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Screenshot of Betty's House of Pies web site: example of the viral marketing campaign for The Dark Knight. Click to enlarge.
February 23, 2009: The results are in from the 2009 81st Academy Awards - Heath Ledger won for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his role as the Joker. The Dark Knight also brought in the award for Best Sound Editing -so, 2 wins out of the eight nominations Dark Knight rolled up in January. Just before the awards ceremony, Warner Bros released that The Dark Knight had recently crossed the one billion dollar mark, putting it's earning at $1,001,082,160 - which places it into the top four "all time" earners.
January 22, 2009: The American Academy Award nominations were released - - the one surprise is that Dark Knight didn't make it to the Best Picture category, which seemed a strong possibility until the Bernhard Schlink book adapted as The Reader from Harvey Weinstein, came out late in the year, which seems to be the picture that edged out Chris Nolan.
The Dark Knight scored eight nominations. They are: Best Supporting Actor Heath Ledger as the Joker; Art Direction: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Peter Lando; Cinematography Wally Pfister; Film Editing Lee Smith; Makeup John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O'Sullivan; Sound Editing Richard King; Sound Mixing Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick; Visual Effects Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin . [Source: Variety]
January 6, 2009: The British Academy Film Awards has The Dark Knight up for 13 award nominations: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director - Chris Nolan, Best Makeup and Hair, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Music, Best leading Actor - Christian Bale, Best Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger. [Source: Variety]
[Below: The Dark Knight film won major awards at the People's Choice Awards in January 2009. Screen shot from the CNN web site here]
Dark Knight Raw Numbers
January 5, 2009: Dark Knight has grown it's domestic theatre take to $530,917,814 USD, and the worldwide numbers are $469 million USD. That's approx $997 million total (source: Warner Bros and boxofficemojo.com). Pretty good for a film that only has 29% of its opening weekend ($158 mil) as part of that total - - apparently quite a few people saw this film more than once.
Nikki Finke is saying The Dark Knight has strong Oscar hopes in at least in one department:
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight for Best Supporting Actor is considered a lock.
(Incidentally: Ledger was nominated for a Golden Globe award for this same category for Dark Knight)
DVD Blu-Ray Update for end of 2008: It has been estimated that The Dark Knight DVD sold 10 million copies pulling in approximately $220 million USD. It is also has the record for the only Blu-Ray to sell more than 1 million units during its first week of release.
Warners plans to re-release The Dark Knight for another IMAX run on January 23, 2009. Besides pulling in additional earnings, the Academy Award nominations that will be announced on January 22 are expected to have at least Heath Ledger singled-out for his Joker role; and there will probably be other nominations in the technical departments. There are 5,810 voting members of the Academy.
Dark Knight DVD / Blu-ray outselling everything
December 10, 2008: Nikki Finke at the deadlinehollywood:
She mentions Dark Knight is outselling the DVD sales on Iron Man by about three-to-one. Sounds like it's a bonanza for Marvel and DC Comics when it comes to those licensing checks.
Chris Nolan's film is credited with pushing the envelope on how far a superhero "comic book" movie can go in garnering aesthetic approval from the mainstream critics (on a smaller scale the same thing happened with Nolan's 2005 "Batman Begins" which had critics like Roger Ebert calling it "This is at last the Batman movie I've been waiting for. The character resonates more deeply with me than the other comic superheroes...".
The two-disk "Special Edition" of the film has these features:
* Gotham Uncovered: How Christopher Nolan and his team developed the new Bat-suit and Bat-pod and composer Hans Zimmer musically characterized the Joker’s reign of chaos.
Dark Knight DVD 2 Disk Set December 2008
The raw numbers: Dark Knight vs. Titanic
October 20, 2008: Dark Knight has grown to $527,394,547 USD Domestic, and $463,500,000 Foreign earnings, giving a grand total of $990,894,547 USD. In World-wide earnings, still out in front of Dark Knight are the films Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King which has an estimated $1,119.1 billion USD and also Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest which has $1,066.2 billion USD. Still the all-time earner is Titanic, with $1,842.9 billion USD. You can examine all the numbers for world wide box office over at Box Office Mojo.
