I'll get this out of the way now - the movie was fantastic and you should be in line to see it if you haven't seen it by now. Hell, you should probably be in line to see it again if you've only seen it once so far.
Knowing that my thoughts on the movie isn't going to change anyone's opinion or stop you from seeing it, I've taken on the devil's advocate for this review in regards to The Dark Knight. What this means is that I will be listing a lot of the things I found wrong with the movie that everyone seems to be glossing over in their calls for Oscars and greatest movie ever campaigns.
While I do list the things I liked about the movie, too, don't let the number of negatives blind you to the fact that I loved this movie, will be seeing it again and have already set aside the money for the eventual DVD. It's just this movie wasn't perfect and, seeing as heaping a mountain of praises onto it would be boring, I've chosen to go the other way with this. None of these negatives are game breaking and some are just plain nitpicking, so take them with a grain of salt.
As always, if you haven't seen the movie yet, spoilers abound.
The Joker - Heath Ledger's Joker took me a little while to "get" as he is not the comic book Joker nor the animated Mark Hamill version nor even the previous Jack Nicholson movie version. However, about halfway through, this character just clicked for me and I can't imagine anyone else ever playing this role.
Year One - The movie did an excellent job capturing the Year One feel of the Harvey Dent, Jim Gordon and Batman dynamic and it's one of the best parts of this film for me.
Two-Face - Aaron Eckhart was perfectly cast in this role and it's a shame Ledger is the only one getting all the praise for his portrayal as the Joker when Eckhart's Harvey Dent / Two-Face was equally as compelling and could have easily held up a movie on his own.
Rachel Dies - Good riddence. Useless plot device character with the personality of cardboard won't be missed. Added nothing to the Batman mythos nor the film franchise in either movie.
Great Flow - Nolan did an unbelievable job of juggling the dozens of plots and sub-plots in this movie and the fact it managed to keep a film of this length entertaining from start to finish with absolutely no lulls or "I'll be pausing it for bathroom breaks at this part when the DVD comes out" sections is a testament to how great this film turned out.
Puts The "Dark" in Dark Knight - This is by far the darkest comic book film I've ever seen. While there's no gore or ultra violence like in 300, this is not a film for children and the crying of children and subsequent ushering away of said children by their parents during the movie when I went to see it is a testament to this. This movie is dark, gritty, violent and about as grown up a comic book movie as you'll ever see and I wouldn't have it any other way. If Watchmen can come anywhere near this level of maturity, we'll be in for a treat next year.
Watchmen Trailer - Speaking of Watchmen, the trailer, which I'd already seen online prior to seeing TDK, ran before the movie and washed away any doubts I had about the film.
Joker's Origin - I loved how they handled the Joker's origin, or should I say lack of origin, in the movie. It helped maintain that force of nature aspect of the character that pinning him down with a definitive origin would have robbed him of. It also stopped the movie from falling into the cliched "tie the villain's origin into the hero's actions" that bogs down just about every comic book movie on the market.
Batman - It's sad that the worst part of a Batman movie is, well, Batman. From the costume to Bale's terrible Batman voice, which is somehow worse than it was in Batman Begins, to the actual character's portrayal in and out of costume, the majority of it is cringe worthy. Why is Batman ready to give himself up after five or six murders? Because Joker told him to? How did he even come to such a decision?
Too Long - While the movie flowed well, there was no need for it to be over two and a half hours long. Some simple editing, such as removing the Scarecrow filler at the start or even breaking it up into two movies - one for Joker and one for Two-Face - would have done wonders for the film.
Plot Holes - The film is littered with plot holes that may not be immediately noticeable for most people on first viewing, but there are clearly a lot of details and problems glossed over to keep the movie moving. Hell, how Joker manages to do anything in the movie, such as where he found time to wire up a hospital with explosives or how no one managed to notice these massive amounts of explosives in the first place or why Joker was left uncuffed in the interrogation room, goes completely unexplained. These are dozens of these little plot holes that all add up to a story made out of swiss cheese.
Batman: Murderer - What's with Batman's obsession with throwing stuff off buildings in this movie? He throws several dogs down the shafts of the construction site during the final battle with Joker and later throws Two-Face off another building, resulting in his death. Add the leaving Ra's al Ghul to his death and attempting to shoot his parents' killer at the court house in the first movie and it adds up to a Batman I just can't agree with. Killing should be the one thing Batman never does or even contemplates.
Batman Turning Himself In - After everyone he's inadvertently killed, Batman was willing to turn himself in to the police and reveal his identity to the world because Joker killed 4 or 5 people and told him to or he'd keep killing more people? Seriously? What kind of reasoning is that? A 5 year old could tell you the Joker wouldn't stop killing people after Batman went to jail, yet that's the only solution he could come up with?
