It may seem odd saying it now(with the dismal critical/box office reception of the Justice League), but there was a time when DC was churning out better films than Marvel with The Dark Knight being DC’s proverbial Citizen Kane. That film, which released on July 18, 2008 went on to break box office records and even won multiple Academy Awards including Best Supporting Actor for late actor Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. While the superhero film landscape has changed a lot in the last 10 years, there is no denying the legacy and impact that the Dark Knight has had on the industry.
Back in 2005, DC at the time pulled off an astounding turnaround of their film franchises with Batman Begins(almost a decade after Batman and Robin, and a year after the Dead on Arrival Catwoman). The film was a much more dark and serious film than its predecessors: Gone was the bright color palette, cheesy one-liners and yes, the batsuit nipples. In its place was a film that featured a more realistic tone, a villain(villains if you count Scarecrow) that wasn’t a retread from previous films and an ending which introduced the Joker had fans flocking to see the rebirth of Batman. It wasn’t long after release that Warner Brothers confirmed a sequel was in the works and the anticipation was already starting to build. In this pre-social Media age of 2007, there was little to no leaks from the set like today, where set photos are leaked all the time to various degrees of scrutiny. The most you could find on the Dark Knight was maybe a bad quality camera phone video recording of production demolishing Gotham Hospital(kinda hard to hide destroying a building).
After what seemed like forever, Warner Brothers released the first teaser trailer for the film in late 2007. I worked at a theater at the time as a projectionist and would make it a point to go into the theaters it was showing in to watch and listen to the audience reaction. The fact that the audience would immediately cheer at the end of the trailer shouldn’t be surprising now but it is when you consider the first teaser featured no footage from the film at all! It only featured audio clips from the film leading to the Batman logo being slowly destroyed. The first audio of Heath Ledger as the Joker was enough to have fans of the series salivating at the official reveal of the character, which we finally got a month or so later with the teaser poster(Why So Serious?) and the next trailer.
Shortly after those were released, however, Heath Ledger tragically passed away. In a situation that would be mirrored almost a decade later with Carrie Fisher and Star Wars, the fever pitch intensified as fans began to question if Ledger had finished the film and if they would be recutting the film (Yes and No, if you were still wondering). Fans were questioning how his death would affect the inevitable next film(There were some changes as the Dark Knight Rises Novelization has a scene in it with Joker in Arkham that of course was never shot) and some even went so far as to claim Ledger dove too deep into the character of the Joker so much that it eventually consumed him. All this talk(both good and bad, like the last one) brought even more people into the conversation which meant even non-Batman fans were wanting to see this movie. By the time July 18, 2008 came around everybody and their sister HAD to see the Dark Knight, and see if they did. The film obliterated its competition opening weekend and sat in the number one position in the box office for 4 consecutive weeks, breaking records every step of the way. It also became the first Superhero film to make over 1 billion dollars in the box office, which was no easy feat back then(some at the time thought it may even top Titanic).
I could go on forever about how amazing this film is, my favorite scenes (I can rewatch the interrogation scene over and over), my very small 6 degrees of separation I am to the movie(I know someone who knows someone who was in it), and the embarrassingly high number of times I’ve viewed this film in 10 years but I’ll instead direct you to the Rotten Tomatoes page, where after 10 years of countless reviews it is still sitting at a 94% fresh rating from critics and audience goers alike. Now, that to quote a certain someone, puts a “smile on my face”.
In the 10 years following the Dark Knight, we’ve seen some pretty hilarious Youtube videos based off the films(College Humor’s Badman and The Dark Knight: Not So Serious being some of the highlights for me), and many failed attempts to capture the essence and grit of this lightning in a bottle film by filmmakers(Insert DC Cinematic Universe Film name here). With that being said, It’s very likely we’ll never see another film come together in such a perfect storm like The Dark Knight did in our lifetime because it’s not only the film we deserved at the time, but it was definitely the one we needed.
What was your favorite part or memory of the film? Let us know and tweet me @cjcnov88 on Twitter. Let’s swap Batman stories!
Cohost of the Dave & Creech Show. All that and a bag of chips(Unhealthy ones please!)