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Bumpy "Knight"

For what it’s worth, here’s my take on the greatest movie of all time . 

THE DARK KNIGHT

Already fans are declaring “The Dark Knight” the best film of all time. Well, I’m not even sure it was the best film released last week. True, so much hype and near unanimous critical raves can set one up for disappointment. But when I saw the film I was shocked by its murkiness, incoherence and downright tedium. I was a fan of Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins,” but for a film featuring a character called the Joker, this sequel was utterly humorless and self-important.

It starts out with a decent bank heist, but when the fake Batmen show up, and the pack of dogs and the perplexing cameo by Cilian Murphy’s the Scarecrow from the previous movie, I was not only confused but I didn’t care and I thought Christian Bale as Batman looked like he felt the same way. Then the back story about the mob laundering money and some guy from Hong Kong offering them a deal and Bruce Wayne’s company offering that guy a deal -- it was about as riveting as the trade tariff scenario in “Star Wars -- Episode II: Attack of the Clones.”

So much for Batman. It’s the late Heath Ledger’s The Joker that is the real draw. Showy and whimsical (that’s a funny magic trick with the pencil) it injects the film with much-needed vitality, chaos and comedy. After two and a half hours, however, Ledger’s reptilian lip-licking and skewed, sibilant line readings seem a little mannered. Certainly the basic plot pattern of the Joker taking hostages, offering Batman impossible alternatives, and cackling mirthlessly when everything blows up gets a little repetitious. It might not be an allegory for the War on Terror, but it sure tries to be as depressing.

Ledger was a great actor and if he gets an Oscar it will be the one he deserved for "Brokeback Mountain." But I can’t help being nostalgic for Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman.” He was funny and scary with great lines like, “This town needs an enema!” This movie needs one, too.

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