If you haven't seen it, then don't read this entry. SPOILERS ABOUND.
WOW. Just wow.
I had all kinds of expectations for this movie, and it met every single one of them (and even blew a few of them out of the water!). The movie was how long? Didn't feel like it, and that's always a bonus in my book. I didn't want it to end!
Sterling performances from the entire cast. Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine were top notch, as always. Gary Oldman was excellent, especially in the last scene with his family. Heath Ledger was, of course, genius as the Joker. Posthumous awards are definitely due, and it's a terrible tragedy we lost such an amazing talent. And I why, oh why couldn't they have had Maggie Gyllenhaal in the first movie? Sooooo much more believable as a lawyer than Katie Holmes.
But the most underrated member of the cast was definitely Aaron Eckhart. I've been a fan of his since Erin Brockovich, and he just nailed his role as the tarnished White Knight. I don't know much about the comic character of Harvey Dent/Two-Face, but the symbolism of this character was, in many ways, the heart of the movie and its core themes. In my opinion, Eckhart deserves a few more accolades than he's gotten for such a great balance of good and evil.
The supporting cast was like a who's who of TV genre character actors! Holy cow! We had Nestor Carbonell (Lost), Eric Roberts (Heroes), Ron Dean (what hasn't he been in?), Anthony Michael Hall (The Dead Zone), Keith Szarabajka (The Equalizer, Angel, Profit, etc...), William Fichtner (Invasion, Prison Break), and Tommy "Tiny" Lister (The Fifth Element, former wrestler named Zeus).
Kudos to the writers for killing Rachel, too. I always liked Batman more than Superman, because Batman didn't always win. The people in his life die (Robin II) or get seriously injured (Barbara Gordon). Batman loses once in a while (Hello, Bane!). It shows the human side of the character. You can throw bullets and cars and thugs in clown masks at him, and he keeps pushing through. You start killing the people he cares about, and you really hurt him.
I liked Batman Begins, but I love The Dark Knight. I think this one's going to bump its way up into my Top Ten Favorite Films list.