I went into Dark Knight with the wrong attitude: I let myself have high expectations. As a general rule I don't allow myself to do that, for the sake of being able to squeeze some enjoyment out of a movie if it is mediocre or worse. Fortunately The Dark Knight was much better than I could have ever anticipated and made for a viewing experience on par with seeing Die Hard for the first time.
When the first tv ads ran for Die Hard, it looked like a really stupid movie. Bruce Willis was known primarily as a television actor and the premise was lame. I remember mocking the movie's tagline with my friends: "40 stories of sheer adventure, oh wow!" We did see it opening weekend (we saw everything opening weekend in those days) and emerged from the theatre in a state of shock, as if we had seen our favorite football team just win the Super Bowl.
That's how it was coming away from The Dark Knight, all the more remarkable because we already knew it was going to be good; that it went so far beyond expectations is what really had us cheering. How often does that happen at the movies?
Actually, there's a scene in the film that's reminiscent of Die Hard, and others that remind me of Heat, as much for their style and setting as for the level of great entertainment they achieve; above all else, The Dark Knight is hugely entertaining. It's also quite smart. It might be the smartest movie about a man in tights we'll ever see.
Do not leave your thinking cap at the door for this one. The plot is complex, layers of reference thick, and the drama is presented in grand fashion that elevates The Dark Knight far beyond any other film I've seen this year so far.
When you go, pay special attention to Gary Oldman. As my friend Jeff Overstreet and I were discussing the film afterward, we shared a mutual admiration for the actor's performance as Jim Gordon, Batman's ally with the Gotham City police. It is noteworthy as a fine turn by a consummate actor: he represents the heart of the film. Heath Ledger's final performance as the Joker is a bravura piece of theater that deserves every bit of praise it garners, yet I find Oldman the more affective because of his subtlety and warmth. Check it out and see for yourself.