Indeed, the bar has been set so high that anything less will be downright alarming.
At midnight last night, the stampede began when 1,700 sold-out cinemas were the first to show The Dark Knight to the public in the U.S. It premieres here on Monday before opening next Friday.
Tragedy: Actor Heath Ledger delivers a powerful performance in his role as The Joker in The Dark KnightAnalysts say more excitement has been generated than for any film in recent years since The Lord Of The Rings - cinemas report that bookings and inquiries are at a record high.
And the new Batman film is, for better or worse, being marketed almost entirely on the strength of the performance of the late Heath Ledger.
It is his face that has been painted on hoardings across the globe: the Joker looms on a giant billboard over Sunset Strip in Hollywood, and is plastered across London buses. He is the villain and yet the hero - Batman barely gets a look-in.
To sell the film so hard on the Joker might be considered ghoulish. Is it not in questionable taste, after all, to be pushing the film primarily on the talents of a young man who, according to gossip, found the experience of playing the role exceedingly disturbing, and was found dead shortly after filming was completed?
Following Ledger's accidental drug overdose death in January, producers Warner Bros certainly had a headache.
The panic was such that their first meeting on the subject took place on January 31, nine days after his death.
The initial thinking was that they would try to evade the Ledger issue and entirely redraw their £30 million marketing campaign to concentrate on Batman and on the other villain of the film, Two-Face.
But after a great deal of debate and, the Mail has learned, consultation with Ledger's family, the decision was made to sell the film on the Joker rather than on the Caped Crusader.
Last laugh?: The Dark Knight is being promoted as The Joker's filmAnd so it is Ledger's leering features, smeared with make up, which dominate the posters advertising the film, and Ledger who is in virtually every scene of the trailers.
He is also the one with the catchphrase 'Why so serious?' which is being busily printed on toys, T-shirts and lunch-boxes. Merchandising alone is set to make a further £30 million at least.
There is a 'good' commercial reason for Ledger's prominence: it emerges that licensing deals were signed prior to Ledger's death, and he had taken part in photo shoots in character which have permitted the manufacture of a huge range of items.
At the moment, they are at a premium: one retailer is offering a Joker action figure for a princely £45; the thinking is that they are collector's items of the future. rather decided emphasis. I think they are right to do so because it is a fantastic performance; it is the best thing in the film.'
Sources at Warners indicate that this did play on the minds of executives considering how to sell the film: if they backed away from Ledger, there was a worry that a black market trading in now-forbidden items would spring up.
'The fear was that the pirates would come out of the woodwork and then it's completely out of control,' said one executive.
The dilemma is not without precedent as Ledger is not, of course, the first star to die while working on a film. Robert Shaw, Natalie Wood and Jean Harlow all did. Peter Finch won an Oscar for Network following his death.
But it is a uniquely tricky situation as The Dark Knight is such a mass-market blockbuster.
'It's not an enviable position,' said Farrah Louviere, the former manager of worldwide promotions at Warner Bros who now works for the marketing agency Davie-Brown Entertainment. She says it is no surprise that Warners are pushing Ledger so hard.
Happier times: Ledger with his former fiancee Michelle Williams in 2006
'How do you take a character who's central to the entire plot of the film and pretend that he doesn't exist? I don't know how you do that and effectively market anything.
'I think it would have been a little more dark and a little harder for fans to grasp if his presence and his name were just overlooked in an attempt to be overly sensitive,' she said.
Leo Barraclough, of the entertainment trade magazine Variety, says: 'Warners seem to have gone back to that initial marketing plan with a rather decided emphasis.
'I think they are right to do so because it is a fantastic performance; it is the best thing in the film.'
And it must be conceded that the critics all agree that Ledger's performance is astonishing: a career-defining tour de force which is a world away from the camp sophistication of Jack Nicholson in the 1989 film.
'Ledger is so terrifying and unpredictable that his very presence on screen makes you horribly nervous,' one wrote. 'He preys on our fear and our sense of violation.'
Another observed: 'Ledger's work here is nothing short of revelatory - he takes the Joker beyond caricature of lore and portrays him as a psychotic criminal cipher.'
Every critic who has seen the film believes a posthumous Oscar nomination is a certainty. Both Michael Caine, who stars in the film, and its British director, Christopher Nolan, said at the New York premiere earlier this week that they believed he deserves to win.
Caine, who plays Batman's butler, said that he was so unnerved by the intensity of Ledger's performance that it sometimes made him forget his lines.
Ledger certainly was proud of what turned out to be his penultimate screen performance (he was filming Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus when he died.) He said his Joker was 'a psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy'.
Director: Christopher Nolan believes Ledger deserves an Oscar
Nolan said: 'If there was anything surprising about him, maybe it was how easy he was to work with. Because he was somebody who put so much into his performances I was a little worried he might take himself very seriously and all the rest. Yet he didn't. He was very warm and fun to have around - a great collaborator.'
Ledger drew on the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange for inspiration, and is said to have spent a month alone in a hotel room working on his character and voice.
Long before he died, his performance was being touted as his greatest. Who knows for certain what effect it had on him?
It is true that after filming, he complained of chronic insomnia, sleeping only two hours a night. He also seems to have got into the habit of knocking back prescription sleeping tablets.
Come January, those filming with him in London noticed he was physically in a very poor way. He died on January 22 in a New York apartment, having returned there for a break from filming.
An autopsy concluded that he had taken two different sorts of sleeping pill, two types of downer and two very heavy duty prescription painkillers. Death was ruled accidental, and caused by his 'acute intoxication'.
Ledger's family seized upon this finding as evidence that it was the combination of pills that had proved fatal.
They came en masse to the premiere in New York as a way of showing they are proud with the way that his final performance is assuming centre stage.
Final act: New York City Police carry the body of Ledger from his apartment in New YorkCo-star Christian Bale, who plays Batman, said: 'I know there are a lot of people out there who don't think this film should be shown.
'But if you're asking my opinion, I think that's bloody insane. I also think it's an insult to Heath and everything he stood for. I don't think anything should be cut - I think it's the film he wanted to make.
'The guy was brilliant. He was a fantastic actor and he put everything into this part. I absolutely know without question that he would have wanted everyone to see it.
'This is a celebration of what he did best - entertain people. Why would any actor not want that to be appreciated? I know he would have. The bottom line is it would be totally rude not to. Respect the man. This is what he did. This is what he wanted to do.'
Certainly, the Joker casts a long shadow. Warner Bros president Alan Horn said at the U.S. premiere that the event was ' somewhat bittersweet, because Heath Ledger is amazing as the Joker'.
He continued: 'I don't want to weigh it down with that, though. It's about the job that Chris Nolan and Christian Bale did too. There's an odd alchemy to this process - it's very difficult to get this sort of crescendo of quality, and we have that here.'
But Variety's Leo Barraclough says: 'Knowing what happened, you are left with a doubt about whether Heath Ledger was disturbed. It's impossible to say.
'The point is that he is so convincing as this psychotic force. The cruel dilemma for Warners is that the hottest actor in their film happens to be dead.'
• THE DARK KNIGHT is released in cinemas nationwide next Friday (July 25).