The Dark Knight is a 2008 American superhero film directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, the film is part of Nolan's Batman film series and a sequel to 2005's Batman Begins. Christian Bale reprises the lead role. The plot of the film focuses on Batman's fight against a new villain, the Joker (Heath Ledger), and his relationships with police lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman), district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and his old friend and love interest, assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal). For his conception of the film, Nolan was inspired by the Joker's first two appearances in the comics and Batman: The Long Halloween. The Dark Knight was filmed primarily in Chicago, as well as in several other locations in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong. Nolan used an IMAX camera to film some sequences, including the Joker's first appearance in the film.
On January 22, 2008, after he had completed filming The Dark Knight, Ledger died of a prescription drug overdose, leading to intense press attention and memorial tributes from lots of fans as well as more people showing interest to the film. Warner Bros. had created a viral marketing campaign for The Dark Knight, developing promotional websites and trailers highlighting screen shots of Ledger as the Joker, but after Ledger's death, the studio refocused its promotional campaign. The film was released on July 16, 2008 in Australia, on July 18, 2008 in North America, and on July 24, 2008 in the United Kingdom. Prior to its box office debut in North America, record numbers of advance tickets were sold for The Dark Knight. It was greeted with positive reviews upon release, and became the second movie ever to earn more than $500 million at the North American box office, setting numerous other records in the process.
When mob bosses meet to discuss Batman, Gordon, and Dent, a Chinese mobster accountant, Lau, informs the gang leaders that he has hidden their money to pre-empt a plan Gordon has hatched to seize the mobsters' funds, and fled to Hong Kong to escape Dent's jurisdiction. He also informs them that one of their deposits, worth $68 million, was stolen by the Joker. The Joker arrives unexpectedly, offering to kill Batman in return for half of the mob's money, but the offer is refused. After Batman abducts Lau in Hong Kong and delivers him to the Gotham City police, the mobsters agree to hire the Joker. The Joker tells Gotham that if Batman does not turn himself in to the police and publicly reveal his identity, people will die each day. When Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb and the judge presiding over the mob trials are murdered, Wayne decides to reveal his identity. Before he can, Dent announces that he himself is Batman and is arrested as part of a plan to draw the Joker out of hiding. The Joker attempts to ambush the police convoy carrying Dent, but Batman and Gordon intervene and arrest him; in recognition of his actions, Gordon is appointed police commissioner.
Later that night, when Dent and Rachel disappear, Batman interrogates the Joker at the police station, who reveals that they have been captured by corrupt police and placed in warehouses rigged with explosives on opposite sides of the city; they are far enough apart that Batman cannot save them both. Batman leaves to save Rachel, while Gordon and the police head after Dent. With the help of a bomb planted at the police station, the Joker escapes with Lau. Having been deceived by the Joker, who gave him reversed addresses, Batman arrives at Dent's location in time to save him, but the left side of Dent's face is burned in the resulting explosion. Gordon does not arrive in time to save Rachel and she dies. In the hospital, Dent is driven to madness over the loss of Rachel. After burning Lau atop a pile of the mob's money, the Joker goes to the hospital and convinces Dent to exact revenge on the corrupt cops and mobsters responsible for Rachel's death, as well as Batman and Gordon.
Dent goes on a personal vendetta confronting the cops and mobsters one by one, deciding their fates with the flip of a coin. The Joker announces to the public that anyone left in Gotham at nightfall will be subject to his rule. With the bridges and tunnels out of the city closed due to a bomb threat by the Joker, authorities begin evacuating people by ferry. The Joker places explosives on two of the ferries—one ferry with convicts, the other with civilians—telling the passengers the only way to save themselves is to trigger the explosives on the other ferry; otherwise, he will destroy both at midnight.
Batman locates the Joker, and subdues him but refuses to kill him. Meanwhile, the Joker's plan to destroy the ferries fails after the passengers on both decide not to destroy each other. The Joker acknowledges that Batman is truly incorruptible, but that Dent was not, and his madness has been unleashed upon the city. Leaving the Joker for the SWAT team, Batman leaves in search of Dent. At the remains of the building where Rachel died, Batman finds Dent holding Gordon and his family at gunpoint. Dent judges the innocence of Batman, himself, and Gordon's son through three coin tosses. As a result of the first two flips, he shoots Batman in the abdomen and spares himself. Before Dent can determine the boy's fate, Batman, who was wearing body armor, tackles him, and they both fall over the side of the building — Dent appears dead. Batman and Gordon realize that the morale of the city would suffer if Dent's murders would become known. Batman persuades Gordon to preserve Dent's image by holding Batman himself responsible for the murders. Gordon destroys the Bat-Signal, and a manhunt for Batman ensues.
