When I started watching this movie I was really taken with it.  Christian Bale was masterfully dark as Batman.  He was above the comic book character.  Human, but really superhuman at that.  He could not fly like Superman who has that alien ability, but his devices served him almost as well.

When the Joker appeared I really sat up and took notice.  Heath Ledger played the role masterfully.  He evoked Javier Bardem, this year’s Oscar winner for No Country For Old Men.  And that is high praise.  Ledger plays the viscerally evil character with such skill that, like Bardem, one has to wonder about the depths of the darkness within him from which he drew such inspiration.  Unfortunately we are not destined to see him develop as an actor beyond this point for, as you probably know, he died earlier this year of an overdose of sleeping pills two and a half months shy of his 29th birthday.  He leaves a substantial body of work and one not yet released movie called The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus which is scheduled for a 2009 release.

As for the movie, it started out good.  I was tempted to give it 3 ½ stars halfway through but then, alas, director Christopher Nolan fell into the trap of not knowing how or when to end a movie.  It happens far too frequently.  Like a politician who promises everything to everyone, he tried to please everyone and fell flat doing so.  There was probably a half hour of excessive, unnecessary mayhem.  Yes Batman is a good fighter.  Yes cars go boom and explode into flames when they roll over.  We get that.  If you wish to make an intelligent movie AND pander to cutthroat tastes, start by giving them just enough violence and mahem and leave time for a crisp, smart plot.

Unfortunately, this movie’s plot, while present, gets buried in all the over the top action.  Lest you suppose this reviewer doesn’t care for action films [‘wrong’ buzzer] wrong.  Big Bruce Willis and action movie fan.

Still, Heath Ledger is the best Joker I’ve seen and that includes Jack Nicholson.  And Christian Bale tops Adam West, Val Kilmer and Michael Keaton as Batman in this reviewer’s opinion.  The cinematography is great except when Nolan gets caught up in his chase and destruction loops, and Maggie Gyllenhaal isn’t too hard to watch and she even acts a bit.

So, three stars because it has some really good stuff, and I recommend it to people who like action and enjoy good acting.  My guess is that Heath Ledger will get a well-deserved post-mortem Oscar nomination.