With Batman Begins, director Chiristopher Nolan set a new standard in the comic book movie, he manged to erase the painful memories of Batman and Robin and brought a new sensibility to the genre. This was a new darker more realistic Batman, more in tone wth the graphic novels it came from. Since it’s release in 2005 we have seen this change follow on into other comic book movies, such as the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man even Spidey went a bit darker last year, but still begins stands atop of the pile. Well now we get the very eagerily awaited follow up, The Dark Knight, a film which has garnered buzz both on and off the screen, but can it match it’s predecessor?

  Batman has taken control of the streets, the criminals are running in fear, if they see the Bat symbol in the sky they go back into the shadows. All exept one. This new criminal, a man with a scarred face and clown make up has started running riot throughout Gotham robbing banks leaving his calling card, The Joker. At the same time a new hero has arrived in Gotham looking to clean up the streets, District Attorney Harvey Dent who wants to bring down the remains of the Falcone gang now being seen over by Maroni.  At first skeptical Bruce Wayne realises this man could be his chance to give up the cape and have a normal life so starts to help him in anyway he can. The only complication for Bruce is that Dent his dating his ex Rachel Dawes, a love that he believes he can get back if he leaves the Bat behind.   Throw into this mix Lieutenant Gordon now promoted and Batmans’ only friend in the Police Department who still want him arrested.  Soojn the Joker is causing chaos throught Gotham and pushing Batman to the limit’s both physically and emotionally.

  Following Begins was going to be a big ask for Nolan but it seems despite this pressure he went out and made a film as good if not better.  In the build up for it’s release over the last few years I heard one comparison that really interested me. it was said that The Dark Knight was going to be the ‘Heat’ of comic book movies. thats Heat the film with Pacino and De Niro, not the trash magazine!  The ultimate crime movie, and it seems they weren’t far off. If you discount the Superhero element of The Dark Knight it is a real top notch crime movie, the good guys versus the bad guys. You have your top criminal who wants to bring down the city to chaos or as Alfred says “Some men just want to watch the world burn”.  then you have the Law side who want to bring him down. This is a serious film that is sort of looked down on by the fact it has a man in a cape in it.  Like ‘Heat’ the film isn’t just about one or two characters, this is a real ensemble piece with great charcters throughout Nolan has done is bring in a great cast to fill these roles.

   As the returning Batman is again great in the dual roles of Wayne and crime fighter, though his devil voice for Batman seems to have got darker!  There does seem to be less of him in this film but thats due to the amount of charcters in this  film. It’s not like Batman Returns where he was over shadowed by the villains, but he is there when he needs to be.  Michael Caine is his usual high class as the ever reliable Alfred not just a Butler but this time more like Waynes therapist.  The forgotten hero of the film like in the first film is Gary Oldman, he really becomes the character and is a real lynch pin of the film, the only truely honourable person in the Gotham Police force. one of the other cast members is currently geting all the plaudits (more on that in a bit) but Oldman deserves a lot of praise.   Maggie Gyllennhaal has a hard job in filling someone else’s shoes, that of Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, childhood friemd of Bruce and also his love interest, she does a good job but you can’t help remembering the previous actress.  Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent has found the role that will get him more recognition after supportinmg roles in many films. As Dent he has that slightly slimy and cocky side to his personality as you would expect as a lawyer, but as the film progresses we see that he really wants the best, until,later in the film where his good intentions are sorely tested. Eckhart has got the good and bad side down perfectly.  So to the big part and pull for many people, the late Heath Ledgers performance as the Joker. Immediately upon it’s release the press have been rabid with calls for him to get Oscar nominated, are they right?  Well yes but it would have to be in the supporting catergory. He obviously has the Nicholson role to follow but what he’s done is create not a funny villian but a complete nutjob. ledger has inhabitated the character with so many ticks and mannerisms that you really think this man has mental problems, and then theres the voice which sounds like he dug it up from the bowels of his body and as for the laugh pretty chilling. The only problem is due to his untimely death you do spend a lot of time thinking about the person and not the character and that does distract a bit from the film. His performance though is that good that most of the time you are drawn in.  For me I was personally very happy to see Anthony Michael Hall from the great series ‘The Dead Zone’ getting a reasonably large role as the reporter for GCN news, hope he gets a few more higher profile roles.

  Despite it being a crime thriller it is also a summer movie so there are plenty of action sequences, with Batman going global on one mission, a great tumbelr chase sequence and Batman shows of a new toy with the Batbike. There’s also a pretty good sequnce involving two passenger boats which truely shows what the Joker wants to prove about the people of Gotham. Be warned the film is a 12a certificate but in really should be a 15 it’s quite violent and very dark in tone. The film is also very long at nearly two and half hours but there is so much story that it never drags, there are multiple oints where you think it might end but it carries on, but it’s no way as dragging as the end of The Return Of The King. I really enjoyed this latest instalment of the bat franchise and really want to see it again to take it all in, as it is definitely a film you need to see a few times, and given chance I will. The best Superhero film yet? Might well be. Rating 10/10