Weekend Forecast for July 18-20, 2008

By Reagen Sulewski

July 18, 2008

He'd probably be fine if someone would just give him a hug.

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There's technically still a lot of summer left to go, but you could forgiven for thinking that for most purposes, the summer movie season ends this weekend. It's got the final bona fide tentpole of the season, and the last chance at records, and one of the last chances for fanboys to experience that opening weekend rush feeling.

The Dark Knight is the second film in the reboot of the Batman franchise, following 2005's Batman Begins. In this outing, Batman faces his most notorious and dangerous villain, The Joker, played here as a psychotic anarchist hell-bent not on so much on killing the Batman as destroying him, turning him to his side. As realistic a movie can be about a billionaire crime fighting vigilante, it's the most realistic take on The Joker yet.

Almost all the principals return for this film, including Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Gary Oldman as James Gordon, Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, with Maggie Gyllenhall swapping in for Katie Holmes. Additions this time around include Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent and of course, Heath Ledger as The Joker.


As we're probably all aware, Ledger tragically died from a prescription medication overdose this winter, which some blamed on the intensity of his performance and the demands of the role. It's always seemed a bit fatuous as an explanation to me, but it does add some poignancy to the film, and has jump-started Oscar talk for his performance. As unusual as it would be for a comic book film to garner this kind of talk, it doesn't seem impossible. Even the makeup seems more appropriate, with the messy, unhinged look being perfect for the role..

As a continuation of Christopher Nolan's gritty take on the comic, The Dark Knight looks like it not only makes it to the fireworks factory, it takes place in it. Saving The Joker for the second film now takes on the appearance of a masterstroke, as after the debacle of the Schumacher movies, audiences needed at least one great film in the series to warm back up to it. Blowing the series' best villain on that film would have been a mistake. In another bit of gimmick, parts of the movie were filmed for IMAX theaters, 96 of which will host a special enhanced version of the film. The $48 million opening weekend of Begins looks to be obliterated, with the only real question being how high it can go.

In the lead up to the film's release, it's been assumed that younger demographics would be left in the cold by the intensity of the film. This is undoubtedly still true, but hype has gone to such ludicrous levels that almost any number is plausible. Midnight screenings are sold out, by and large, and the 4,366 venues it starts in is an all time record, besting the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie. For this release, I think we're looking at a monumental $122 million opening weekend.

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