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Ledger’s Joker stokes ‘Black Knight’

The man in black is back. And most movie critics, along with theater owners, are glad that he is.

We’re talking, of course, about Batman as he is portrayed in “The Dark Knight,” Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to his 2005 film “Batman Begins.” “The Dark Knight” opens today on more than 4,300 screens.

Of course, the film’s biggest draw is Heath Ledger. The actor, who died Jan. 22 of an accidental prescription drug overdose, takes over the role of The Joker.

And his performance, to some critics, is worthy of an Oscar.

“Ledger’s performance outshines all others,” wrote Rick Bentley, of McClatchy Newspapers.

“This is said not in sentimental reaction to Ledger’s death in January, after the film had finished shooting. Ledger makes an acting transformation that is complete. It is both a brilliant and sad reminder of the work he could have done.”

To others, Ledger enhances what is an already superb production.

“(W)ith Ledger’s last performance director Nolan was blessed with the gift of light,” wrote the Orlando Sentinel’s Roger Moore. “As dark as ‘The Dark Knight’ inevitably is, this is a Batman who isn’t afraid to strut his stuff in broad daylight.

And this is a Joker who isn’t afraid to have a few laughs, in between murders, torturing, kidnapping and robberies.”

In the end, Nolan’s film manages to achieve the unusual: It’s an action film that surpasses its genre limitations.

“ ‘The Dark Knight’ is dark, all right,” wrote Rene Rodriguez, of the Miami Herald.

“It’s a luxurious nightmare disguised in a superhero costume, and it’s proof that popcorn entertainments don’t have to talk down to their audiences in order to satisfy them. The bar for comic-book film adaptations has been permanently raised.”

Dan Webster can be reached at (509) 459-5483 or by e-mail at