There’s been a lot of hype and hoo-ha and coverage about it, not least because of the death of one of its stars and recent allegations made against another (hence the picture above, which is something that is oddly appropriate given aspects of the film), but I’m going to stick to commenting on the actual film here, not personal aspects connected to the cast or the marketing push.
Overall, I enjoyed it a lot, and it’s probably about as good a Batman film as you could hope to see; the plot’s full of twists and genuine surprises, and even though the film lasts something like 150 minutes, I get the feeling that certain storylines or scenes could have been given a bit more room to breathe. That said, it scoots along at a fairly breathless pace, in a nice taut way – even the sequences which look more like character moments tend to have some resonance or ramifications later on in the film.
I’m trying to keep this review spoiler-free, but suffice to say that the overall plot is a logical continuation of the situation at the end of the previous film (‘Batman Begins’), with a new District Attorney in place as Gotham’s various gangs scramble to take control of the various rackets in the city. Cue the Joker, in a performance by the late Heath Ledger which is more likely to generate nervous laughter than genuine chuckles. The Joker’s played here as an agent of chaos, and given that Batman is almost the living embodiment of one man’s attempt to impose some kind of order on a chaotic situation (both in his own life and that of his city), it’s only right that, as the film goes on, Batman struggles to anticipate the Joker’s next move.
You’re probably wondering, though, about the explodey-boom bits, and if there are good gadgets and vehicles, and oh my goodness yes there are; some of the stunt-based sequences are really rather spectacular, but like a film such as Raiders Of The Lost Ark, the scenes actually have a reason to be there as the story unfolds.
I mentioned Ledger’s performance, but I think it’s fair to say that there is not one bad turn in this film; it’s a strong cast, and all of them do very creditable jobs, even if some of them have to do less to impress – maybe it’s just me, but I do feel that Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman have sufficient goodwill in the bank that just seeing them in a film is a good thing.
The end of the film is interesting, too – whilst it leaves things open for another in the series, the status quo has been shaken quite considerably, so it would be interesting to see how the story would be continued. Given the box office success of the film, a continuation seems likely, but if it wasn’t by the same team (cast and crew) a dip in quality would seem pretty much inevitable, though I’d be happy to be surprised.
Overall, then, this is a film I’d wholeheartedly recommend – it functions well as a crime film or a thriller, and has enough character bits and explosions to keep the eyes as well as the brain entertained. If you can see it at an IMAX cinema, by the way, I urge you to do so – some of the sequences have been specially shot to take advantage of the screen and sound capabilities of the IMAX technology, and it’s very well used indeed – it enhances the film without being gratuitous.