The actor described Batman's dilemma as whether "[his crusade is] something that has an end. Can he quit and have an ordinary life? The kind of manic intensity someone has to have to maintain the passion and the anger that they felt as a child, takes an effort after awhile, to keep doing that. At some point, you have to exorcise your demons." He added, "Now you have not just a young man in pain attempting to find some kind of an answer, you have somebody who actually has power, who is burdened by that power, and is having to recognize the difference between attaining that power and holding on to it." Bale felt that, because Batman's personality was strongly established in the first film, it was unlikely his character would be overshadowed by the villains, stating: "I have no problem with competing with someone else. And that's going to make a better movie."
Heath Ledger as The Joker: Ledger described the Joker as a "psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy". Nolan had wanted to work with Ledger on a number of projects in the past, but had been unable to do so. When Ledger saw Batman Begins, he realized a way to make the character work consistent with the film's tone, and Nolan agreed with his anarchic interpretation. To prepare for the role, Ledger lived alone in a hotel room for a month, formulating the character's posture, voice, and personality, and kept a diary, in which he recorded the Joker's thoughts and feelings. While he initially found it difficult, Ledger eventually generated a voice unlike that of Jack Nicholson's character in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman film. He was also given Batman: The Killing Joke and Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, which he "really tried to read and put it down". Ledger also cited A Clockwork Orange and Sid Vicious as "a very early starting point for Christian [Bale] and I. But we kind of flew far away from that pretty quickly and into another world altogether." "There’s a bit of everything in him. There’s nothing that consistent," Ledger said, adding that "There are a few more surprises to him." Before Ledger was confirmed to play the Joker in July 2006, Paul Bettany, Lachy Hulme, Adrien Brody, Steve Carell, and Robin Williams publicly expressed interest in the role.
On January 22, 2008, after he had completed filming The Dark Knight, Ledger died of a prescription drug overdose, leading to intense press attention and memorial tributes. "It was tremendously emotional, right when he passed, having to go back in and look at him every day," Nolan recalled. "But the truth is, I feel very lucky to have something productive to do, to have a performance that he was very, very proud of, and that he had entrusted to me to finish." All of Ledger's scenes appear as he completed them in the filming; in editing the film, Nolan added no "digital effects" to alter Ledger's actual performance posthumously. Nolan has dedicated the film in part to Ledger's memory, as well as to the memory of technician Conway Wickliffe, who was killed during a car accident while preparing one of the film's stunts.
Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent / Two-Face: The Gotham district attorney who is hailed as Gotham's "White Knight"; Dent's battle with the Joker transforms Dent into a murderous, disfigured vigilante called "Two-Face". Producer Charles Roven described Dent as initially the "white knight of the city". Wayne sees Dent as his heir, demonstrating his realization that Batman will be a lifelong mission, and furthering the tragedy of Dent's downfall. Whereas Two-Face is an evil villain in the comics, Nolan chose to portray him as a twisted vigilante to emphasize his role as Batman's counterpart, much like his portrayal in Batman stories by Doug Moench, and Eckhart, who has played corrupt men in films such as The Black Dahlia, Thank You For Smoking and In the Company of Men, notes: "[He] is still true to himself. He's a crime fighter, he's not killing good people. He's not a bad guy, not purely," while admitting: "I'm interested in good guys gone wrong."
Nolan and David S. Goyer had originally considered using Dent in Batman Begins, but they replaced him with the new character Rachel Dawes when they realized they "couldn’t do him justice". Before Eckhart was cast in February 2007, Liev Schreiber, Josh Lucas, and Ryan Phillippe had expressed interest in the role, while Mark Ruffalo auditioned. Nolan chose Eckhart, whom he had considered for the lead role in Memento, citing his "extraordinary" ability as an actor, his embodiment of "that kind of chiselled, American hero quality" projected by Robert Redford, and his subtextual "edge".
Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth: Bruce Wayne's trusted butler and advisor who tends to Wayne's penthouse. His supply of useful advice to Wayne and his likeness to a fatherly figure to him has led to him being labelled as "Batman's batman".
Gary Oldman as James Gordon: Lieutenant of the Gotham City Police Department and one of the few police officers who is not corrupt. He forms a tenuous, unofficial alliance with Batman and Dent. When Police Commissioner Loeb is assassinated by the Joker, Gordon is given the position by Mayor Garcia. Oldman described his character as "incorruptible, virtuous, strong, heroic, but understated". Nolan explained that "The Long Halloween has a great, triangular relationship between Harvey Dent and Gordon and Batman, and that's something we very much drew from." Oldman added that "Gordon has a great deal of admiration for him at the end, but [Batman] is more than ever now the dark knight, the outsider. I'm intrigued now to see: If there is a third one, what he's going to do?" On the possibility of another sequel, he said that "returning to [the role] is not dependent on whether the role was bigger than the one before".
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes: The Gotham assistant D.A. and childhood friend of Bruce Wayne, she is one of the few people who knows he is Batman. Gyllenhaal took over the role from Katie Holmes, who played it in Batman Begins. In August 2005, Holmes was reportedly planning to reprise the role, but in January 2007, she turned it down due to scheduling conflicts. By March 2007, Gyllenhaal was in "final talks" for the part. Gyllenhaal has acknowledged her character is a damsel in distress to an extent, but says Nolan sought ways to empower her character, so "Rachel's really clear about what's important to her and unwilling to compromise her morals, which made a nice change" from the many conflicted characters whom she has previously portrayed.
Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox: The recently-promoted CEO of Wayne Enterprises who, now fully aware of his employer's double life as Batman, serves more directly as Wayne's armorer in addition to his corporate managerial duties.
The film's Gotham officials and authorities include Nestor Carbonell as Mayor Anthony Garcia, Keith Szarabajka as Detective Gerard Stephens, Monique Curnen as Anna Ramirez, and Ron Dean as Detective Michael Wuertz. While Stephens is an honest and good cop, the latter two are two corrupt officers who betray Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes to the Joker. The film also casts Anthony Michael Hall as Gotham Cable News reporter Mike Engel, Joshua Harto as Coleman Reese, Melinda McGraw and Nathan Gamble as Gordon's wife and son, and Tom Lister, Jr. as a prison inmate on one of the bomb-rigged ferries. The film's criminals include Chin Han as Chinese business accountant Lau, Michael Jai White as gang leader Gambol, and Ritchie Coster as The Chechen. David Banner originally auditioned for the role of Gambol. Cillian Murphy returns in a cameo as Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow, who is captured early on in the film by Batman.
William Fichtner is the Gotham National Bank branch manager; his casting was "a bit of a nod" to his role in Michael Mann's 1995 film Heat. Musician Dwight Yoakam was approached for the roles of either the manager or a corrupt cop, but he chose to focus on his album Dwight Sings Buck. Another cameo was United States Senator Patrick Leahy, a Batman fan who previously was an extra in the 1997 Batman & Robin and also was a guest voice actor on Batman: The Animated Series. Leahy cameos as a guest who defies the Joker at a fundraiser thrown by Bruce Wayne.
After much research, Nolan's brother and co-writer, Jonathan, suggested the Joker's first two appearances, published in the first issue of Batman (1940), as the crucial influences. Jerry Robinson, one of the Joker's co-creators, was consulted on the character's portrayal. Nolan decided to avoid divulging an in-depth origin story for the Joker, and instead portray his rise to power so as to not diminish the threat he poses, explaining to MTV News, "the Joker we meet in The Dark Knight is fully formed...To me, the Joker is an absolute. There are no shades of gray to him—maybe shades of purple. He's unbelievably dark. He bursts in just as he did in the comics." Nolan reiterated to IGN, "We never wanted to do an origin story for the Joker in this film", because "the arc of the story is much more Harvey Dent's; the Joker is presented as an absolute. It's a very thrilling element in the film, and a very important element, but we wanted to deal with the rise of the Joker, not the origin of the Joker." Nolan suggested Batman: The Killing Joke influenced a section of the Joker's dialogue in the film, in which he says that anyone can become like him given the right circumstances.
