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The Dark Knight

Reel Rating: 5 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace.
Released in Theaters: July 18, 2008
Genre: Action-Adventure, Comic Book, Thriller
Runtime: 152 minutes
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Eric Roberts, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Chin Han

Sex/Nudity: Some kissing and flirting. Some bikini-clad women. A couple who’ve been fooling around are interrupted.

Violence/Gore: Extensive violence, including explosions, fistfights, stabbings, and shootings. A thug is slammed face-first into a pencil that’s stuck in a table. Dogs are unleashed on victims, a thug has an explosive sewn into his body, a character is set on fire, live grenades are placed in the hands and mouths of hostages, two boats full of passengers are threatened with bombs. Plenty of artillery is shown, including knives and guns of all sizes.

Profanity: Mild, includes “balls” and “ass.”

Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 13 and older who like Batman or comic book movies. The intense action and violence is not for kids younger than 13.

Will Parents Like It? Yes, it’s one of the best movies of the year. Most of the characters are neither good or bad, but have elements of both. And of course, Batman, always wants to do the right thing, but in this movie, he’s really caught in the middle.

Review: Darker, grittier, and slicker than previous Batman films, The Dark Knight sets the bar high for comic book movies. Everything from the storyline to the characters to the stunning cinematography is tops. My one complaint is that at 152 minutes, it’s too long. Even my movie-happy butt got numb sitting through it. But it still wasn’t enough for me to give it less than five reels.

Directed by Christopher Nolan, the story centers on a reign of chaos taking place in Gotham City. Batman, a.k.a. billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), has been strangely quiet, as The Joker (a frightening Heath Ledger) and his thugs run rampant over the city, as evidenced by the first tense scene of a bank robbery. But there are other dark forces at work, as well: The Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy); Salvatore Maroni (Eric Roberts) and his crime syndicate; and an Asian syndicate, run by Lau (Chin Han).

None of these thugs want to cede power to The Joker, who’s ruthless and seems to enjoy killing just for the sake of killing. He’s one bad dude, and in this movie, we learn a little about the damaged childhood that made him that way.

There are copycat Batmans out there, as well, trying to “help out,” but getting hurt in the process. As Batman says to one, “I don’t need your help.” But things are spiraling out of control, because The Joker has vowed to make the streets run red with blood unless Batman reveals his true identity. Not an easy spot for the Caped Crusader to be in.

Working on the official side of things is Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). They’re doing their best to help Batman dismantle the bad guys, but there are lots of sub-plots at play, not the least of which is Dent’s relationship with Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, who’s got that great, old-time movie star persona). She’s a childhood friend and former flame of Batman’s, and he’s never gotten over her remark that they can’t be together unless he gives up trying to save the city.

Working with Batman is his treasured friend and, really, the guy who runs things, Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine). He and Christian Bale work perfectly together. Holding down the fort at Wayne Enterprises is Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). A few more notes:

Cinematography: This is one of the most visually stunning movies I’ve seen in a while. Great, clean shots of really cool architecture, both on the ground and from the air.

Music: Brooding heavy-metal soundtrack, that gets really tense during a few scenes. The music goes perfectly with the storyline, and made me hark back to another such film, There Will Be Blood.

Toys: Batman has some pretty cool toys, including a vehicle that gives new meaning to the term “armored car.”

Metaphors: I couldn’t help but draw parallels to The Joker and the madmen terrorists who plague our world. As Chin Han said, he truly is “a Joker for our times.

Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of. Kids 13 and older who like Batman or comic book movies will love this film; however, the intense action and violence is not for kids younger than 13.

Jane Boursaw is a family entertainment writer specializing in movies and TV. Visit her at Reel Life With Jane; follow her on Twitter; become a friend on Facebook; email jboursaw@charter.net.