Brilliant. Masterful. Powerful. Very nearly perfect. But, first things first.
Everyone has heard the accolades about Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker, the rumors of Oscar nominations, etc. And I can say, with punch-drunk weariness at 3:11 in the morning, that Ledger is, indeed, incredible, consumed by the character. He is anarchy incarnate. As Michael Caine's stoic, sensible Alfred tells a pensive Bruce Wayne, "Some men just like to watch the world burn."
I daresay Ledger's Joker is Oscar-worthy, though whether he actually wins is immaterial. The mere fact that his performance is being mentioned in the same breath as an Academy Award speaks volumes for its intensity. Nearly 20 years ago, Jack Nicholson played up the camp in a very different Batman film, and while his performance fit the style of that film, he doesn't hold a candle to Heath Ledger's quiet, menacing insanity.
To go into too much detail would be to ruin the experience for those who haven't seen it yet, so I'm going to try to keep this short and purposefully vague:
The action sequences were very well-done. I love how Batman's more sure of himself this time around, and he's improved his fighting skills. Director Christopher Nolan isn't too keen on lots of flashy CGI, so the whole movie has a real gritty, 1970s crime drama feel to it. Very French Connection or Heat. Lots of physical stunts, very little computer-assisted effects.
Speaking of effects, though, Harvey Two-Face - Oh. My. God. Horrifying, truly.
Can I just say that I love Gary Oldman? Cause I do. He is awesome in everything he does and his Jim Gordon is one of my favorite fictional cops ever. Ever.
The Batpod is actually a pretty cool motorcycle. Looks much better in the film than in the short snippets you see in the trailers.
Maggie Gyllenhaal is far and away a better actress than Katie Holmes. Maggie's Rachel Dawes was actually believable as a city prosecutor and love interest to both Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent.
I miss Wayne Manor.
Batman's new suit kicks ass. He can turn his head now!
Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox has some great lines, and a poignant scene with Bruce in the third act.
Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne is still the goofy, aloof, clueless billionaire playboy. I'd like him to show more emotion as Bruce, but he can't, because Bruce is really the implacable mask that Batman wears.
I loved the themes of the movie. Order versus chaos. Dual identities. That very fine line between good and evil, right and wrong.
This is a very dark film, much darker than anything Tim Burton did, much darker than the first Chris Nolan film. No one escapes unscathed, without scars.
Heath Ledger's Joker truly is mesmerizing. Every time he's on screen, you can't take your eyes off him. He doesn't completely steal the show, as Aaron Eckhart is great as Harvey Dent and even better as Two-Face, but, just, wow. I can still hear The Joker's laugh echoing in my head.
And that's all I'm gonna say. The Dark Knight is easily one of the best movies, not superhero movies, but movies, period, that I've ever seen. Maybe not the very best, but it's up there. Believe the hype.