This week, The Dark Knight is ten years old. Few films, especially in this genre, stand the test of time as well as Christopher Nolan’s take on the caped crusader. Released a couple of months after Marvel’s breakout hit Iron Man, The Dark Knight proved to be a sensation in many ways. It was completely different from earlier Batman films. The film focused mainly on Bruce Wayne’s struggle about the fact that he is not as good as he always considered himself. It contains a villain who doesn’t want to start a new world order, but show the world that they are living in a lie. The film was dark, gritty and beautiful, which translated in the huge wins at the box office. Ten years later, the film is still relevant, and rightly so. But what makes The Dark Knight so important? Let’s take a look.
The film was risky from the start
Before The Dark Knight was released, superhero flicks had to contain certain tropes in order to be satisfactory. You had the good guys and the bad guys. In the end, the good guys would always win. That was what the audience expected and that was what they mostly received. Christopher Nolan took a great amount of risks in the creation of The Dark Knight, risks that probably would not be accepted today. His version of Batman shows a character that is struggling to overcome his own demons. For a long time, he believed that he was doing the right thing, until he broke the law he vowed to protect.
The Dark Knight is gritty and dark. It introduced a version of the Joker whose sole purpose was to wreak havoc. The film showed that these superhero films could also have depth, instead of only action. One of the most clear examples of this is the interrogation scene. Yes, Joker gets thrown around like a rag doll. But it also shows that Batman is powerless, which is something we weren’t used to seeing from a character like this. Nolan’s Batman was a far cry from the one in the comics, yet it all worked out.
One of the things that make The Dark Knight so good is the Joker. Even after ten years, Heath Ledger’s version is still admired and preferred by fans. In many ways, Ledger’s Joker is still more threatening than Jared Leto’s in Suicide Squad. The latter portrayed a version of the character that was more comical. Ledger’s Joker is unobtainable and doesn’t have any weaknesses. Simply because there is nothing he truly cares about. For him it’s all a game and as the audience, we feel that this is a serious threat. After all, the ones who have nothing to lose are the ones who are most dangerous.
Ledger’s performance was extraordinary and showed off his range as an actor. This was all despite the fact that initial reaction to Ledger’s casting was far from positive. The studio was confused. Fans were outraged, especially considering Ledger had done Brokeback Mountain, which was a controversial film. Nolan stuck to his guns and rightly so. Ledger crushed the role. Unfortunately, he passed away six months before the release of the film. Rumour had it that his method acting made him depressed. These claims were denied by his family. Despite all of that, Ledger deserved the posthumorous Oscar he won as the best supporting role. After all, he made the character even more iconic than Jack Nicholson had in the Tim Burton take on Batman.
Help from the internet
When the film was released, Youtube only existed for three years. Clips of the film appeared on the website, which prompted many of the earlier content creators to create parodies. Especially the interrogation scene as shown above was popular. But that was not all. The Dark Knight was the first film for which the marketing campaign made clever use of the internet. There was a scavenger hunt with people following left by the Joker. The campaign soon transcended the limits of the internet and appeared into the real world. Joker cards were left at comic book stores, which led to a website which promoted Harvey Dent’s election campaign. Soon, the website was defaced and fans discovered that they could remove pixels on the site.
This led to the reveal of the first public image of Ledger as the Joker. That wasn’t all. At San Diego Comic Con, dollar bills which were Jokerdized appeared. When fans followed the clues on the dollar bill, they were led to a great vantage point where they saw a phone number. When they called the number, they were lured into the Joker’s criminal conspiracy. The campaign lasted for eighteen months. It was the most elaborate and interactive marketing campaign ever for any film. And it paid off. It got fans excited and it hyped up the film beyond what any interview or poster could do.
It will live on
In ten years time, not a single superhero film has come close to the impact of The Dark Knight. Even those who never really liked superhero films delved into the world of Batman. And as Ledger’s version of the Joker will continue being cosplayed and admired, it is safe to say the film will continue to stand the test of time. No Batman film in recent years has even come close to the greatness of The Dark Knight. Even after all those years it is still a cinematic masterpiece.
What are your memories of The Dark Knight? Let us know!