"Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn." -- Alfred Pennyworth
Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight is a huge hit amongst critics, general moviegoers and comic book geeks alike. And deservedly so, it lives up to the hype that surrounds it. Everything is top notch, from the production to the writing to the acting. Most impressive was the late Heath Ledger's Joker, which faithfully represents the character as a freaky psychopath. Spoilers follow, so if you haven't seen it yet, stop reading and go see the movie already.
The film opens with the Joker and his henchmen robbing a mob bank. This sequence introduces us to the Joker's crazy ruthlessness as he slays all his own men during the robbery and takes off with the loot alone. Gotham City's underworld has been turned upside down since Batman's appearance, and thus the Joker convinces all the mob bosses that they need to kill the Batman (in this scene, watch for the disappearing pencil trick).
There's also a new district attorney in town, none other than the famous Harvey Dent. Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne's love interest from the last movie (now played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) turns out to be dating the hot new DA. James Gordon is now working closely with Batman to nab the criminals of Gotham, and Harvey Dent is a hotshot DA brave enough to prosecute the dangerous scum of the city. However, when the Joker comes along he turns the city upside down as he torments all of our main characters with fiendish and sadistic traps designed to make them suffer as they face difficult moral choices. This aspect is written and acted so well that it brings this movie above the usual superhero action fare. Sure we have cool vehicles, explosions, gadgets and moments of awesome from our hero, but ultimately you feel like Batman is fighting a losing battle against evil, even though he remains staunchly incorruptible himself.
Tragedy after tragedy befalls our protagonists, as the Joker claims his victims. Harvey Dent is disfigured and turns into a villain (yeah you saw it coming, you comic book geeks) when pushed over the edge by the Joker. The Joker is proud to bring good people down to his level, and thus his defeat was when he failed to do the same to Batman. Yet despite this, there are permanent and terrible consequences to everything that happens, and thus gives the movie realism in the middle of the fantastic elements. This realism is what makes the Joker so terrifying; you really believe this kind of villain exists in our world. Not a cartoon bad guy who sprouts puns with over-the-top gimmicks, but one who wants to hurt people for the sake of hurting people and succeeds in doing so.
There might be some academy awards passed around for this movie in the next Oscar award show. Some cynics think it's only because of the unfortunate passing of Heath Ledger that the film is getting so much attention. This isn't so. Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, David S. Goyer, and the brilliant cast together makes this one a winner of a movie; an awesomely depressing winner of a movie.