The Dark Hype.

After months of waiting, and of hype that seemed to get whipped up even further after the death of Heath Ledger in January, I toddled along on Thursday night to catch The Dark Knight. Along with, seemingly, half of Belfast. It was hoachin’.

Did I enjoy it? Oh yes. Was it “the best movie, like, ever”? No, not really, but a pretty fine show all the same.

The obvious question: Heath Ledger as the Joker? He was great. Folks have asked me how he compared to Jack Nicholson in the Burton version — actually, I think the whole internet was asking that before the film opened. I felt that Ledger’s unhinged nihilist (ooh, look at me) was much more menacing — and Joker-like — than Nicholson’s self-assured… Jack Nicholson standard character.

I know others will disagree, but I was also completely onboard with the handling of Harvey Dent/Two-Face.

The film belonged to Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart and Gary Oldman (an actor who we’ve never really seen enough of). It almost seemed to me like Batman was the white space around these three that let them do their thing, and do it in spades.

Criticisms? The Bat-voice, so comical as to be distracting, is one of the beats where the Nolans lost some of their intended realism. That, and some of the daft Bat-gadgetry, just didn’t seem to fit. Casting wise, I wish Maggie Gyllenhaal had had something to do other than [SPOILER]. She was wasted. If only Ms Gyllenhaal had been there last time round, then Katie Holmes could’ve handled the character’s three or four lines for this one.

I approached this one as energetic popcorn entertainment and left most of my analytical brain at home, but Glenn offers a some deeper thoughts. Batman has always been the hero who will never get an easy ride. His lack of any ‘superpower’, his difficult past and his blunter-than-normal vigilante status see to that.

It’s a characterization that lends itself to the darker, grittier kind of movie that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight have been. Batman works because he’s just that little bit closer to what might be possible, but he makes us uncomfortable because he shows us the consequences that neither Superman, Spider-Man nor the X-Men ever did. We can read life onto him much more easily. He’s a bit of white space that allows us to fantasize and moralize and perhaps question what justice might be, here in the real world.

Unfortunately, in this one, Bruce Wayne and Batman were almost (Rachel Dawes) the thinnest characters there, and it was left to Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent to hold the line.

It’s still the best movie I’ve seen this year, I think, and probably due a second viewing sometime soon.