THE DARK KNIGHT (12A) (All major cinemas)
THE fact this eagerly awaited Batman Begins sequel is already setting box office records across the world is immensely gratifying considering it might just be the most intelligent and thought-provoking comic book hero movie ever produced.
Writer-director Christopher Nolan set such high standards when he first cast Christian Bale in the role of the Caped Crusader back in 2005 that one was just waiting for the critical backlash to greet his second foray into the legend.
Unbelievably, he seems to have exceeded those standards and is certainly garnering the kind of glowing reviews usually reserved for the most inspirational examples of arthouse cinema.
Fundamental to that praise is the reaction produced by Heath Ledger as The Joker and – to deal with one potentially obvious conclusion straight away – this seems to have little to do with the desire to praise an actor who met such an untimely, tragic end.
You really do get the feeling that Ledger would have received such plaudits even if he had been around to read them and it is worth remembering that the early buzz surrounding the work he was doing for Nolan was already incredibly positive before his shocking death.
The big debate now is whether the rules allow him to be nominated for an Academy Award which, if he won, would be the first posthumous Oscar to be awarded since Peter Finch won for Network way back in 1976.
All of which is a tabloid distraction from the most important aspect of Ledger’s involvement in The Dark Knight: he provides a mirror image, the perfect arch nemesis for the character of Bruce Wayne who, in his own way, is every bit as mixed up as the villain.
We found out a lot about Wayne’s childhood in Batman Begins and, entirely through dialogue, we learn just as much about the formation of The Joker here and the parallels are stark and compelling.
Therefore, the story is little more than The Joker coming up with various ways to place Batman, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and crusading District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) in moral dilemmas that are almost impossible to resolve in an heroic, satisfactory manner.
The fact that while creating such rounded, in depth characters, Nolan also manages to create at least half a dozen quite extraordinary action sequences is truly a mark of the man’s genius.
A new benchmark for the superhero movie has been set here and you suspect that, only if Nolan himself decides to return to these characters for a third instalment, will that mark ever be exceded by the genre.
STAR RATING: ****
ANGUS, THONGS & PERFECT SNOGGING (12A) (All major cinemas)
LOUISE Rennison’s successful series of teen novels are brought to the screen by Gurinder Chadha who was responsible for both Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice.
There is no apparent Asian twist to this tale of a 14-year-old girl who keeps a Bridget Jones style diary about her desperate attempts to get herself a boyfriend.
The heroine is played by talented newcomer Georgia Groome who is definitely a rising star to keep an eye on. But otherwise, this is a no go zone for males of any age and any female not between the ages of 12 and 15.
STAR RATING: **