Nolan also cited Heat as "sort of an inspiration" for his aim "to tell a very large, city story or the story of a city": "If you want to take on Gotham, you want to give Gotham a kind of weight and breadth and depth in there. So you wind up dealing with the political figures, the media figures. That's part of the whole fabric of how a city is bound together."
According to Nolan, an important theme of the sequel is "escalation", extending the ending of Batman Begins, noting "things having to get worse before they get better". While indicating The Dark Knight would continue the themes of Batman Begins, including justice vs. revenge and Bruce Wayne's issues with his father, Nolan emphasized the sequel would also portray Wayne more as a detective, an aspect of his character not fully developed in Batman Begins. Nolan described the friendly rivalry between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent as the "backbone" of the film. He also chose to compress the overall storyline, allowing Dent to become Two-Face in The Dark Knight, thus giving the film an emotional arc the unsympathetic Joker could not offer.
Warner Bros. chose to film in Chicago for 13 weeks, because Nolan had had a "truly remarkable experience" filming part of Batman Begins there. Instead of using the Chicago Board of Trade Building as the location for the headquarters of Wayne Enterprises, as Batman Begins did, The Dark Knight used the Richard J. Daley Center. While filming in Chicago, the film was given the false title Rory's First Kiss to lower the visibility of production, but the local media eventually uncovered the ruse. Richard Roeper of The Chicago Sun-Times commented on the absurdity of the technique, "Is there a Bat-fan in the world that doesn't know Rory's First Kiss is actually The Dark Knight, which has been filming in Chicago for weeks?" Production of The Dark Knight in Chicago generated $45 million in the city's economy and created thousands of jobs. For the film's prologue involving the Joker, the crew shot in Chicago from April 18, 2007 to April 24, 2007. They returned to shoot from June 9, 2007 to early September. Shooting locations included Navy Pier, 330 North Wabash, James R. Thompson Center, LaSalle Street, The Berghoff, Millennium Station, Hotel 71, the old Brach's factory, the old Van Buren Street Post Office and Wacker Drive. Pinewood Studios, near London, was the primary studio space used for the production. Marina City was in the background throughout the movie.
While planning a stunt with the Batmobile in a special effects facility near Chertsey, England in September 2007, technician Conway Wickliffe was killed when his car crashed. The film is dedicated to both Ledger and Wickliffe. The following month in London at the defunct Battersea Power Station, a rigged 200-foot fireball was filmed, reportedly for an opening sequence, prompting calls from local residents who feared a terrorist attack on the station. A similar incident occurred during the filming in Chicago, when an abandoned Brach's candy factory (which was Gotham Hospital in the film) was demolished.
Filming took place in Hong Kong from November 6 to November 11, 2007, at the Central-Mid-Levels escalators, Queen's Road, The Center, and International Finance Centre. The city's walled city of Kowloon influenced the Narrows in Batman Begins. The shoot hired helicopters and C-130 aircraft. Officials expressed concern over possible noise pollution and traffic. In response, letters sent to the city's residents promised that the sound level would approximate noise decibels made by buses. Environmentalists also criticized the filmmakers' request to tenants of the waterfront skyscrapers to keep their lights on all night in order to enhance the cinematography, describing it as a waste of energy. Cinematographer Wally Pfister found the city officials a "nightmare", and ultimately Nolan had to create Batman's jump from a skyscraper (which Bale had looked forward to performing) digitally.
Costume designer Lindy Hemming described the Joker's look as reflecting his personality — that "he doesn't care about himself at all"; she avoided designing him as a vagrant but still made him appear to be "scruffier, grungier", so that "when you see him move, he's slightly twitchier or edgy." Nolan noted, "We gave a Francis Bacon spin to [his face]. This corruption, this decay in the texture of the look itself. It's grubby. You can almost imagine what he smells like. In creating the "anarchical" look of the Joker, Hemming drew inspiration from such countercultural pop culture artists as Pete Doherty, Iggy Pop, and Johnny Rotten. During the course of the film, the Joker only once removes his make-up, causing it to become more unkempt and resemble an infection as it worsens. Ledger described his "clown" mask, made up of three pieces of stamped silicone, as a "new technology", taking much less time for the make-up artists to apply than more-conventional prosthetics usually requires—the process took them only an hour—and resulting in Ledger's impression that he was barely wearing any make-up at all.
