Warner Bros. Pictures
Christian Bale stars as Batman in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures action drama "The Dark Knight," which grossed $158 million in its first three days.

Move over, Spider-Man, there's a new costumed sheriff in town. Or a new caped king atop the box-office throne. Or what have you ...

Unless you were off the planet last weekend, you were surely inundated by the stories about the stunning success of "The Dark Knight," the follow-up feature to the 2005 hit "Batman Begins."

In the United States alone, "Dark Knight" captured $158 million in its first three days of business, bettering last year's record-breaking "Spider-Man 3" by more than $7 million. (The Spidey-sequel had a one-year reign at the top.)

The movie also shattered existing records for midnight showings ($18 million) and opening-day grosses ($67 million), and given the good audience word-of-mouth, it will break a few more records before it's done. It is clearly the film to beat in 2008, though it has a long, long way to go before it hits the $600 million pinnacle of "Titanic."

However, I do have a few reservations about "Dark Knight" — primarily because I think that the film probably should have received an R rating, rather than the supposedly more family friendly PG-13 it got from the MPAA.

And it's not that the movie is particularly graphic in terms of violent content. In fact, the camera cuts away a few times before something very horrifying is shown.

However, it's the nature and intensity of the violence that gives me pause. There is some very disturbing violence that is at least alluded to here.

And then there's Heath Ledger's stunning but creepy portrayal of the villainous Joker. That criminal character can be seen in considerably different form in Saturday-morning cartoons.

Still, it is a fine movie (I did give it a four-star review, after all). And it will be interesting to see how its success will affect comic book-based movies that follow in its wake.

HMMM ...

There's already an interesting theory about the rather conniving character played by actor Joshua Harto in "The Dark Knight."

(I won't spoil anything for those who haven't had the chance to see the movie, but for those who have, he's the Wayne Industries attorney investigating company finances.)

Harto's character is named Reece. Or Mr. Reece. Or perhaps that should be "mysteries."

Bat-fans may remember there's a villain character in the comic books who is obsessed with puzzles and riddles, namely the Riddler.

Before you scoff, just remember that in the comics, the Riddler's alter-ego is, ridiculously enough, Edward Nigma. Or E. Nigma. Groan!

NOW I'M NOT A CASTING DIRECTOR, BUT ...

I do know this: "Dark Knight" co-star (and Brigham Young University graduate) Aaron Eckhart would be perfect for the role of the Marvel Comics character Captain America.

Eckhart's intense performance in the Bat-sequel should allay any doubts about whether he could play that more-heroic role — a movie project is currently in development, by the way.

He also has the right jawline and would certainly a better choice than Leonardo DiCaprio, who's been rumored to be on a casting short list.

Don't get me wrong, DiCaprio is a fine actor. But he seems a little "wimpy" to be playing a leader of men or an action hero.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com