September 15, 2008: Box Office Mojo reports that at day 59, Dark Knight has rounded up $517,680,000 USD domestic: this versus Titanic's 59-day total of $371,562,244 USD domestic. Dark Knight's estimated foreign earnings are $966,580,000. Dark Knight still needs to pull in approximately $450 Million to beat out Titanic in the arena of world-wide earnings, Cameron's film being the all-time box office champ (though some contend, with adjustments for inflation, M-G-M's Gone With the Wind is still the record holder).
August 18, 2008: Batman The Dark Knight hits 800.1 Million USD
Morgan Freeman from The Dark Knight (Below)
Film Review of The Dark Knight
I had read that The Dark Knight is a much darker film that the previous Batman Begins, the 2005 film of the DC Comics hero. Seeing the film in 35MM (there's a much larger IMAX version) at a local megaplex, it certainly had less brightly-lit flash than the other superhero movies of late. With many scenes happening in a dressed-down Chicago standing in as the comic book world's Gotham City, aside from strong lighting from explosions, this place is shadow upon shadow, as if the place just can't generate enough light to get a good look at what's really happening.
Heath Ledger as The Joker
And a lot happens in this 152 minute film. Director/co-writer Chris Nolan veers off the superhero template almost immediately from the start with a brief scene in which a group of Batman "wannabes" get themselves into trouble trying to deal with Scarecrow and his criminal gang, only to be interrupted by the the actual Batman who is a bit piffed that the pretenders are using real firearms in their superhero efforts. Setting the stage that Gotham has its share of intellects that are drawn into Batman's wake in order to imitate his larger-than-life heroics, its not much of a surprise when others are likewise pulled into the Joker's orbit when he appears, for as Joker says later "madness has its own gravity, all it needs is a little push*."
What is also off the standard hero template is that Chris Nolan keeps dealing with the consequences of all this super-action from these extra-normal personalities on the screen, enough that Gotham's citizenry start to question whether fighting crime is worth it. With each escalation in the conflict , the Joker happily counts up the bodies it took for Batman to derail one of his schemes, and tries hard to rub it in everyone's faces as the police grow more desperate and paranoid, and Batman finds himself pinning all his hopes on Harvey Dent, the crusading "white knight" Gotham district attorney (actor Aaron Eckhart) who is spearheading Gotham's dwindling resolve to conquer the city's crime plague. But is Dent mentally up to the role everyone has pinned on him?
But why is Batman, the "dark knight" leaning so heavily toward Dent? Because the Joker, at least in terms of a body count, has been convincingly painting Batman into a corner where even Bruce Wayne (actor Christian Bale) starts buying into the argument that maybe the city really would be better off without him (Alfred, again played by actor Michael Caine as in the first Nolan Batman film, keeps a cooler head during this existential crisis). The question Dent asks early in the movie "you either die the hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain" takes on a bizarre twist by the time the credits roll. Gotham City wants a hero like Harvey Dent, a DA with a strong right punch and good looks. But as it gets pointed out, Batman is the hero Gotham City deserves.
A problem Nolan presents is that though Batman beats the bad guys, the reverberations get out of control. Joker is obviously a maniac, played in such a way by the late Heath Ledger that he has basically stolen the movie - - when he is onscreen that's all you watch. He gives a brief dialogue origin story as he prepares to disfigure a victim, but later in the tale he gives a different origin for his own carved face, leaving you with the feeling that the actual basis for his interior psychodrama isn't exactly clear to even him. Calculating, unpredictable (certainly unpredictable when compared to the campy versions of the Joker from the older Batman movies); this Joker wants to spread mayhem, pain and anarchy, but he does have an actual goal (its not money: he happily burns a huge pile of greenbacks much to the horror of his criminal accomplices). As Joker pontificates from time to time in the story, he "knows" that civilized people are only putting forward a pretense, that "if put in the right circumstances they'll eat each other.*" And he arranges for those circumstances several times. If the Joker is up to anything specific, its that he wants to win a philosophical argument that only Batman seems to comprehend.
Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent
Superheros are often rather bland upon examination in the four-color world from whence they spring, so it is when they are teamed against a more flamboyant super villain that story tension is made. Like a well-made thriller, Nolan lifts the superhero genre up a higher notch into a place where all the muscle in the world can't solve all these problems, the heroes have got to think themselves out of it (and though they do, its only marginally successful. In Nolan's Batman pics, not everything ends neatly, but provokes another mess to be dealt with.) Solving the crime like Sherlock Homes is only half the task, and though this version of Batman is the closest I have seen to one doing actual detective work (a core value in the comic book version) the solution stays elusive, and it doesn't help when the good guys are ready to airbrush reality in order to have an ending straight out of the old John Ford "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance."
The movie moves around with some of the sprightly lightness of a James Bond film, with locales in Hong Kong and aboard Bruce Wayne's yacht with a bevy of ballerinas from a Russian dance company. The adult Bruce Wayne has more to do here than in the previous movie, and Christian Bale has again defined the character in such a way it will be hard for anyone else to pick up this franchise for a long, long time without having to face some tough comparisons: this is especially true of Ledger's Joker. The next person to put on the clown makeup will be in a rough spot.
Gary Oldman is on hand again as Lt. Gordon, and he has more to do than before, too, and eventually gets promoted to police commissioner in all of the resulting chaos as Joker decimates the Gotham police department. Oldman deserves more screen time, he is so good that its nice the Nolan's were able to build up his part. Morgan Freeman is back as Lucious Fox and running Wayne Enterprises and compiling interesting gadgets that help conquer the Joker; he also gives Bruce Wayne a little bit of training in ethics that also has real world ramifications. Alfred may be Wayne's surrogate father, but Lucious Fox is the voice of a conscious that isn't tangled up with protecting Batman from himself.
[Below] The local Chesterfield Virginia megaplex dolled up with Dark Knight related writing all over the entrance doors. Employees dressed as the Joker were on hand, and many competing movie posters on the walls had been defaced with "Joker Style" writing and doodling on them.
Maggie Gyllenhaal steps into the vacated Katie Holmes' role of Rachel Dawes. There's not a lot for her to do here except run back in forth in all of the fighting (Gotham becomes an enormous battleground) and to be the love interest caught between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent, though its never clear to Dent what he is actually competing against. With Dawes saying "Don't make me your only hope for a normal life" to Wayne, the line takes on a different meaning when amplified through later events.
The Dark Knight, for a superhero movie, is being called a masterpiece. It is a little over-stuffed: so much happens it will take repeated viewings to sort everything out, though the first 90 minutes is relatively straight forward. There are at least five main characters, seven if you count all the names above the titles, and enough secondary characters that a lot of detail is evident that is lost amid the explosions and fighting. Some events don't make sense (at least on my first viewing): why do they send refugees out on ferries, but they block the bridges in and out of the city?
The film is an improvement over Batman Begins, which had a smaller agenda. This film is trying to wrestle to earth real human conflict, and to yet keep it all wrapped up in a comic book mythos. That Nolan can get both into the same room together is quite an accomplishment, and a real testimony to the ability of good writing to streamline a genre.
With all the money rolling in from its record-breaking opening weekend sales, it looks like Nolan has given the other superhero movie-makers a real challenge to live up to.
*Paraphrased. I didn't write down the quote in the theatre and I don't have a copy of the script to be sure of the actual wording.
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Link: There's been some negatives written against this film. A backlash is sure to follow in the wake of so much money being made and all the generally positive press. The best take-down I've read of the film is by John McElwee over at Greenbriar Picture Shows: he will barely cede anything nice about the film, but just hammers it relentlessly into the ground. For example:
Well worth reading (as is the rest of the site: it's a treasure trove of well written analysis of classic films from a point of view you can rarely see in books, particularly the money-earnings angle.)
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