Holy That Was Awesome But Kind of Depressing, Batman!

So, yeah, what can I say about The Dark Knight that the whole world hasn't said already? Well, I'll give it a go.

Heath Ledger is, of course, mind-blowingly awesome and terrifying as the Joker - a force of pure chaos and a reminder why, in the hands of good writers, the Joker really works as Batman's arch-enemy. Every kid growing up in post-Baby Boom America has some creature from television or the movies that becomes their own personal boogeyman. I had a few nightmares about being turned into a blueberry after a probably-too-young-for-it viewing of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. For Mle, it was Gollum from the Rankin-Bass animated version of The Hobbit, and for her sister it was the wolf from The Never-Ending Story. I pity the kids whose parents took them to The Dark Knight, because all of those things are incredibly tame compared to the weeks of nightmares these kids are in for about Heath Ledger's Joker. I don't pity the parents who will be awakened in the middle of the night by their children's nightmares, because, well, you've got to be insane to take your five-year-old to a PG-13-rated movie that's been getting the word-of-mouth about being dark and scary that this one has. Enjoy those late nights, thoughtless parents!

Christian Bale solidifies his place as not just one of many guys who have played Batman, but THE Batman. He hits all the right notes as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Admittedly, it's not exactly the hardest title to earn when the previous contender for the title is wee, tiny, nebbishy Michael Keaton - but the poor schnook who next tries to play Batman after Bale's done with the role is going to learn what George Lazenby felt like trying to take over as James Bond after Sean Connery.

I'd like to be able to say that Maggie Gyllenhaal is a vast improvement over Katie Holmes in the role of Rachel Dawes, Batman's ostensible love interest. But, fine an actress as she is, she's not given anything to do, and spends her few brief scenes looking bored. It doesn't help that the costume department has her constantly dressed in dowdy old-lady clothes, which, combined with spectacularly unflattering lighting and makeup, make her look like she's about sixty-five years old.

Director Christopher Nolan is a master of character and mood, but, just as with Batman Begins, can't shoot a decent fight scene to save his life. It's not as big a flaw here as it was in Begins - as Dark Knight lacks the earlier film's emphasis on Batman's training and prowess as a martial artist. But still - c'mon, Chris. A fight scene should be extensively choreographed, just like a dance scene. You wouldn't cut a Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire dance scene with a million little frenetic half-second-long shots; why do you do it with a Batman fight scene? Part of the point of a Batman movie is to see that comic-book-style action come to life - to watch how Batman single-handedly dismantles an army of thugs or an entire SWAT team. Why deny us that with the annoying, unsettling million-cuts-and-shaky-handheld-camera style you've chosen?

Apart from that flaw - which is major but forgivable - this is damn near a perfect Batman movie. Dark and moody enough to make the black-hearted Batman Returns look like the Care Bears, but still not without a bit of humor, plenty of style and lots of excitement. Bravo to all involved.

Also - the biggest buzz in the geek-world aside from the awesomeness of Heath Ledger is the Watchmen trailer in front of the movie. I have to say, it looks pretty good, better than I thought it would - but I'm still pretty "meh" overall about the whole thing. Maybe the movie will be good, but I still don't see the need for Watchmen to be a movie in the first place.