After so many mediocre comic book movies over the past few years, Nolan finally nails it with what is a near perfect realization of a classic hero. It turns out that realism is the key, while the first two Batman films are still classics - this one shows how it should really be done. Nicholson was brilliant as The Jokey, but this time you get a genuinely creepy and believable villain.
Ledger is simply mesmerizing and holds the whole film together, surrounded by a truly great cast. If you've not seen the film, then you'd quite rightly put down this Ledger hype to the fact he snuffed it just before release - but a breathing Ledger would still have garnered almost as much praise.
The look of the film is different to; this is unlike any of the current action hero crop. This time Batman inhabits the neon world of the cop thriller, strange how all of Batman's previous fights seemed to take place at night - then again, he is a bat.
For the most part it's a well balanced movie, with each character getting the right amount of screen time - although the set-up of a love triangle may try the patience a little.
When compared blow-to-blow with a full on action movie it's fair to say that Dark Knight may be found wanting in terms of explosive spectacle - but there's still enough of the old Batman here to please everybody. However, like a lot of current epics it does slightly outstay its welcome at the end - and it's the final ten minutes that are the film's weakest. Having said that, most films seem to fall down at this stage - and considering the fantastic 142 preceding minutes, this is still five star entertainment.