Batman fans dress up as the Joker outside the first showing in Vancouver. Photo posted on Flickr by "Corsiworld".

The latest chapter of the flying rodent-man's adventures, Batman: The Dark Knight came out in North America and Hong Kong on Friday. The release pulled in record audience numbers, even beating Star Wars III.

The film looks set to break all the records. It's already garnered $155.3 m (almost €100m) in its first weekend at the cinema - the biggest amount the American box office has ever seen.

Christopher Nolan directed a brilliant cast including Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Christian Bale of course, who once again slipped into the skin of Gotham City's millionaire hero. But the starring character of this Batman was not the man himself, but his arch enemy the Joker, whose return was announced at the end of the last film, Batman Begins. As cynical and deranged as always, he brings a dark side to the story. But he also brings great interest from the public. Actor Heath Ledger, who played the part, took a lethal overdose just after filming came to an end. Warner Bros. admits that this rather morbid anecdote has its part to play in the success of the film.

Extract from the film

"The best superhero film in history"

Julie is a Canadian Batman fan from Quebec. She runs the blog "Machins choses et petits rien".

I took advantage of some rainy-day holiday time yesterday to spend my afternoon in an absolutely packed auditorium.

I had high expectations of The Dark Knight. I loved Batman Begins and I'm always worried about the continuation of films I like being bad. This time, it was different. The direction and fabulous delivery (...) sent us even further into Gotham City, creating the best superhero film in history (and I'm not the only one to think it).

My biggest surprise was Ledger playing the Joker. I hadn't thought that this actor, who excelled in more ordinary roles, would be able to put on such a theatrical front. It was a performance that gave me goose pimples! The terrifying character that he created put amateurs in the same genre to shame. I only hope that they don't try to bring the Joker back with another actor for the third film. I hope we can trust the integrity of the whole team not to something in such bad taste.

My only complaint is that, even while captivated by the action, I did notice some mistakes in the editing. A particularly bad scene is when Wayne, as Batman, is speaking with his accomplice Fox. His voice hasn't been edited to fit Batman's personality, so he's got the wrong tone."

"It doesn't follow the simple route the other Batman films did"

Eric Mattina, who lives in Manhattan, New York, runs the blog "Eric's Movie Reviews".

I really didn't have high expectations for The Dark Knight, despite finding the trailer quite good. I was honestly not a fan of Batman Begins. But what sets The Dark Knight apart from any other superhero film, was its realism. The Dark Knight is an excellent superhero movie, which works beyond the realm of the super-hero genre and into the realm of a great crime film. It doesn't follow the simple route the other Batman films did (which isn't a negative; just a different approach). It's dark and dramatic - the Joker's origins aren't explained by a toxic accident like in the other Batman films. Instead, we're always left wondering how the Joker came about - who is he? Which of the stories about his scars, which are always different, is true?

Ledger is actually playing a sick criminal, whose theories about chaos are grimly fascinating. It makes me mad when I read reviews that compare Ledger's performance with Jack Nicolson's by badmouthing the latter. They are two completely different approaches to the story - Nolan's vision of the film is different from Burton's too. There's no need to suddenly act negatively towards the first two films. This is not the smooth and direct type of superhero tale that we've seen before. There is true and genuine chaos here, and there are moments where I really didn't know what the fate of these characters would be, right to the very end which takes a very impressive and dark turn."

"A very highly polished, well-oiled machine"

Geoff D is a designer from London. He currently lives in Hong Kong.

I've been dying to see this movie for a long time. What's amazing about The Dark Knight is that Ledger's performance will make you forget about the Jack Nicholson Joker (well, for the duration of this movie at least). That's not to say it's a better or worse performance -that's not the issue. No, this Joker is just different.

Even after two and a half hours I was still eager for more of Gotham City, I would gladly have sat through another hour. He [Christopher Nolan] has proved twice now that you can make a comic book movie that is grounded in realism yet still gets the pulses racing.

This really is a great movie on many levels. The story, the visuals, the acting -everything is of the highest standard and the whole thing feels like a very highly polished, well-oiled machine. This is really what going to the cinema should be about, and a movie like this should surely silence any doomsayers who predict the death of cinema at the hands of home entertainment."

Amateur videos and parodies

Posted on YouTube by "atticus27".


Posted on YouTube by "NitestarProductions".

This 13 minute amateur clip calls itself "The Bridge between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight", and appears on the site Dark Knight, set up "by Batman fans for Batman fans".