This *won’t* be yet another huge piece on The Dark Knight, though — I haven’t seen it again and am unsure if I will catch it in the theater once more, though it’s crossed my mind. But I will note two things in passing:
- If the truly massive success of a movie can be measured by how it percolates out into the culture, then more examples crop up all the time. This opinion piece from a Persian Gulf publication, itself noteworthy for being one of many pieces aiming to draw distinctions between a troubled American infrastructure and an allegedly much better setup elsewhere in the world, uses Hollywood and open-goal ‘dark night’ references as a hook. Entertainment Weekly got Diablo Cody to talk about her experience in seeing both The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia!, and if that doesn’t sound enticing…well, I’m not entirely blaming you. An LA Times blog piece on the replacement of a Mexican general in that country’s drug war mentions ‘the Dark Knight’ as a comparison point, an eyebrow raiser no matter how you look at it. Then there’s Jake Tapper talking with the two guys who are running for a certain political office this year…well, anyway, read on.
But perhaps the loopiest thing that’s cropped up was the discovery of a preschool book — one of several, it seems — that is listed as being ‘based on’ the movie. I can’t describe it, really — just read this post, and then follow the link back to this post. I openly wondered on ILE what the equivalent of the pencil trick was and someone responded, “A crayon trick.” Sounds about right.
- And while all this is going on, the film keeps making money — it’s not far from $450 million now in the US alone, and assuming that the predictions for crossing $500 million hold, as seems pretty much in the bag now, then it will be the US box office champ for the entire decade not only in the unadjusted ‘standard’ sense (which it already is — only Star Wars and Titanic are ahead of it now overall) but in the adjusted-for-inflation sense, having broken into the top fifty already, while passing Shrek 2 on that second chart for overall decade champ would place it in the top thirty. On that level alone, the film will now prove pretty damn well epochal, while at some point soon it will pass Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull as the biggest moneymaker in the entire world this year.
But what’s really interesting is back on that second chart there — within the next couple of days, The Dark Knight will surpass the adjusted-for-inflation total of Batman, Tim Burton’s 1989 film, and will become the absolute biggest Batman film of them all on any scale. When friends of mine who like me went through that 1989 experience first started seeing The Dark Knight, their reactions were incredibly positive but there was often a caveat in comparison to Burton’s first bow — sometimes conditionally, saying the earlier film was more entertaining overall, but otherwise noting that the earlier film just felt like a bigger event. Memory is what it is and I’d tend to agree, but the evidence is clear enough now that The Dark Knight really is that huge in comparison, an absolute monster that’s still not fully slowed up.
Again, this says nothing about it in terms of it as a work of art per se — as I said in my first post on the film, it was designed to be a massively successful tentpole film, and has it ever become one, hands down. But its contextual bleakness, its undercutting of audience expectations, its fraught if admittedly clumsy ending, makes it more and more remarkable the more successful it becomes, and my unease upon first viewing, while tempered by time and rewatchings, is no less absent for that reason. It has a near unique position now — and looking again at the adjusted-for-inflation list, once it gets to the top thirty there, what ahead of it even remotely approaches it on that level amid the other triumphalist entertainments in that top thirty? The Godfather? Doctor Zhivago? The Exorcist?
The only logical comparison in the end is really the least surprising, given that it’s already been made on the artistic front a number of times — The Empire Strikes Back. The chance of The Dark Knight besting it in the adjusted chart is nil, but it will be the closest runner up in terms of spirit, and even that said there’s no ‘true’ comparison if you stretch it out. Han Solo was briefly seen twitching and heard shouting, but he wasn’t pummelled and beaten for a long stretch on screen. Luke Skywalker was maimed but he didn’t spend the rest of the film showing seared flesh and bone, grotesquely corroded. And while Han Solo was frozen and spirited away, bait for a trap, he wasn’t kidnapped, left with a time bomb and slaughtered.
And all this from ‘just’ a tentpole effort.
Something remarkable has happened with the success of this film, as mentioned. What, though, is still unclear — but I’m still not fully at ease with the potential answers.
[EDIT — and as a final bonus, I remembered an old interview done with Christopher Nolan for Box Office Mojo back in 2005 and scrounged for it. It’s well worth a read, and while I don’t think it necessarily explains or predicts where things would end up with The Dark Knight, I do think it’s the best insight into Nolan as a filmmaker around yet.]