Saw it. It was good. Good night.
....okay, just kidding!
I really am almost speechless! It's quite hard to put my thoughts into words, or at least organize them coherently.
To start out with, yes, Heath Ledger is amazing. The hype was justified; Ledger creates a terrifying, unique, and darkly funny character that you just cannot take your eyes off of, whether he's sticking knives in people's mouths, waxing philosophical about the dark side of human nature, or doing magic tricks with pencils. I'd be shocked if he didn't at least get nominated for an Oscar.
Bale, Freeman and Caine are all quite good, reprising their roles from the first film, though Alfred seems to have a lot less to do in this one, as does Bale, since the Bruce:Batman screen time ratio seems to have decreased considerably. And newcomers Gyllenhal and Eckart are both superb.
The action is staged with considerably more confidence than in Begins. The set pieces, from an excursion to Hong Kong to the Batmobile vs a tractor trailer, are all spectacular; even more so with the towering IMAX cinematography. Some of the camera angles from the tops of skyscrapers are just stunning.
I loved the new Batman suit. It does seem quite a bit more flexible, finally allowing Batman to turn his neck! There was surprisingly little of the Bat-pod; it's really only featured in one scene.
But what really makes this film special is not the action or the Bat-toys. No, what makes it special is that this is a disturbing and nihilistic piece of work that actually has something to say about the world we live in, which is a very pleasant surprise coming from a big-budget summer blockbuster.
The Joker is scary not just because of the terrible things he does, but also the terrible possibility that he may be right; that society is just a thin facade for our inner barbarism and immorality. This generates a lot of suspense towards the end, as the Joker puts his theory to the test, with hundreds of lives hanging in the balance.
But this movie is really about Harvey Dent, not the Joker or Batman. And his arc, absurd as it seems at first glance, really works. It's what brings the movie full circle, and generates the most tragedy (also some very gruesome CGI work). Dent represents hope and idealism in a nasty world, and the nasty world chews him up and spits him back out. Pretty bleak stuff for a comic book movie.
Frankly, after watching TDK, I am more mystified than ever about some critics' complaints about the length. It was the fastest two and a half hours of my life. I kept looking at my watch, not because I was bored, but because I was shocked at how little of the movie was left. After waiting three years for a movie, two and a half hours of payoff doesn't seem like much.
But it was worth the wait, in any case. The ending is intriguing, and although it could serve as a finale for the series, it also gives hints about where the next one could go. I really hope Bale and Nolan decide to do another one.
In any case, go see it. Now. It's the best superhero movie ever, the best film of the year so far, and one of the greatest cinematic experiences of the decade. Don't miss it.
UPDATE: Just on time, the next installment in Iron Man and Batman:
Made $66 million on its opening day, more than Begins made in its entire opening weekend. The best comment I've read so far is that it's like Titanic for the Y chromosome. Probably won't match its gross though, unfortunately.