So, did Dark Knight deliver on the hype? I think it did, if it narrowly missed greatness. Heath Ledger's Joker was marvelous, a new interpretation of the character that continued the trend of more realist superhero movies. Gotham City in Christopher Nolan's films looks completely unlike the unapologetically stagy Tim Burton vision. In the new movie in particular, you can clearly recognize the city of Chicago, with just a touch of CGI to maintain a certain level of fantasy. Nolan's Gotham looks like what was once a city somehow overgrown with menacing buildings and class-dividing bullet trains. It's like his characters, who are once normal people but have been forced by extreme events to assume larger-than-life identities.
Ultimately I think that Knight falls a little short of Batman Begins, if for purely external reasons. Ledger was clearly intended to become a lasting part of the franchise, with one of his lines even announcing so. Unfortunately he won't now be able to appear in any more films, and that makes the lack of a satisfying showdown between Batman and the Joker in The Dark Knight an error which can't now be amended in another sequel. There was nothing particularly objectionable about the film's vision of Harvey Dent or Aaron Eckhart's performance, but the very heart of the movie was clearly the duality of Batman and the Joker. The movie wrapped up on the wrong set of themes.