Elements from two major Batman comic story arcs appear in the film: 1988's The Killing Joke and 1996's The Long Halloween. The Killing Joke, as one would imagine, is a Joker-based storyline that revolves around the psychotic clown trying to drive Commissioner Gordon insane intercut with scenes from his supposed origin that may or not be true. The Long Halloween takes a look at the early years of Batman's adventures in Gotham City, while retelling the origin of how Harvey Dent became Two-Face.
Christian Bale once again takes on the cape and cowl as the masked vigilante known as Batman. Being the second film in the series, Bale is clearly more comfortable with the role. Bruce Wayne is really three different people: an aloof playboy to the public; brooding and calculating in private; and the aggressive vigilante when wearing Batman costume. Bale navigates through the three personas effortlessly. While "the voice" is still greatly exaggerated, one can't argue its effectiveness at disguising his identity.
A good portion of the supporting cast from Begins returns in this film. Michael Caine is back as the loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth as well as Morgan Freeman returning as Lucius Fox, Batman's one-man technology & weapons resource. Katie Holmes does not return, however, due to her commitment on another film. The role of Rachel Dawes in this film was played by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhall may not be as beautiful as Holmes, but she certainly brings a better performance. The big star of the returning cast is Gary Oldman as Lieutenant Gordon, getting promoted to Commissioner in this film. I've said many times before, but I'll say again: the fact that this man does not have an Academy Award is a crime. Oldman's portrayal of a street-wise cop that rose through the ranks by paying his dues and doing the right thing is flawless, and he gets to be a bit more of a hero in this film than in any other Batman film. You can feel his struggles as a lawman that has to work within a corrupt system... a system that causes comes back to haunt him in the film's climax. Gordon is a cop that wants to do the right thing, but sometimes the right thing involves doing the wrong thing... and do the ends justify the means? By the film's end, Gordon has to choose between doing the right thing (telling the world about Harvey Dent's fall from grace) or doing what he feels is best for the city (letting Harvey die a martyr and allowing Batman to take the blame.) It's a difficult choice, and one that has repercussions leading into the third act of the trilogy.
Speaking of which, this review could not be complete without mentioning Aaron Eckhart and his