ABU DHABI // Hyped beyond belief and setting box-office records around the world, The Dark Knight - the latest Batman film - hit cinemas in the country in the early hours of yesterday morning. When audiences emerged from the packed screenings, early indications were that the latest caped crusader film is on course to be a box-office smash in the UAE.
The first showings started at midnight yesterday, and fans, mostly young men in their teens and 20s, left cinemas exhilarated but a little bleary-eyed shortly before 3am. One Emirati fan was so engrossed during a screening at an Abu Dhabi cinema that he exclaimed, "No! Not the car!" when a Lamborghini crashed in the film. Another Emirati fan, Maktoom Mazrouei, 23, a policeman, was full of praise for the performance of Heath Ledger, the late Australian actor, as arch-villain The Joker.
"The scenes with The Joker, in particular, were the best," said Mr Mazrouei. "He was very, very good - as good as everybody said he would be. "I was waiting for two months to see this - a long, long time. It was worth the wait, I think. "The scenes at the end were particularly good. I was waiting and waiting to see what the characters would do, to see if they had a conscience or not." Shariq Madani, a moderator on the UAE film website wearethemovies.com, was at the 1am screening at the giant Imax cinema in Dubai.
"When it started, with the first big scene that is filmed in Imax quality, the detail on the images and the sound were remarkable," said Mr Madani, 28, from India. "I have never experienced anything like it at the cinema. "It is a relentless, unforgiving film. But what I did not expect was for the Batman films to be turned into a crime saga, which this film does - successfully. "There are also direct lifts from the Batman comic books, which, for fans like me, makes you as pleased as crazy.
"The best thing about it is that you did not see the actors. All you saw was the characters. Heath Ledger's performance is so good it overshadows the whole movie. "When I was driving home afterwards, I was thinking, 'Is it a great movie?' I thought no, it is only a good movie. But now, the more I think about it, the more it is growing on me. It is timeless - you could still go back in 10 years and enjoy it."
Since opening in North America last week, The Dark Knight has broken several records, earning an unprecedented US$158 million (Dh580m) in its first weekend, and US$203m worldwide in its first five days. The first screenings in Dubai and Abu Dhabi were sold out, with spontaneous applause at key moments and during The Joker's most outrageous scenes. Ammar Jamal, an Emirati student, 23, attended a screening of the movie in Abu Dhabi.
"I saw plenty of trailers and was looking forward to it a lot," he said. "The Joker is particularly good, he was a complete psycho, like everyone said. But for me, I expected more action in the film. I felt there was not quite enough." Not everyone was effusive in their praise, however, including Anders Elgard, 34, a Swedish IT consultant who saw the film with friends in Dubai. "People were expecting so much, and I took the day off work so I could see it at midnight," he said.
"It was a disappointment - The Joker is the best thing about it, no one else has done what he has done. "But it was very long, so when it was almost 2am I almost wanted to sleep. It is a good idea to see it in the day instead, I think. I probably prefer Batman Begins." All but one of today's Imax screenings of The Dark Knight were sold out by yesterday, but there were tickets available for tomorrow.