For all the hype that there has been for this movie, I don't think The Dark Knight is going to change anyone's life. As good as it is, The Dark Knight is not the perfect film, it will not send you to Nirvana, and it won't inspire transcendent epiphanies about the meaning of life. I mean, it's a superhero movie. It's based on a comic book that we've all either read or at least know about from it's nearly 80 years worth of existence.
That said, it's really freaking good. Not so good that I would wait in line for hours out in the rain to get tickets, but still the kind of good that makes a grown man want to gush about it with his friends immediately afterwards.
I don't want to talk too much about it because I don't want to ruin the experience for anyone. Basically, it was everything you liked about the last Batman movie - in all of it's dark, brooding, kick-ass glory - plus Heath Ledger as the joker.
Now that I think about it, the Heath Ledger playing the Joker thing actually does live up to the hype. He was great. That's really about all you can say. He was great.
Having seen all of the Batman movies, watched the cartoons and read a healthy portion of the comic books, this was the first time that the Joker has ever felt dangerous. In this movie, the Joker is the kind of guy whose craziness never really gets explained but in watching the way the character acts you know that there's an explanation buried somewhere. All of the nuances, the little character ticks, and the creepy moments that are still somehow funny make the performance so much fun to watch.
Also, let us not forget that the stunts and special effects were awesome. Combine that with some beautiful shots of Gotham (played by the city of Chicago) and you have some compelling movie-making.
The movie does include conceits about terrorism and power and the proper way of dealing with crime and violence. There's even a moment where we get to ponder whether or not it's morally just to spy on the entire city of Gotham using their cellphones (the answer is a 'yes, but only this one time'). There wasn't enough there to really develop a lesson, though and really this felt more like a framework on which to hang character motive and awesome action sequences than it did a definitive statement on society.
At the end of the day, it's a summer blockbuster. This is not a knock against the movie. I loved it. I may see it again. But people have been acting like it's the second coming of Movie and it's not. It's just a lot of fun.
Solid performances with solid stuntwork and solid storytelling. Go see it.