The Dark Knight

Talk about a sensory overload! Wow! "The Dark Knight" should be another Batman-based blockbuster for Director Christopher Nolan ("Batman Begins" and "The Prestige"), who also co-wrote the script.

Sadly, a lot of the buzz about this movie is due to morbid curiosity about the late Heath Ledger ("Ten Things I Hate About You" and "Brokeback Mountain") and his interpretation of The Joker in this, his final completed film. As expected, the villain is, once again, the most entertaining aspect of this Batman chapter. Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze, Danny DeVito's Penguin, Jack Nicholson's Joker, the list goes on and on. These actors always delivered the most interesting characters to these formulaic movies and this one certainly is no different.

Christian Bale ("Batman Begins," "3:10 to Yuma" and "I'm Not There") reprises his role with a brand new hi-tech Bat suit and a very conflicted personal story. Of course he still loves Rachel Dawes, played this time by Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Donnie Darko" and "Stranger Than Fiction"), but a love triangle has developed with Aaron Eckhart ("Erin Brockovich," "Nurse Betty" and "Thank You for Smoking") as "The White Knight," District Attorney Harvey Dent.

Morgan Freeman ("Bruce Almighty," "Driving Miss Daisy" and "The Shawshank Redemption") brings us a second chance to enjoy Lucius Fox and the gadgets he creates to help Batman in his relentless fight against crime. No Batman movie would be complete without the butler Alfred, brought back with delicious understatement by Michael Caine ("Children of Men," "Secondhand Lions" and "The Cider House Rules"). We get to see when Lt. Gordon of Gotham City becomes Commissioner Gordon; he is played by Gary Oldman ("Harry Potter," "Sid and Nancy" and "Air Force One").

Other characters zip by at a blink-and-you'll-miss-'em warp speed, e.g., Cillian Murphy ("Breakfast on Pluto" and "Red Eye") as Scarecrow and Eric Roberts ("Runaway Train" and "L.A. Confidential") in the slightly larger role as a mob capo.

In looking at all those "name brand" actors, it is clear that this was a high-budget, high-profile project. The production values are amazing and the story is clich├ęd but involving. My biggest caveat is around the increasingly horrific violence that seems to be taken for granted these days, and the additional sadistic glee Heath Ledger brings to his Joker.

Proceed at your own risk...