The Dark Knight 2008 ★★★★½

I don't, I don't want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, NO! No. You... you... complete me.
-The Joker

The Dark Knight is not my favorite film based on a comic book, but that probably has more to do with my preferences in comic books then it does film. It is however head above shoulders my favorite Batman film. It's not because it's a great film (which it is) but because it is by far the best depiction of the Batman comic book character ever put to film. I would seriously question any "comic book expert" that tells you otherwise.

Batman made his debut in a comic book called Detective Comics but this is the first film where he actually does any detective work. He uses technology and techniques that I'm not even sure are theoretically possible just like the comics, but the film actually gives a reason for him to have this tech unlike the comic books.

The story also does a great job of bridging the character from Batman Begins to his more modern interpretation from the last few decades. Although he is still against killing, he gets pushed to use some morally ambiguous techniques and perhaps going to far in some cases. Batman being called out on his questionable tactics and brutality is like something straight out of a Frank Miller written story complete with the decision he makes at the end of the film.

Heath Ledger's Joker is the elephant in the room. It has caused some spirited debates among fans and moviegoers. I must first say that his interpretation of the character is clearly inspired by Alan Moore's critically acclaimed and beloved story The Killing Joke with slight alterations for the character to fit in the world created in the previous film.

This Joker is not a caricature, but a fully fleshed out homicidal maniac. The fact that the character comes off as the best in the film while keeping his entire back story a complete mystery is a testament to Ledger's performance. He comes off as a force of nature, dangerous and unpredictable. You feel his joy when the city comes unhinged and he forces the heroes to make moral decisions that no human being should have to make. He doesn't just want to break Batman's spirit, he wants to break the spirit of every living soul in the city. I can't recall another film where an entire city was supposed to be on edge and it actually felt that way.

Aaron Eckhart's performance as Harvey Dent often gets overshadowed by The Joker but it deserves to be noticed. His character's mental and physical changes can almost be directly linked with what is happening to the city itself beat for beat and Eckhart makes it all believable. His character is practically the physical manifestation of Gotham City's hope from beginning to end.

The rest of the cast is fantastic too. Maggie Gyllenhaal thankfully replaces Katie Holmes. To say she makes a more convincing district attorney is an understatement. Gary Oldman is always fantastic, but here he's given a little more to work with then the first film and has a couple of nice scenes for his character. I'm not sure if Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman have more or less screen time then the first film, but both their characters have more important roles this time around.

I've already written down more then I was planning to and didn't even get a chance to mention the fantastic score and amazing cinematography. At the end of it all it's not a great comic book film, it's a great film. The only downfall is that it set the bar so high that I can't see how The Dark Knight Rises could possibly come close to being this good, and quite frankly I expect it won't, but I'm still hoping for a good film.