The early buzz on this film was that Heath Ledger deserves a posthumous award for his performance as The Joker and that this may well be the greatest comic book movie evar ("Watchmen" might end up with that crown next March). I had read some of the previous reviews floating around the bloggerverse, most notably Combat Jack's on Dallas Penn's site. I knew that I had to see this joint as soon as humanly possible. I watched it twice to fully grasp everything that happened (it was that deep).
"The Dark Knight" did something that I'd been hoping more comic book films would do for years. It didn't try to appease families and the kiddies or insult the audiences intelligence. Never once did it delve into the realm of being campy (Tim Burton, I'm looking at you!), it dealt with the difficulty Batman had being a costumed viligante in Gotham City during his early career (Note to self: re-read Batman: Year One sometime soon). While he's "inspiring" other nutjobs with guns to dress up like him and "take back the streets", golden boy D.A. Harvey Dent is cleaning up the streets the right way...and he doesn't hide behind a mask.
The Russian crime syndicate, Mafia and several other factions in Gotham City are being decimated by Gotham's White Knight Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and his co-counsel/wifey Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) in the District Attorney's Office. They try to pool their resources and launder it in Hong Kong but that's problematic. The Joker (played perfectly by Heath Ledger) shows up and points out that unless they get rid of Batman once and for all it doesn't matter what they do because he'll go the extra mile to get them all....he has no limits to his jurisdiction unlike the D.A's office. He leaves behind a calling card for if/when they change their minds.
Batman, working jointly with Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) and the D.A.'s office looks to get the money launderer to talk and he goes all the way to China to do so with the aid of tech expert/weapons designer Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Batman gets his man and before you know it damn near half the mob is facing cases and Harvey Dent becomes more popular than the condom machine in the bathroom of a senior prom. The call goes out to The Joker to handle the situation. The Joker is the anti Batman. He doesn't care for rules. He's an anarchist that thrives on confusion and chaos. He doesn't do it for the money, he does it for the love. Live Alfred said "some men just want to watch the world burn" (no Moses Magnum).
The Joker's plan is genius in it's simplicity. You have to get rid of The Batman by using his secret identity against him and telling the people of Gotham that for every day Batman refuses to turn himself in he'll kill another person. He wields fear, panic and basic human psychology as his main weapon. In his estimation, civilization hangs by a thin thread. If you deny the people something or tell them that someone will die and then give them options they will revert to the basest of beings and revert to the mob mentality.
By using fear as a tool and causing widespread panic in Gotham City through terrorist threats he poses a serious threat to Batman that none of the other villians he's faced previously do. The Joker, while being batshit insane is a keen observer of the human psyche and master puppeteer. He takes control of all the criminal organizations in the city and dissolve them into his own army. The Joker drafts scheme after scheme and plot after plot until all of Gotham City trembles at the mere mention of his name.
The bodies are piling up and The Joker targets key crime fighters in Gotham for extermination everyday in the media. The Gotham Police Department and Batman work together to try to foil The Joker's assassination attempts and murder ploys and often fall short. Pressure is mounting now and public opinion has shifted until the people of Gotham City think that Batman should turn himself in to spare the lives of the people The Joker and his minions have targeted next. Bruce Wayne is more than ready to call it a career and concede it all to Harvey Dent.
The Joker pulls off a few more key murders and now everyone is afraid to go after the crime syndicates because they now fall under The Joker's umbrella. However, a sophisticated ruse set up by Batman, Harvey Dent and the Gotham PD results in the capture of The Joker. While trying to get information from this looney cat Batman realizes that The Joker is as genius and cunning as he is insane. The Joker ends up sending some more of Gotham's finest to the morgue and escapes from his holding cell to cook up his main plot (I'm not gonna say what that is).
If any of you are familiar with Batman or the mythology of it then you already know that this picture above is of Two Face (Eckhart's performance was almost as good as Ledger's). I'm not going to provide any other real spoilers because this film was so well acted, written and deep that I don't want to ruin it for anyone who hasn't yet seen it ($155 million in one weekend?). Get your ass out to the theater ASAP and see this flick. Greatest comic book movie evar! (*cough!* Watchmen! *cough!* March 6th, 2009!). I give this one a mos def.