There was a lot of hype and high expectations leading up to my viewing of Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" on opening day. Reason number one was Heath Ledger's death and all the media attention surrounding it, as well as all the people who had seen the movie raving about it and speculating about an Oscar nod. Reason number two was that I had seen Batman Begins and was amazed by the new direction Nolan had taken. Could the sequel live up to or even exceed the original, a feat that seems to rarely occur?
The theater was packed, with only a handful of empty seats to be found. All shows after the one I went to had already sold out. The four showings at midnight all had sold out, something that I would consider unusual for a theater in Iowa.
Most of the cast from Batman Begins returned, with the exception of Katie Holmes, who was replaced with Maggie Gyllenhaal. The new additions included Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart, playing the Joker and Harvey Dent/Two Face.
I had originally had doubts when I heard that Ledger would be the joker, but he exceeded all expectations. Between his disheveled appearance and bizarre mannerisms and chilling speech, Heath definitely pulled off the role, bringing to it a new and disturbing depiction of a man whose only motivation is the desire to create chaos and anarchy. By the end of the film I had a disregard for his character and the chaos he desired and represented.
Christian Bale once again pulled off the role of Batman well, this time spending a lot more time in the suit. However, this time his character was much more conflicted due to the scheming of the Joker and found himself questioning his purpose and benefit to the city. In this film he also seems tougher and takes ethically questionable actions.
Aaron Eckhart was great as the new district attorney determined to clean up Gotham City. I was also impressed by his portrayal of Two-Face, which was far better than the cartoonish portrayal by Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever. Additionally, the film explains the transition and Two Face's resulting appearance is nothing short of disturbing.
The plot basically involves the Joker coming into town with plans to bring chaos to the city by breaking the city's spirit and creating conflict between the citizens. The police and Batman are forced to face this new foe, whose schemes have them constantly wondering what will happen next. Indeed, the Joker is a powerful adversary for Batman with no reservations and presents him with great challenges.
Overall, I thought the film was excellent, albeit not perfect. Even if the joker role may never be filled again, Heath Ledger's portrayal left me feeling satisfied that the character had been done justice. I am again left anticipating the next installment of Nolan's riveting vision of Batman.