As moviegoers file into theaters for the opening of "The Dark Knight," one question may linger in the back of their minds.
Is Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker - his last complete role before the young actor's death - really all that the critics have cracked it up to be?
"It's good. Really good," said Christina Closs, an associate at the Whitaker Center box office in Harrisburg. Closs watched a staff premiere of the film at the Center's IMAX theater on Tuesday.
"This one is a totally different flavor of Batman," said Closs, who has seen all of the major films based on the DC Comics character. "They put a new spin on The Joker. And Heath Ledger's acting is just beautiful."
The film has generated quite a buzz since late January, when Ledger was found dead at age 28 from an accidental drug overdose. Movie bloggers have even speculated that Ledger's performance could earn him an Oscar nod. The result has been a "Dark Knight" movie campaign that seems to tout The Joker more than Batman himself.
"I'm a fan of the movies. I'm a fan of Heath Ledger. It's scary - I don't even think the guy in this film looks like him," said Lori Kirchner, a manager at Penn Cinema who attended an early staff screening. "I think people are very curious to see what The Joker is like in this one."
Pre-opening ticket sales may be an indicator of that. According to MovieTickets.com, the movie has sold more than twice as many advance tickets as past summer hits "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" and "Spider-Man 3."
"This, by far, will be the big one this summer. That's what the box office hopes, right?" said Cathy Walton, a manager at Regal Cinemas in Lancaster.
As of Wednesday night, Walton said, Regal had sold 550 tickets to "Dark Knight." The first of four of tonight's midnight screenings already were sold out.
At Penn Cinema, 663 tickets - for more than three midnight showings - were sold by Wednesday night. And at Whitaker Center's IMAX theater, nearly all seats for both midnight and regular screenings already have sold out for the weekend.
The Batman phenomenon has sold more than just movie tickets. The Comic Store, on McGovern Avenue, has seen an increase in requests and sales for Batman-related paraphernalia.
"We're always reordering at movie time," employee Douglas Park said. He noticed a similar trend in sales with other recent comic-based movies "Iron Man" and "Hellboy II: The Golden Army."
"All the critics seem to be in love with these movies," Park said. "It's a good time (for) comic books."
And it's a good time for comic book fans. Self-described Batman fanatic Victor Myers, 21, will join the sold-out crowds at Whitaker Center. He ordered his tickets for the 11:59 p.m. Thursday night showing three weeks ago.
"I was not going to see the movie unless I saw it on IMAX first," said Myers, a senior at Franklin & Marshall College. "I want the biggest and loudest screen possible."
And while Myers is more excited to see Christian Bale's performance as Batman than Ledger's portrayal of the Joker, he and friend Ben Sneeringer will pay a bit of homage to the infamous comic-book villain.
"I'll be wearing my Batman T-shirt," said Myers, "and Ben will be wearing The Joker."