In 2007, Christopher Nolan released the sequel to his moderately successful Batman Begins with The Dark Knight. The marketing was brilliant. The viral campaigns, the fake websites, the magazine releases, and the Joker graffiti invading nearly every mainstream pop culture website. It had blockbuster written all over it.
With the death of Heath Ledger (who just so happened to be the super villain) casting an immense shadow of mystery around the film, the movie turned from a wildly successful comic book movie into a full blown pop culture phenomenon. It smashed box office records and immediately became a global sensation. Has any superhero movie ever been more engrained in the hearts and minds of people who weren’t even into comic books before the movie? The phenomenal box office success of The Dark Knight turned on the green light for endless superhero properties that were on hold or simply not being considered.
Thanks to We Got This Covered, we get to take a peek inside Empire Magazine and listen to those directors who’ve been influenced by Christopher Nolan’s magnum opus.
“I like Chris Nolan’s Batman movies. It kind of makes me laugh because I got so much shit for being too dark and now, with him, it’s like, ‘Lucky you.’ But that’s the way it should be. I wish I hadn’t had to go through quite so much torture. They weren’t used to that mood then. Comic books were supposed to be light. I did what I wanted to do and it seemed different at the time. And what he did has become normal.”
“The success and quality of The Dark Knight was just as important for Marvel as it was for all the people involved in that movie. I look back at the summer of 2008 as a two-hander between Iron Man and The Dark Knight, and I think they both really announced, ‘Okay, this is not a fad, this genre is here to stay.’ After The Dark Knight, we didn’t fall into a trap of saying, ‘Woah, audiences like dark and gritty! Make Thor dark and gritty, make Captain America dark and gritty!’ But I think it showed how diverse these movies can be. I root for ever single one of the comic book movies that aren’t ours. I hope every one is great and when they’re not, it’s disappointing, because people don’t always make the distinction between DC and Marvel.”
“When I’ve watched The Dark Knight more analytically, as a filmmaker, I’ve noticed things that go against the way we’re supposed to do them. Like there’s music throughout that movie, yet they pull it right out during the really intense chase scenes and it has a strange effect of making those moments really grounded and believable and more exciting. It’s stuff like that that really sets it apart from other blockbusters. And I’m really pleased the movie was such a success because never again can a studio underestimate the audience.”
“The greatest villain of all time is The Joker – he always has been and I don’t know anyone who’s not going to have Heath Ledger’s performance burnt into their brains for the rest of their lives. And the thing about Chris that I admire so much is that he’s not afraid to talk up to the audience, rather that down to the audience. He makes a gorgeous film; he makes an elegant and intelligent film, and that’s the sort of thing that they didn’t used to do with the superhero genre.”
“What Chris did with that movie was he made our mythology mean something to us. Batman is no longer a man in a suit. He’s us. But it’s not a repeatable thing, as far as tone and mood go. The Dark Knight Rises can be that again, but other superhero movies can’t because they don’t have the balls. That tone is transcendent. That’s a movie anyone can see and say, ‘I understand that mythology instantly’.”
“I think audiences, especially at that particular moment in time, were facing a certain reality check. Foreign wars, a crumbling economy – and the actor who played the villain met a really, premature, tragic death before the movie came out. All of those things combined to make a very zeitgeist film. I referenced it all the time during the making of Apes, in terms of my hopes for people understanding the idea was to make a film that really dealt with our world. Warner Bros. has done a huge amount, especially with that particular film and Christopher Nolan, to make other studios give other filmmakers the opportunity to tell really intelligent, well thought-out character dramas on that kind of scale.”
Like John Carpenter’s Halloween, The Dark Knight is a genre film that surpasses the genre and stands alone not as a great comic book movie, but simply a great movie.