It’s everything you’ve heard and read, and more.
I don’t remember the last time I was up until 3:30 a.m. We (me, my husband, my two kids, my mother, and my daughter’s boyfriend) arrived for the 12:05 a.m. showing at 10:00 p.m. By that time the center section of the large theater was nearly full, but seats were available in the back row — and that’s an excellent viewing location in a stadium setup.
Being in the back offered the benefit of protecting us from getting smacked in the back of the head by the beach balls that were flying around. Throughout the 2-hour wait, beachballs spontaneously appeared and disappeared like magic, passed up and down and around and bouncing off the ceiling until a theater attendant appeared (she confiscated 2 of them early on), vanishing for a while, and then making a sudden reappearance from under various seats.
A boy of about 8 spent much of the time fielding balls that made it all the way to the front of the theater, happily running back and forth through the neck-breaker rows and tossing the balls into the crowd. When it got close to midnight, a guy in the center stood up, quieted the crowd, and thanked the boy on behalf of everyone; the kid received a standing ovation and chants of “Kid in front! Kid in front!”
There were a couple of killjoys who popped the ball when it came to them or kept it and refused to play. We wondered what such un-fun people were doing at a midnight showing of a Batman film. The crowd reacted to them by chanting “You suck!” and then managing to come up with more beachballs, seemingly from nowhere.
At one point my mother went out to the restroom, and when she came back in, a beachball landed in her hands. The crowd of teens and 20-somethings was momentarily concerned; would this person of another generation stop the fun? But no: she whacked the ball back into action. Cheers erupted; her grandchildren were thrilled; and she was applauded all the way up the steps to her seat.
In addition to watching the beachballs fly, we enjoyed a panorama of Batman- and Joker-inspired clothing and makeup. Green hair and makeup abounded, as did cowls. One guy came dressed in a full-body Batman suit; another had a brightly colored utility belt of the kind featured in the original Batman TV show. Many people had Batman accessories; a guy in the back row stood up occasionally and held a batarang in front of the projector light so it accompanied the actions of the people in the pre-show commercials.
Yes, we were treated to 2 hours of an endless loop of repeating movie-theater ads. I believe we saw the loop 6 times. This led us all to wonder: here’s a packed, captive audience seeking movie entertainment. Why not compile every trailer for every possible upcoming movie, and show them during the wait? As it was, the time went fairly quickly; but I would have loved to watch an hour or two of previews.
The main event
The film is indescribably excellent. The cast are a stellar ensemble. Heath Ledger is phenomenal. For months I’ve watched every trailer and leaked scene, but they give no clue as to the actual power of his performance. He has several scenes in which he says and/or does things that are profoundly, mesmerizingly creepy.
Actors, plot, cinematography, effects, and soundtrack merged in a seamless flow that pulled me in and held me tight. I’m not going to detail the plot (because you should see it yourself) other than to say that yes, it’s a dark film, but not excessively so; and there were a couple of significant surprises. As the story twisted, turned, and neared its climax, I didn’t want it to end.
As we drove home, my husband had two questions for us: 1) Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. 2) Would I see it again? You’d better believe it. The next 3 days are booked, but I’ll be back as early as possible next week; and I’ll preorder the DVD from Amazon as soon as it’s available.
And why are you reading this? Why aren’t you in a movie theater? You should go. Now.