NORWALK, Ohio (July 2008) — Tension filled Premiere Theatre 8 as on-screen, the Joker (the late Heath Ledger) puts a knife in a gangster's mouth and tells the crime boss how the clown-like villain got the scars on his face.
That is the power of Ledger's chilling Clown Prince of Crime in "The Dark Knight" — terrifying, charismatic, methodical, random and hysterical, sometimes all at once.
Thanks to the Joker, the body count is high in the highly anticipated "Batman Begins" sequel.
In real life, there was another high body count, with two standing room-only midnight showings in Norwalk. Several fans sported Joker or Batman T-shirts.
One Monroeville resident, Alex Bird, put two small Batsymbols on her cheeks and wore a Batgirl Halloween costume, complete with a yellow utility belt and waist-length, black cape.
Very few people left the theater for refreshments or to use the bathroom during the 2 1/2-hour film.
The first 20 or so minutes after a daring bank heist coordinated by the Joker seem to drag. But director Christopher Nolan slowly and surely manages to grab one's interest as he tells a complicated story in which multimillionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) must face the consequences of taking on the criminal underworld at night as Batman.
Newly elected Gotham City District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) also has become a ray of hope and light for Gotham citizens as he passionately prosecutes the city's crime bosses. The police department has created a Special Crimes Unit, led by Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman).
Gordon is as assertive as he was in "Batman Begins," barking orders and doing what's necessary to take down the criminal element, including regularly contacting Batman by activating the Batsymbol.
Early scenes reveal that even the pettiest of thieves are skittish about breaking the law knowing the hero could be nearby. The overall situation sounds rosy, doesn't it?
Enter the Joker, considered a freak by other crime lords, who tells the gangsters that taking Gotham back over is simple: They must kill Batman. Soon begins a series of murders of everyday people and city officials that sends Dent, Gordon and Batman scrambling to figure where and how the killer will strike next.
The dynamic between Batman and the Joker resonates with the comics mythology. The Joker says he doesn't want to kill Batman since his sense of order complements his love of anarchy.
As fans watch "The Dark Knight," they'll probably be as excited about seeing what the Joker will do next as they will be about discovering how Batman will defeat him. Grade: A