Since the The Dark Knight‘s unique marketing campaign took off over a year ago, the buzz for the sequel to Batman Begins has taken off to completely new levels. You couldn’t see a movie in the theater without seeing a Dark Knight trailer before it. With the constant bombardment of trailers and posters and overall hype, you might think that audiences would’ve become tired of the relentless advertising — if so, you couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Dark Knight has been in theaters for just over a week, has broken three major box office records (highest grossing weekend, highest grossing first day and earliest film to reach the $200 million mark), everyone is talking about it, and if you haven’t seen it, you’re considered odd.

The Dark Knight is set around a year after Batman Begins, and it quickly becomes evident that the caped crusader is still cleaning up some of the mess left behind from the previous film. Because the Joker only goes after mob bosses and other criminals, the new threat has been placed on the back burner. Only when Batman’s actions affect the Joker’s capers do the two cross paths and begin their fated conflict.

Lots of cynics believe the reason for the hype and success of The Dark Knight is Heath Ledger’s death, but when you hear people discussing the film, they talk just as much about the elaborate story, the action, the violence, the stunts, the twists and the movie as a whole, as they do about Ledger — and even then, they mostly mention his brilliant performance and his character’s maniacal actions, not his death. The Dark Knight has earned its success all by itself, not by the passing of one of its great actors.

I will go ahead and say the same thing about The Dark Knight that I said about Batman Begins three years ago — only with more emphasis: The Dark Knight is not only an amazing Batman movie, it’s an amazing Movie. Period. In fact, it’s so good that I would go so far as to call this one a film — not a movie. It is just as much artistic, emotional and beautiful as it is entertaining.

With The Dark Knight, director and co-writer Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, Memento, The Prestige) is at the very top of his game. When the Joker appeared in Tim Burton’s BATMAN, though the film’s tone was dark, he was not. The Joker was simply a gag-playing clown with dirty tricks up his sleeves. Nolan’s Joker is pure, plain evil. He doesn’t have a plan to take over Gotham. He’s an agent of chaos. He represents anarchy. Or, as Alfred (Michael Caine) puts it, “some men just want to watch the world burn.” Instead of seeking money or power, he delights in seeing what people do when placed in horrible positions. He wants to see where people draw the line in seeking the greater good.

Though The Dark Knight has received a PG-13 rating, it is not a family film. It is extremely dark, violent and even terrifying. It is not the family friendly Batman that Joel Schumacher created in the ’90s with Batman Forever and Batman and Robin — this is a new, gritty Batman. In essence, this is The Dark Knight.

If you haven’t seen The Dark Knight yet, what are you waiting for? Sure you’ve heard a lot about the story, the action, and maybe even the Joker’s brilliant magic trick, but you really have no idea for what you’re in store for. It’s a brilliant film without any downtime. And if you haven’t seen it on IMAX, now you have a reason to see it again. Throughout the film, Nolan filmed with an IMAX camera so that major action sequences jump and fill the entire massive screen — creating amazing effects.

No matter what, whether you’ve seen it already or not, watching The Dark Knight this week instead of any other movie is the best choice you can make.

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