Today I took my young nephew to see The Dark Knight.
He made me promise not to see it without him, and this was the earliest opportunity we both had to go. Eleven-year-olds have busy schedules, after all...
I've been a Batmaniac since I was six, so my judgement is a little clouded, but I have to say that as long as I live (and I plan to live forever) there will never be a performance to match that of Heath Ledger as the Clown Prince of Crime.
The Joker was always insanely, and sometimes even casually, brutal - I recall a moment in one of the Rogers/Englehart stories (Detective Comics 475 - The Laughing Fish) in which a henchman, in order to get Joker to explain his plan to the reader, asks 'What are you going to do, Boss?'
Joker, putting a fatherly arm around the goon's shoulders, tells him 'I have another matter to attend to, Blue-eyes', before pushing the hapless henchman under the wheels of a passing truck with the comment 'Mind your own business!'
Ledger, in this performance, recalls this effortlessly. His Joker knows he's insane, he knows he's a psychopath - but, not alone does he not care, he positively embraces the fact. He sees Batman as his 'other side', his raison d'etre, and revels in the challenge of bringing both him and Gotham to their knees.
Not to take anything away from the rest of the cast - Christian Bale once more manages the dual role of Bruce Wayne/Batman with almost effortless ease, while Gary Oldman's Jim Gordon, a world-weary cop suddenly thrust into the top spot, is spot-on.
Maggie Gyllenhall, for me, was better in the role of Rachel Dawes than Katie Holmes, but that's a matter of taste.
Michael Caine's Alfred and Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox (two actors who deserve Academy Awards by default) remain pivotal characters in the world of the Caped Crusader, as well as moral compasses for Bruce Wayne and Batman, respectively.
And then there's Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent.
A dynamic, righteous crusader for justice, new Gotham District Attorney Dent finds himself driven over the edge when brutally scarred in his pursuit of the Joker. Eckhart brings a credible pathos to the role most recently camped up by Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever. I hope we'll be seeing him again...
Michael Caine, when asked to comment on the possibility of an Oscar nod to Ledger in next year's awards is reported as saying that if there's a better performance than this in a movie this year, he'd pay money to see it.
I bet my nephew does as well...