Designers improved on the design of the Batsuit from Batman Begins, adding wide elastic banding to help bind the costume to Bale, and suggest more sophisticated technology. It was constructed from 200 individual pieces of rubber, fiberglass, metallic mesh, and nylon. The new cowl was modeled after a motorcycle helmet and separated from the neck piece, allowing Bale to turn his head left and right and nod up and down. The cowl is equipped to show white lenses over the eyes when the character turns on his sonar detection, which gives Batman the white eyed look from the comics and animation. The gauntlets have retractable razors which can be fired. The gloves also possess hydraulics for Batman to crush objects. The original suit was also worn during part of the film. Though the new costume is eight pounds heavier, Bale found it more comfortable and less hot to wear.
The film introduces the Batpod, which is a recreation of the Batcycle. Production designer Nathan Crowley, who designed the Tumbler for Batman Begins, designed six models (built by special effects supervisor Chris Corbould) for use in the film's production, because of necessary crash scenes and possible accidents. Crowley built a prototype in Nolan's garage, before six months of safety tests were conducted. The Batpod is steered by shoulder instead of hand, and the rider's arms are protected by sleeve-like shields. The bike has 508 millimeter (20-inch) front and rear tires, and is made to appear as if it is armed with grappling hooks, cannons, and machine guns. The engines are located in the hubs of the wheels, which are set 3 1/2 feet (1067 mm) apart on either side of the tank. The rider lies belly down on the tank, which can move up and down in order to dodge any incoming gunfire that Batman may encounter. Stuntman Jean-Pierre Goy doubled for Christian Bale during the riding sequences in The Dark Knight.
For Two-Face's make-up, Eckhart warned, "When you look at [him], you should get sick to your stomach. Being the guy under all that, well, that was a lot of fun for me. It's like you would feel if you met someone whose face had pretty much been ripped off or burned off with acid [...] There are fans on the Internet who have done artist's versions of what they think it will look like, and I can tell you this: They're thinking small; Chris is going way farther than people think." Nolan described Two-Face's appearance in the film as one of the least disturbing, explaining, "When we looked at less extreme versions of it, they were too real and more horrifying. When you look at a film like Pirates of the Caribbean—something like that, there's something about a very fanciful, very detailed visual effect, that I think is more powerful and less repulsive.
The depiction of Gotham City is less gritty than in Batman Begins. "I've tried to unclutter the Gotham we created on the last film," said Crowley. "Gotham is in chaos. We keep blowing up stuff, so we can keep our images clean."
Composition began before shooting, and during filming Nolan received an iPod with ten hours of recordings, which Zimmer claimed Nolan fully memorized. Their nine-minute suite for the Joker is based around two notes. Zimmer compared its style to the band Kraftwerk, who come from his native Germany, as well as his work with bands like The Damned. When Ledger died, Zimmer felt like scrapping and composing a new theme, but decided that he could not be sentimental and compromise the "evil [performance] projects". Howard composed Dent's "elegant and beautiful" themes, which are brass-focused.
During the 2007 Comic-Con International, 42 Entertainment launched WhySoSerious.com, sending fans on a scavenger hunt to unlock a teaser trailer and a new photo of the Joker. During that month, WhySoSerious.com featured an animated jack-o'-lantern whose mouth was shaped like a bat-logo. The candle in the jack-o'-lantern melted as time progressed, while half of the pumpkin's face simultaneously deteriorated.
On October 31, 2007, the film's website morphed into another scavenger hunt with hidden messages, instructing fans to uncover clues at certain locations in major cities throughout the United States, and to take photographs of their discoveries. The clues combined to reveal a new photograph of the Joker from the film, accompanied by an audio MP3 clip of Ledger's recorded voice saying, "And tonight, you're gonna break your one rule." Completing the scavenger hunt also led to another website called Rory's Death Kiss (referencing the false working title of Rory's First Kiss), where fans could submit photographs of themselves costumed as the Joker set in various landscapes. Those who sent photos were mailed a copy of a fictional newspaper called The Gotham Times, whose electronic version led to the discovery of numerous other websites.
