The Dark Knight

Release Date: July 18, 2008

Movie of the Day for Thursday, September 6, 2007
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It's the Courtney Love style of make-up.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
1/31 Les Winan Absolutely fantastic. Lives up to and passes Batman Begins. All praise of Ledger is deserved, but Eckhart is the real surprise.
2/196 Max Braden Ledger is excellent and I loved the catch-22 theme. Some scenes lacked some needed music.
2/52 Sean Collier Believe the hype.
3/43 Kim Hollis Everything you can ever hope for in a comic-based film and more. In fact, it's more an excellent crime film. Heath Ledger's performance is for the ages.
4/21 Jason Lee A menacing, haunting exploration of morality and humanity.
14/98 David Mumpower Please put down your torches and pitchforks. I found some aspects of the movie brilliant, but it overreaches in a confusing, clunky climax that has at least two too many moving parts.

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A franchise in shambles. Such was the state of Batman at the end of the Joel Schumacher era. The point of no return was putting the caped crusader in a suit complete with nipples. No one needed to see that. In point of fact, no one wanted to see that and the box office numbers reflected it. In inflation adjusted numbers, Batman earned $412.4 million, Batman Returns earned $257.0 million, Batman Forever earned $277.0 and Batman & Robin earned $153.1 million. That's right. Shumacher's final atrocity earned $100 million less (40%) less than any of the previous three installments. So complete a disaster was the fourth Batman movie that it killed two careers - Alicia Silverstone and Chris O'Donnell's - and temporarily halted the forward momentum George Clooney had been building. Warner Bros. surveyed the carnage of their franchise and made the only appropriate evaluation. They nuked it from orbit. It was the only way to be sure.

Time passed. Wounds healed. Memories dissipated. Mr. Freeze himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, ran a successful gubernatorial campaign. Ocean's 11 put Clooney on a career trajectory oftentimes described as Cary Grant-esque. Eight years was deemed as enough time and distance from the Batman & Robin fiasco. Audiences might be willing to forgive and forget mistakes of the past as long as a modern update proved satisfactory. One belief was held in moral certitude, though. A fresh approach was needed and a brilliant, maverick directed was required to accomplish this task.

Enter Christopher Nolan. Having stolen headlines with his brilliant, pleasantly obfuscating work in Memento, Nolan had grown to be the It Director in Hollywood circles. All he needed was the right project to leverage his indie-honed sense of purpose into mainstream movie blockbuster success. He was faced with a decision upon three very different choices. He could continue the Batman story from where it left off, an option no one preferred. He could fast forward to a dystopian near-future and implement the recently created world of Batman Beyond, an intriguing premise that will occur some day in a movie theater. Or he could do what no movie or television show based upon Batman had ever done. He could show the evolution of a man named Bruce Wayne into a deeply tormented, righteous crusader who created a makeshift costume in the shape of a bat. This latter scenario allowed for Nolan to put his stamp on the character in a way that had never been done before, so he was readily drawn to it.

The results went beyond best case scenario. In a day and age where all movies, particularly action titles, open well then disappear from theaters, Batman Begins managed a respectable $48.7 million opening weekend, but the true demonstration of its popularity was in its lasting appeal as well as the critical and viewer consensus that it was a cinematic triumph. Batman Begins earned $205.3 million domestically, $371.9 million worldwide, and merited a Rotten Tomatoes score of 84%. Immediately hailed as one of the best comic book adaptations ever, Nolan's work completely undid the carnage accidentally left in the wake of Batman & Robin. Greatness was achieved, a franchise re-secured. Best of all, a sequel idea was hatched at the end of Batman Begins.

Fast forward to now, and audiences are clamoring with anticipation to see what Nolan does for an encore. We know that his next film, The Dark Knight, re-introduces the ultimate villain in the land of comics, The Joker. The trick here is that unlike the Batman re-boot, Nolan faces a difficulty in that the iconic character was already performed brilliantly by Jack Nicholson in 1989. Almost two decades later, will audiences readily accept someone else in such an iconic role?

Nolan believes that they will, but the key lies in the way he will implement The Joker. The laughter will be dialed down. Mankind's innate fear of clowns will be dialed up. Way up. The Joker looks like a victim of Nip/Tuck's Carver. His mouth has been brutalized, an example proving the rule. A picture tells a thousand words. After decades of cartoonish Blam!, Ka-Pow! and Bort! action sequences, the director went an entirely different way. He embraced the Frank Miller ideal for the character of Batman - that he was a fucked up vigilante loner driven by demons even he doesn't understand, while he fights in a world where 9/11 would be the type of catastrophe people like The Joker attempt every day. This more adult Batman is not family friendly, perhaps limiting the box office appeal from attaining Spider-Man heights. He is, however, engaging and novel in the current realm of cinema. A clash between Batman and The Joker, matter and anti-matter, should make for not only financial success for the project but also one of the most memorable movie duels since John McClane matched wits with Hans Gruber.

There is no project on the 2008 schedule that excites BOP more than The Dark Knight. (David Mumpower/BOP)

May 17, 2008

All of the above is still true, but the situation has been complicated by the tragic death of Heath Ledger. With the actor portraying the comic book's iconic villain no longer alive, the circumstances surrounding The Dark Knight now parallel The Crow. That movie was a shocking financial success relative to expectations, partially if not primarily due to the macabre interest created by Brandon Lee's accidental death on set. Heath Ledger was already a much more famous actor than the man best known as Bruce Lee's son, and The Dark Knight as a project dwarfs The Crow in terms of scope. The situations are otherwise similar, and BOP expects a similar impact in terms of movie appeal for what was already a juggernaut release. The Dark Knight will be one of the three biggest releases of the summer, and Ledger may receive a shocking amount of end-of-year awards attention posthumously. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for The Dark Knight
Main Cast Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Morgan Freeman
Supporting Cast Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Eric Roberts, Anthony Michael Hall, Nestor Carbonell
Director Christopher Nolan
Screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Distributor Warner Bros. Pictures
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site
Rating PG-13
Screen Count 4,366
Awards Awards page for The Dark Knight
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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