Melbourne, July 20 : While Batman's latest big-screen battle looks set to top Spiderman as the highest-grossing comic book film, child experts have advised parents to keep children away from late actor Heath Ledger's 'The Dark Knight'.
Experts say that violence, menacing themes and Ledger's flesh-creeping Joker push the film into adults-only territory, for it could seriously disturb children.
"Parents who take their kids along to this film are under-rating the kind of impact it will have," theage.com.au quoted children's media analyst Lee Burton, as saying.
"The dilemma for parents is that every other child at school is going to see it, but really they have to be firm and simply say no. It's not so much the violence, it's the impact of watching someone like the Joker who obviously is immoral, who glories in evil and loves cruelty. That's what children remember and worry about and have nightmares about," he added.
Directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale as Batman and the late Ledger as the Joker, it is the darkest of the Batman films and a long way from Adam West's camp caped crusader of the 1960s TV series.
'The Dark Knight,' which has been rated 'M' by the Classifications Board, is not recommended for children under 15.
The Classifications Board noted the disturbing impact of having a main character with a grotesquely disfigured face.
Despite its concerns, the board opted for an advisory M rating rather than the tougher MA15+, which restricts kids from seeing the film except in the company of a parent or guardian.
"Throughout the film there are frequent action sequences which include explosions, car chases and crashes, machine-gun and shot-gun fire and stylised fight sequences," the board's report states.
"In the board's view the stylised and implicit nature of the visuals and the 'fantasy' storyline serve to mitigate the viewing impact of the violence," the report added.
Classifications Operations Branch project officer Claire Bowdler said that an M rating indicated violence that was moderate in viewing impact.
"The consumer advice for Dark Knight indicates the element that pushed this film into that next category was violence," she said.
"That tells you that all the other elements in the film like sex, language and nudity are PG, but it was the action violence that pushed it up into the M level. We say it's not suitable for people under 15; however, it's up to the parents' discretion," she added.