Is The Dark Knight…Dark?

Move over Spider-Man as Batman is now the superhero of choice at the box office. The Dark Knight set a new record for best opening weekend, raising an estimated $155.34 million dollars to beat the $151.1 million dollars earned by Spider-Man 3 last year. The Batman sequel also broke two other box office marks previously held by the third Spider-Man movie – best opening day performance collecting $67.85 million on Friday and best IMAX debut with $6.2 million dollars. The Dark Knight also broke the record for midnight screenings with $18.5 million dollars, outranking the $16.9 million dollars for Star Wars: Episode III – The Revenge of the Sith in 2005.

It is no secret that The Dark Knight is an incredible movie. In my Friday review of the new Batman flick I called it “brilliant.” But, what I don’t understand is this – Why are so many critics, and other armchair critics, calling this a dark movie? Am I missing something here?

From a genre standpoint, Batman Begins was a much darker movie as it showed a much more tormented Bruce Wayne/Batman. In that movie there was little happiness. We see the death of Bruce’s parents and his internal struggle of dealing with that tragic event in his life. Another plot line in the Batman Begins movie dealt with the total destruction of Gotham City because it had fallen into such a state of evil. Criminals literally were running the city with pretty much every cop and judge on the mobs payroll. It was total anarchy in the streets. From a film standpoint, much of Batman Begins was shot with either clouds in the sky, or in the middle of the night.

Now, let’s turn to The Dark Knight. In the latest flick of the Batman franchise, we see hope in Gotham City. We discover Batman still working through his identity issues, but in the end he realizes he can, and has to, endure. One of my favorite scenes involves Bruce Wayne asking Alfred what he should do. Alfred replies by saying, “Endure Master Wayne. Take it. They’ll hate you for it, but that’s the point of Batman. He can be the outcast, he can make the choice no one else can make…the right choice.” From a genre standpoint, the sets and scenery in The Dark Knight are much brighter. We actually see sunlight!

So, why are people saying The Dark Knight is dark? Could it be the title is misleading? I believe that’s part of it. But, lets point out the fact that Batman is referred to as the Knight, and he happens to go out and fight crime at night, when it’s dark. Could it be people are saying it’s a dark movie because they’re thinking of the tragic death of Heath Ledger? I believe that’s the case too. But, to say the movie is dark because of the Joker character misses the whole point of Ledger’s Joker character. Lets remember that his favorite line throughout the movie is — Why so serious? — Ledger himself was trying to make a statement with his character saying we take life too seriously.

Others say it’s a dark movie because the Joker character is psychotic. Well, lets take a quick look at the definition of that word. When looking up the word psychotic Webster’s sends us to the word psychosis. The dictionary then defines psychosis as a “fundamental derangement of the mind, as in schizophrenia, characterized by defective or lost contact with reality especially as evidenced by delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized speech and behavior.” That definitely describes the characteristics of the Joker as portrayed by Heath Ledger. However, no-where in that definition do we see a characteristic of dark. So, to say The Dark Knight is dark because of the Joker character, once again misses the point.

But, even after outlining the above points as to why I don’t think The Dark Knight is dark, let’s ultimately look at the main point of the movie. The Joker is looking to distort people so they go for what he considers their basic nature of evil. In the end, the Joker is defeated because there is a glimmer of hope in humankind, which in turn saves many.

Again, I just don’t understand why people are saying The Dark Knight is dark. But then again, for the most part, those who say The Dark Knight is dark, are the same people who declare the Harry Potter movies are great fun for kids. Talk about dark! But, that’s a blog post for another day.

Enjoy the show!
Dr. Rus

About the Author

Dr. Rus has 30+ years experience in the field of communication. He takes this experience, and his passion to encourage others to positively effect their environment, when providing insight and movie reviews.