The Dark Knight's opening sequence, (showing a bank raid by the Joker) and closing montage of other scenes from the film, was screened with selected IMAX screenings of I Am Legend, which was released on December 14, 2007. A theatrical teaser was also released with non-IMAX showings of I Am Legend, and also on the official website. The sequence was released on the Blu-ray Disc edition of Batman Begins on July 8, 2008. Also on July 8, 2008, the studio released Batman: Gotham Knight, a direct-to-DVD animated film, set between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and featuring six original stories, directed by Bruce Timm, co-creator and producer of Batman: The Animated Series. Each of these segments, written by Josh Olson, David S. Goyer, Brian Azzarello, Greg Rucka, Jordan Goldberg, and Alan Burnett, presents its own distinctive artistic style, paralleling numerous artists collaborating in the same DC Universe.
After the death of Heath Ledger, on January 22, 2008, Warner Bros. adjusted its promotional focus on the Joker, revising some of its websites dedicated to promoting the film and posting a memorial tribute to Ledger on the film's official website and overlaying a black memorial ribbon on the photo collage in WhySoSerious.com. On February 29, 2008, I Believe in Harvey Dent was updated to enable fans to send their e-mail addresses and phone numbers. In March 2008, Harvey Dent's fictional campaign informed fans that actual campaign buses nicknamed "Dentmobiles" would tour various cities to promote Dent's candidacy for district attorney.
On May 15, 2008, Six Flags Great America and Six Flags Great Adventure theme parks opened The Dark Knight roller coaster, which cost $7.5 million to develop and which simulates being stalked by the Joker. Mattel has been producing toys and games for The Dark Knight, action figures, role play costumes, board games, puzzles, and a special-edition UNO card game, which began commercial distribution in June 2008. Also to promote the film, the Toyota Formula One team raced with a special livery featuring the Batman insignia and "The Dark Knight" at the 2008 British Grand Prix, held from July 4, 2008 to July 6, 2008.
Warner Bros. devoted six months to an anti-piracy strategy which involved tracking the people who had a pre-release copy of the film at any one time. Shipping and delivery schedules were also staggered and spot checks were carried out both domestically and overseas to ensure illegal copying of the film was not taking place in cinemas. A pirated copy was released on the Web approximately 38 hours after the film's release. BitTorrent search engine The Pirate Bay taunted the movie industry over its ability to provide the movie free, replacing its logo with a taunting message.
In the United States and Canada, The Dark Knight was distributed to 4,366 theaters, breaking the previous record for the highest number of theaters held by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007). The number of theaters also included 94 IMAX theaters, with the film estimated to be played on 9,200 screens in the United States and Canada. Online, ticketing services sold enormous numbers of tickets for approximately 3,000 midnight showtimes as well as unusually early showtimes for the film's opening day. All IMAX theaters showing The Dark Knight were sold out for the opening weekend.
The Dark Knight set a new midnight record on the opening day of July 18, 2008 with $18.5 million, beating the $16.9 million record set by Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). $640,000 of the record gross came from IMAX screenings. The Dark Knight ultimately grossed $67,165,092 on its opening day, beating the previous record of $59.8 million held by Spider-Man 3 (2007). For its opening weekend in the United States and Canada, The Dark Knight accumulated a total of $158,411,483 from 9,200 screens at 4,366 theaters, for an average of $36,283 per theater, or $17,219 per screen, topping the previous record of $151,116,516 held by Spider-Man 3, while playing in 114 more theaters but on 800 fewer screens. The Dark Knight also set a new record for opening weekend gross in IMAX theaters, accumulating $6.2 million to beat Spider-Man 3's previous record of $4.7 million.
Besides the United States and Canada, The Dark Knight premiered in 20 other territories on 4,520 screens, grossing $41.3 million in its first weekend. The film came in second to Hancock, which was in its third weekend, screening in 71 territories. The Dark Knight's biggest territory for the weekend was Australia, grossing $13.7 million over the weekend, the third largest Warner Bros. opening and the largest superhero film opening to date. The film also grossed $7 million from 1,433 screens in Mexico, $4.45 million from 548 screens in Brazil, and $2.12 million from 37 screens in Hong Kong.