Batman: Fugitive - Why is Batman taking the fall for Harvey Dent at the end of the movie? I don't care what kind of messed up logic they tried to employ here - Batman doesn't let murderers off the hook, not even dead ones. Harvey Dent killed several people, including cops, took Gordon's family hostage and nearly killed Gordon's son. Batman wouldn't take responsibility for this. He'd make sure Dent was charged for his crimes, even in death, and that justice was served.
I can't help but think of an old Batman comic where Bruce Wayne was receiving training before becoming Batman. His mentor pulled off the perfect crime and murdered a man. Batman knew about it, but could never prove it. It was shown by the end of the story that Batman came to visit the man every year on the anniversary of the murders and wheeled the handicapped old man up to the graves of the man he murdered. Why go to all this trouble? To make sure the man knew that he knew what he had done and to make him face up to it, even if it couldn't be proven in court, and to see that justice was done. It didn't matter if he couldn't prove it, he couldn't allow this man to get away with what he had done.
The same thing applies to letting Two-Face "go free" after he died just because it would be inconvenient for them.
The Spirit Trailer - Not really Batman related, but this was one of the worst movie trailers I've ever seen. I'm still looking forward to seeing The Spirit, but my expectations have dropped considerably after this trailer.
Not the Greatest Movie Ever - I can't imagine how anyone in their right mind can consider The Dark Knight a cinematic masterpiece that deserves to be mentioned with movies such as Citizen Kane, Dr Strangelove or The Godfather. It's easily one of the best comic book movies ever made, but let's not kid ourselves here, it's still just a popcorn flick. You won't be having a life changing experience after watching this, regardless of how much you may have enjoyed it.
Oscar "Snubs" - There will be no Oscar nominations coming for this film. Not because it is a comic book movie, but because it doesn't deserve any. Most character's play their roles well and Heath Ledger's Joker was excellent, but no more so than Aaron Eckhart as Two-Face or Gary Oldman's Jim Gordon or even Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark in Iron Man earlier this summer. They all play their roles well and it comes together as a great film, but people are kidding themselves if they think this movie is going to mop up at the Oscars.
Gravity of the Situation - Where to even begin with this one? Let's start with the use of gravity and the ability to survive falling from great heights in this film.
In one of the earlier Joker appearances, Batman and Rachel both fell from the penthouse skyrise where a party was being held. Both landed on a car on the street below, laughed about being okay and then proceeded to walk away with nary a scratch.
Later, near the end of the film, Batman drops a crime boss off the second or third floor of building in what looked like a painful leg / kneecap breaking experience. This mobster was walking around as if nothing happened the next day.
Finally, at the end of the film, Batman throws Two-Face from the second floor of a construction site building and Dent dies from the fall. Shortly after Harvey fell, Batman, unable to hold on any longer, also falls to the ground below. Both landed flat on their backs in roughly the same spot. Batman got up and walked away. Actually, he didn't walk. He ran off, barely phased by the fall.
We could chalk this up to being the goddamn Batman or his mesh kevlar armour, but what the hell is going with the gravity in this film?
Magic Fingerprint Machine - I don't think I even have to explain this one, but for those that didn't see the movie yet, Batman takes some bullet fragments out of a wall, runs them through a computer scanner and has his computer analyze and rebuild the bullet based on the way it exploded. From this, it reconstructs the bullet with the fingerprint of the villain somehow. Who's idea was it to have Batman's "detective work" consist of something even the guys at CSI wouldn't try and pass off to its viewers as plausible?
Batman Sonar - Having Batman's eyes glow white and then having it malfunction so the Joker can stand up to him in a physical confrontation is not how you tell good stories. Luckily, Ledger's acting and monologues helped sell this terrible fight.
Holy Bat-Pod, Batman! - Why do I get the feeling the only reason for the Bat-Pod's existence was to sell those ridiculous looking toys I keep seeing advertised on TV? It added nothing to the film, looked horrible and was less functional than the normal motorcycle he was driving around on as Bruce Wayne in the film.
Verdict - Must See. Please, don't focus on the numerous negatives I've listed for the film. My only reason for doing so is to show that this is not the greatest film ever made nor is it going to be some life changing experience when you watch it.
These flaws don't stop this from being one of the best comic book films ever made nor does it stop you from enjoying this film or watching it numerous times. Hell, I'll probably go watch it again when my brother comes to visit me in a week or two's time and I never pay to watch movies at the theatre more than once.
In the end, The Dark Knight is an amazing, though flawed, film that sets the bar extremely high for any future comic book films.