in the running before I would say that he should get the award post-humously. And, I'd need to see The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus because, you never know...maybe that film will top his performance in The Dark Knight. Unlikely (his Joker is magnificent), but possible.
Not only do I highly recommend seeing this, I highly recommend seeing it in the theatres.