The Dark Knight delivers

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 DEDRA CORDLE

I cried after watching the absolute debacle that was "Batman and Robin" (1997), for it broke my little Batfan heart.

It was so terrible, I was ashamed to have grown up worshipping Batman, so I put all of my collectables in the bat cave. I felt that movie single-handedly ruined such an iconic superhero, and could not see it ever making a comeback.

Then something miraculous happened around 2003. The franchise was delicately placed into the hands of "Memento" director Christopher Nolan and intriguing actor Christian Bale.

After "Batman Begins" premiered in 2005, I pronounced them as miracle workers.

Here was a director with true respect for the origins, and an actor who will not do a movie if the script is bad (and said absolutely no way to nipples on the Batsuit).

The only problem with "Batman Begins" was the awful acting of Katie Holmes, who played Bruce Wayne’s (Batman’s alter ego) childhood friend Rachel Dawes (I believe the character was introduced in the movie, and not in the comics), and we had to wait three years for the second installment, "The Dark Knight."

But, oh, what a terrific installment!

As per sequel credo, there are more action sequences, bigger explosions (and the violence that come along with), a higher body count and a shocking death of a favored character.

However, most sequels do not have Heath Ledger giving the performance of a lifetime. The late actor completely transforms himself into the Joker, a villain who craves destruction and chaos.

In fact, he garners the attention of Batman and Gotham City Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), by pulling off a brazen bank heist run by the local mob bosses.

When the Joker is on screen, the movie becomes more electric, and you’re riveted to the screen and not the people behind you ruffling through their popcorn bags and snacks like their life depended on it.

I didn’t think anyone could top Jack Nicholson’s performance as the Joker in Tim Burton’s "Batman" (1989), but Ledger really does. I proclaim that character (past and future) be stamped "owned by Heath Ledger." He really is that great.

On the other side of the villain-hero spectrum, we have Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), a Gotham City district attorney who is doing a bang-up job of putting the criminals that roam the streets behind bars.

He’s doing so well that Bruce is contemplating hanging up his batsuit to have that normal, billionaire life with Rachel (now played by Maggie Gyllenhaal), except she’s dating Harvey Dent. But who can resist that charming face, skintight suit, and all those cool gadgets?

Since this is Gotham City, criminal capital of the world, things do not stay nice for long; especially when the Joker teams up with the local mob bosses to bring down Harvey Dent and Batman.

When he is able to rattle Dent, his transformation into the villain Two-Face is both heartbreaking and realistic.

While this movie is nothing short of fantastic, it seems Batman took a backseat to both Dent and the Joker. It wasn’t as though Bale’s acting was bad (it never is), but he wasn’t on the screen that much, which is a shame for many reasons.

Despite that flaw, "The Dark Knight" is definitely see-again-worthy, even for the non-Batman fan (shame on you). It features great acting, those awesome battoys (like the Batmobile and Stealth Launch), great, albeit short, action scenes and beautiful live-action shots.

If I’m gushing too much, I do not apologize, for this is probably the best movie I have seen this year. So if you can stand a spot of movie violence (along with a bigger body count, minus the gore), this is a film you cannot miss.

I gave this film an A.

Dedra Cordle is a Messenger staff writer.

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