It was Joker's Wild at the box office as Warner Bros.' "The Dark Knight" reigns supreme as the king of Hollywood's box-office superheroes.

"The Dark Knight&quot...

It was Joker's Wild at the box office as Warner Bros.' "The Dark Knight" reigns supreme as the king of Hollywood's box-office superheroes.

"The Dark Knight" took in a record $158.3 million in its first weekend, topping the previous best of $151.1 million for "Spider-Man 3" in May 2007.

The records began to fall after midnight Friday, as "The Dark Knight" earned $18.5 million from the midnight showings, topping the previous high of $16.9 million for "Star Wars: Episode III The Revenge Of The Sith."

It then set another record with $67.9 million for its opening day on Friday, besting the $59.8 million mark also held by "Spider-Man 3."

The opening day grosses for "The Dark Knight" exceed the 2005 weekend haul of "Batman Begins," which brought in $48.7 million.

Millionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and his alter-ego, the Batman, continue their seemingly-endless effort to bring order to the city of Gotham, with the help of Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldham) and newly elected District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart).

However, a new psychopathic criminal known as The Joker (Heath Ledger) appears on the scene and creates havoc among the local crime syndicates.

From robbing banks of millions of dollars to challenging Batman to reveal his face, The Joker makes his presence known throughout this entire film.

There is an inner turmoil between Wayne and Dent over Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), as she is now on the arm of Dent.

Within the multitude of explosions, car chases and fist fights, it becomes the ultimate agenda for Batman to put a stop to the maniacal rantings of The Joker.

I predicted in our newsroom for weeks that "The Dark Knight" would soon surpass "Iron Man" as the blockbuster film of the summer. While it was nice that "Iron Man" held that title for the past few months, it was just biding time until "The Dark Knight" came out, and wow, has it come out!

Christian Bale has done a tremendous job as the Caped Crusader, giving him a a nice mixture of cockiness and righteousness. I wasn't sold on him at first, but his Batman is better than Val Kilmer and George Clooney.

Then there is the true star of this movie -- Heath Ledger. He basically steals every scene as the Joker and was cheered by everyone in the theater whenever he appeared. He brings a downright evil to this Joker, and is totally unpredictable. You never know when he is going to appear, but when he does, it's magic. From the opening bank robbery to appearing before the mob to hanging Dawes out the window to disguising himself as a nurse, the Joker is flat-out psychotic and makes this movie. It's a shame to have lost Ledger when he finally got the role of a lifetime. Oscar voters: please give him an Academy Award posthumously.

The rest of the cast is talented and star-studded, to say the least. Aaron Eckhart does his Harvey Dent/Two-Face character very well. His stand on righteousness in the beginning, along with being Wayne's rival for Dawes, only leads up to his bizarre twistedness at the end.

Gyllenhaal is a good choice for Katie Holmes as Wayne's love interest, Dawes, as she shows more sensitivity towards Wayne while keeping him at bay.

Michael Caine as Bruce Wayne's loyal butler Alfred is solid as ever, as well as Morgan Freeman as the CEO of Wayne Enterprises. Gary Oldman does a fabulous job as Lt. James Gordon, who remains Batman's ally in his quest to take out the Joker.

Granted, this film is quite lengthy at close to three hours, but time does go by quickly if you allow yourself to be taken in by everything that is simply awesome with this film. The pacing is fine as far as I'm concerned, as there are equal amounts of Joker to keep you interested in what he is up to next.

With four out of four stars, "The Dark Knight" is going to be a hard bat to follow.

"The Dark Knight" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and some menace. Running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Last week's No. 1 film, Universal Pictures' "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," toppled down to No. 5 with $10 million -- its ten-day total now at $56.4 million.

Falling one spot from No. 2 to No. 3 is Sony Pictures' "Hancock" with $14 million. The Will Smith action hero film is closing in on $200 million mark with $192 million in three weeks.

Disney/Pixar's "WALL-E" ventures from No. 4 to No. 6 while adding $9.8 million to its month-long total of $182.5 million.

Warner Bros. "Get Smart" is still smart with moviegoers despite slipping three spaces to No. 9 this weekend with $4 million. The Steve Carrell comedy has taken in $119.5 million over the past five weeks.

Rounding out the top ten at No. 10 is Paramount Pictures' "Kung Fu Panda" with $1.7 million. With a seven-week total of $206.5 million, "Kung Fu Panda" is the highest grossing children's movie this summer.

For more information and show times, contact Regal Cinemas Marketplace 24, 180 Mill Rd., Oaks, at 610-666-6697.

Dennis J. Wright can be reached at dwright@phoenixvillenews.com.

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