It seems like there are two types of people. Those who think this movie is incredibly awesome, and those who think those other people are exaggerating and ignoring a lot of flaws. I'm afraid I'm one of those who thinks it's awesome, and yes, I am ignoring the flaws, because I don't think they're as important as all the good stuff that happens. But I can still be sensible enough to acknowledge that they do exist.
Once again, the beginning of the movie is a little slow. We see the Joker's heist, which is fantastically executed and shows just what kind of ruthless criminal we're dealing with, and then we cut to Batman fighting at night. It works really well, as it both fulfills Batman's promise to Gordon at the end of Batman Begins that he would catch Scarecrow, but it also shows us that Gotham is being affected by the Batman with these sudden copycats popping up. I have to wonder where they got such accurate masks. Do you think it was the big costume for Halloween that year? Probably. The "not quite as realistic as you think" theme pops up here when Batman bends the gun nozzle of one of the fakers as if it was made of wire rather than metal. Seriously, is he Superman all of the sudden?
But then the movie slows down a bit in the name of set up. We're introduced to all the gangsters as they meet the Joker, Lau runs off with their money, and Batman goes all the way to Hong Kong to get them. Similar to the beginning of Batman Begins, I'm hard pressed to say these scenes should be taken out of the film, but they do feel largely pointless as you're watching them. Nolan Batman films, it seems, take a lot of investment and trust in the beginning that what you are seeing will in fact pay off in the end, and I think everything here does.
I didn't really have time to mention Lucius Fox in my previous review, but there's no denying how much Morgan Freeman brings to this series. He's essentially Q from the James Bond series, but he's also got his own distinct personality. I love that in this film he has no problem telling Bruce when he disagrees with his methods and isn't afraid to just walk away. The sonar, by the way, is also definitely in the realm of unrealistic, though I suppose if we pretend this is somewhere in the not too distant future, you can just run with it.
But I think we all know this movie is really all about the Joker, with a bit of Harvey Dent/Two Face added in. Heath Ledger manages to bring something completely new to the character that also just feels right to me. He's unsettling, he's psychotic, and he just doesn't care. I just love watching every scene he is in. My only problem is that he claims to be an agent of chaos, but the fact is he has a large amount of order in his plans and schemes. Though I suppose you could say that was just lies he was telling Dent to manipulate him.
I love that they took inspiration from The Killing Joke but twisted it so that instead of trying to corrupt Gordon, Joker corrupts Dent, who us Batman fans know is just a little too susceptible to such things. His turn is handled fantastically by Aaron Eckhart, as I think we can all sympathize with what he's been through even if we can't agree with his decisions. Once again, those special effects are amazing. He's truly horrifying to look at, and while once again, not that realistic, it is a good way to bring that look into the real world.
Once again, I find Rachel Dawes to be largely forgettable. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a better actress than Katie Holmes, but there just isn't much to say about the role. She's there to tease the idea that Bruce could have a normal life, but none of us truly believe that could ever happen.
Alfred seemingly has changed his mind from the last film, now convinced that Gotham needs Batman and that Bruce can't give it up. I suppose there's nothing wrong with a character changing his mind, but bookend this with the other two films and it's a little confusing. I love Michael Caine and I think his performance is great, it just seems like his feelings change with the wind on this subject.
This movie manages to be both a really fun time with lots of action, and also really smart. The two boats pitted against each other toward the end creates a great amount of tension, and I love when the big burly prisoner definitively throws the detonator out the window. I love that Joker's plan fails here, because sometimes, people really are that good and it's the kind of thing we need to be reminded of.
More than anything else, I love the ending of this movie. It gets me every single time. It gets right to the heart of what Batman is, why he is a vigilante and not an agent of the law, and it makes me giddy with excitement. It is quite possibly why I'm so willing to overlook the various flaws of the film, because Nolan seems to know how to get to the heart of what Batman stands for and presents him in a way that even non-comic book fans can understand.