The Dark Knight sold an estimated 22.37 million tickets with today's average admission of $7.08, meaning the film sold more tickets than Spider-Man 3, which sold 21.96 million with the average price of $6.88 in 2007. It also broke the record for the biggest opening weekend ever. As of October 6, 2008, The Dark Knight has grossed $525,904,670 in the domestic box office, breaking the previous record of the fastest film to hit $500 million and $462,100,000 in other countries. As of October 6, 2008, its total worldwide gross stands at $988,004,670, and is the fourth highest grossing film of all time unadjusted for inflation. The Dark Knight is currently the highest grossing movie of 2008 in domestic box office and worldwide. Unadjusted for inflation, it is now the second highest grossing film domestically of all time with a total of $525,904,700, behind only Titanic with $600,788,188. It was the second film in history to pass the $500 million barrier, also in the fastest time, in 43 days (compared to Titanic's 98 days).
Warner Bros. plans on re-releasing the film in IMAX theaters in January 2009, the height of the voting for the Academy Awards, in order to further the chances of the film winning Oscars. There is no official word yet on if it will be re-released in traditional theaters.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times describes The Dark Knight as a "haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy." He praises the performances, direction, and writing, and says the film "redefine[s] the possibilities of the comic-book movie". Ebert states that the "key performance" is by Heath Ledger, and ponders whether he will become the first posthumous Academy Award winner since Peter Finch in 1976. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone writes that the film is deeper than its predecessor, with a "deft" script that refuses to scrutinize the Joker with popular psychology, instead pulling the viewer in with an examination of Bruce Wayne's psyche, while David Denby of The New Yorker holds that the story is not coherent enough to properly flesh out the disparities. He says the film's mood is one of "constant climax", and that it feels rushed and far too long. Denby criticizes scenes which he argues are meaningless or are cut short just as they become interesting. Todd Gilchrist of IGN remarks that, unlike most "mythology"-centred films, The Dark Knight covers everything concerning the logical or conceptual challenges such films present, giving the viewer everything they expect, but in ways which catch the viewer off-guard. David Ansen in Newsweek says the film is "impressive" in discussing the moral dilemma at its heart: the question about whether a hero has to abandon his code in order to defeat the villain.
Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News compares the film's sober depiction of characters that are "ticking time bombs" to those in Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992). He says that Bale, Gyllenhaal, Oldman, and Eckhart combine to add a maturity that was not present in Batman Begins. Travers has praise for all the cast, saying each brings his or her "'A' game" to the film. He says Bale is "electrifying", evoking Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II, and that Eckhart's portrayal of Harvey Dent is "scarily moving". Travers reserves the most acclaim for Ledger, saying the actor moves the Joker away from Jack Nicholson's interpretation into darker territory. He expresses his support for any potential campaign to have Ledger nominated for an Academy Award, a call echoed by filmmaker Kevin Smith, and Emanuel Levy, among others. Levy writes that Ledger "throws himself completely" into the role, and Todd Gilchrist calls Ledger's performance "transcendent". Gilchrist also shows admiration for Oldman's depiction of virtue, self-doubt and authority, and says Gyllenhaal adds depth and vigor to her role. David Denby remarks that the central conflict is workable, but that "only half the team can act it", saying that Bale's "placid" Bruce Wayne and "dogged but uninteresting" Batman is constantly upstaged by Ledger's "sinister and frightening" performance, which he says is the film's one element of success. Denby concludes that Ledger is "mesmerising" in every scene.
Travers says that the filmmakers move the film away from comic book cinema and closer to being a genuine work of art, citing Nolan's direction and the "gritty reality" of Wally Pfister's cinematography as helping to create a universe that has something "raw and elemental" at work within it. In particular, he cites Nolan's action choreography in the IMAX-tailored heist sequence as rivaling that of Heat (1995). Orr from The New Republic also praised the sparing use of CGI, such as in the chase scenes. Gilchrist praises the film's blending of comic book theatrics into realistic surroundings, and says that the film is the first comic book adaptation to qualify as a superior artistic achievement in its own right. Gilchrist says that Nolan examines the grand themes in "beautifully human" terms, and that the director reaches further than the first film with both his storytelling and camerawork, sustaining the "haunting" atmosphere, momentum and tension throughout the entire runtime. Emanuel Levy proclaims that the film represents Nolan's "most accomplished and mature" work, and the most technically impressive and resonant of all the Batman films. He calls the action sequences some of the most impressive seen in an American film for years, and talks of the Hong Kong-set portion of the film as being particularly visually impressive. While Denby has praise for Pfister's cinematography, he does not rate the film as a remarkable piece of craftmanship. He puts forward that while a lot happens in the film, it is often difficult to follow due to the close, dark photography and editing. Denby says the film is too grim and is seemingly "jammed together".
