Sometimes a film comes along that lives up to all the hype and the Batman Begins sequel, The Dark Knight, truly does that. It's one of those films that cinema is made for, to be seen on a big screen in all its glory. (Spoiler alert! The following contains plot and storyline information about the movie).
Of course for a film this special I had to go to my favourite cinema in L.A., the Arclight Hollywood, and even caught a sneaky morning showing - taking a guilty break from puppy-sitting (althoug I did worry the whole film about how thirteen week old Cooper was doing on his won, as it is a 150 minute movie).
Enjoy this selection of pictures of The Dark Knight movie costumes taken in the Arclight Hollywood cinema foyer...
The Dark Knight movie - Batman suit
The Dark Knight movie - The Joker costume
UPDATED: If you like these costumes, be sure to check out the original Batman, Catwoman and Bane costumes on display from The Dark Knight Rises.
Christian Bale is such an incredible Batman it's scary, perfectly capturing the cocky billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and the brooding, tortured Batman (and is that his own gravelly voice or is that a sound effect?).
I love Michael Caine as his faithful butler, surrogate father, friend and conscience, Alfred. Gary Oldman (another fine British actor in this movie) as Lt. James Gordon, who fulfills his destiny and becomes the new Commissioner Gordon, has a great role at moving the story along and at being Batman's police confident in his fight against crime in Gotham City.
Aaron Eckhart is also great as new District Attorney Harvey Dent, the 'White Knight' of Gotham City, whose transformation into Batman foe, Two-Face, is believably performed as well as being visually impressive. So much more convincing and a hell of a lot less camp than Tommy Lee Jones' portrayal in Batman Forever.
Maggie Gyllenhaal does a brilliant job of replacing Katie Holmes as Assistant District Attorney, Rachel Dawes, and I was really surprised when she met her demise. I kept expecting her to be safe and sound somewhere for a last minute happily-ever-after reveal, so good on the director for letting her death have meaning.
Although I'm not sure how sympathetic a character she was, considering she was going to marry Harvey Dent, but her actions implied she'd drop him in a heartbeat if her true love, Bruce Wayne, ever gave up being Batman.
The cameo of Cillian Murphy as The Scarecrow from Batman Begins, at the beginning of the movie, who is dispatched with ease is also a nice nod to continuity and also helps to establish how much more deadly and serious an adversary The Joker represents.
And so finally, Heath Ledger - give that guy an Oscar. No seriously, he's absolutely amazing. I know everyone will say it, but his reinterpretation of The Joker is totally original and unique. Aside from looking the part, he brings an intensity that's warped and sinister, and most of all believable.
But it's not all Heath Ledger though that makes The Joker such a perfect part. The writing and direction is impeccable too. The Joker's magic trick with the pencil is a gem, the disturbing visual of him as a female nurse and set pieces like blowing up a hospital, really establish him as sick and twisted character and a truly anarchic individual.
What else to say? I thought the film's music score was perfect and really added to the tension and action in the movie. This is a much more fast paced film than the first Christoper Nolan helmed Batman Begins and it really delivers a WOW-factor. The new Bat-Pod is great fun and the daring stunts performed by Batman, such as the sky-diving and other aerial maneuvers are both original and breath-taking.
There's something really pleasing about the iconic shape of Batman's cape in the air and of the caped crusader landing with such menacing force on top of moving cars.
The only real disappointment for me was the anti-climatic ending and the final confrontation with The Joker. I found the action sequence of having Batman fight a SWAT team to save the hostages a bit confusing, although obviously adds to the nebulous nature of his character with the law, but after the brutal and chilling build up with The Joker I was hoping for a more dramatic face off. For me it just felt a bit flat for me after all the incredible action that came before (the truck flipping head over heals was especially gasp inducing). However it did leave the way open for The Joker to return, although now sadly we know this can't be Heath Ledger. I wonder where they can take Batman now that he's battled his most notorious villain?
This franchise is not simply a comic adaptation, but belongs in a iconic movie category of its own right. The Dark Knight takes the crown of 2008 summer blockbuster movies and is easily a four star **** film and it's nearly enough to make this Marvel fanboy consider picking up a DC comic, but only nearly.
Hmm, I wonder what it'll take for me to give a film those elusive five stars?