Dean Richards of WGN-TV calls the film not only the year's best film, "but one of the best films in years." Richards further compliments the film, noting how Chicago has never been used more effectively as a canvas for a story and stating, "It's not just a stunning super hero movie; it's a stunning film, period". Todd Gilchrist describes the film as "dark, complex and disturbing", and the most ambitious film of its type. He concludes that it breaks the boundaries set by any previous comic book adaptation—and even those of good filmmaking—in its weighty, thoughtful examination of the implications of heroism. Emanuel Levy and Peter Travers conclude that the film is "haunting and visionary", while Levy goes on to say that The Dark Knight is "nothing short of brilliant". David Denby surmises that the heavy-handed score and "thunderous" violence only serve to coarsen the property from Tim Burton's vision of the franchise into a "hyperviolent summer action spectacle", and that the film embraces the themes of terror that it purports to scrutinize. Larry Carroll at MTV.com says that the chase sequences, suggestions of The Godfather, and "beautiful" cinematography combine to make the film feel "Oscar-worthy", and David Ansen questions whether the viewer will come away from the film more exhausted than invigorated. He says that while The Dark Knight's ambition to be more than disposable entertainment is admirable, he wishes it could be more fun.
NPR film critic David Edelstein has been less enthusiastic toward the film, saying it "plays as if it were written by Oxford philosophy majors trying to tone up American pop." Edelstein also criticized the decision to set Gotham City in the real world, but then undercut its own realism with action scenes that he called "spectacularly incoherent". Said Edelstein, "I defy you to make spatial sense of a truck/Bat-tank/police car chase, or the climax with Batman, the Joker, hostages, SWAT teams, fake Batmen and Morgan Freeman on some kind of sonar monitoring gizmo". Additionally, in his appraisal of Ledger's Joker, Edelstein both praises Ledger's attempts and laments his realization as he summarizes "My heart went out to him. He’s working so very hard to fill the void, to be doing something every second. It’s rave and rage and purge acting...Ledger revs it higher and higher...He bugs his eyes...He tries on different voices...I couldn’t take my eyes off him, but in truth, I found the performance painful to watch. Scarier than what the Joker does to anyone onscreen is what Ledger must have been doing to himself — trying to find the center of a character without a dream of one". The New Republic's Christopher Orr also considers Ledger's performance powerful but disturbing, calling it "the film's most remarkable special effect" and adding that "to call it compelling would be a criminal understatement," but opining that "Even without Ledger's death, this would be a deeply discomfiting performance; as it is, it's hard not to view it as sign or symptom of the subsequent tragedy.
The violence and "jolts of brutality" of the movie have received some criticism, related to the MPAA giving the movie a PG-13 rating, a decision that Christopher Orr considered "shameful acquiescence", and which has also been questioned by others for a movie that "celebrates violence" instead of laws and justice. The British Board of Film Classification has defended its stance on rating the film a 12A certificate in the UK. CinemaScore reports that audiences have graded the film "a solid A" with demographics skewed slightly male and older.
Mystery writer Andrew Klavan, writing in The Wall Street Journal, compared the extreme measures that Batman takes to fight crime with those U.S. President George W. Bush has used in the War on Terror. Klavan claims that, "at some level" The Dark Knight is "a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war." Klavan supports this reading of the film by comparing Batman — like Bush, Klavan argues — "sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past. Klavan's article has received a great deal of criticism on the Internet and in mainstream media outlets.
The Dark Knight was ranked the 15th greatest film in history on Empire's 2008 list of the "500 Greatest Movies of All Time", based upon the votes of 10,000 readers, 150 film directors, and 50 key film critics.
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