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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

The Dark Knight (2008) ft. Adam Hitchcock and Robb Conlon


Guests: Adam Hitchcock, Host of The Streaming Circuit podcast, and Robb Conlon, Founder of Westport Studios


Cast:

  • Christopher Nolan, Writer/Director

  • Jonathan Nolan, Co-Writer

  • Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, Music

  • Wally Pfister, Cinematography

  • Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman

  • Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth

  • Heath Ledger as the Joker

  • Gary Oldman as James Gordon

  • Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent / Two-Face

  • Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes

  • Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox

  • Eric Roberts as Sal Maroni

*Recognition:

  • The Dark Knight was wide released on July 18, 2008.

  • It earned $158.4million during the weekend breaking Spider-Man 3's record for highest grossing opening weekend and making it the number-one film. It set further records for the highest-grossing single-day ($67.2million on the Friday), Sunday ($43.6million), midnight opening ($18.5million, from 3,000 midnight screenings), and IMAX opening ($6.3million from about 94 locations), as well as the second-highest-grossing Saturday ($47.7million) behind Spider-Man 3, and contributed to the highest-grossing weekend on record ($253.6million).

  • The film would go on to gross over $1 billion and be the #1 movie of 2008.

  • Critics were majority positive with many highlighting the storytelling, the practical stuntwork, and the near unanimous praise for Ledger's performance as the Joker.

  • Ledger won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, making him only the second performer to win an award posthumously (after Peter Finch in 1977), and The Dark Knight the first comic book adaptation to win an Academy acting award. The Dark Knight also won an award for Best Sound Editing (King), and received six nominations for Best Art Direction (Crowley and Peter Lando), Best Cinematography (Pfister), Best Film Editing (Smith), Best Makeup (Caglione Jr. and O'Sullivan), Best Sound Mixing (Hirschberg, Rizzo, and Ed Novick), and Best Visual Effects (Davis, Corbould, Webber, and Franklin).

  • Despite the success of The Dark Knight, the lack of a Best Picture nomination was criticized and described as a "snub" by some publications. The response was seen as the culmination of several years of criticism toward the Academy ignoring high-performing, broadly popular films. The backlash was such that, for the 82nd Academy Awards awards in 2010, the Academy increased the limit for Best Picture nominees from five to ten, a change known as "The Dark Knight Rule". It allowed for more broadly popular but "respected" films to be nominated, including District 9, The Blind Side, Avatar, and Up, the first animated film to be nominated in two decades. This change is seen as responsible for the first Best Picture nomination of a comic book adaptation, Black Panther (2018).

  • The Dark Knight is considered a blueprint for the modern superhero film that productions either attempt to closely emulate or deliberately counter. Its financial, critical, and cultural successes legitimized the genre with film studios at a time when recent films, such as Daredevil, Hulk (both 2003), Fantastic Four (2005), and Superman Returns (2006) had failed to meet expectations. The genre became a focus of annual studio strategies rather than a relatively niche project, and a surge of comic-book adaptations followed, in part because of their broad franchising potential. In 2008, Ebert wrote; "[The Dark Knight], and to a lesser degree Iron Man, redefine the possibilities of the 'comic-book movie'". The Atlantic wrote Iron Man's legacy in launching the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) could not have happened without the financial and critical success of The Dark Knight, which made comic book adaptations a central focus of film studios.

  • In 2020, the United States Library of Congress selected The Dark Knight to be preserved in the National Film Registry

  • The Dark Knight currently holds a 94% on RT, an 84 on Metacritic, and a 4.5/5 on Letterboxd.

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: Is mankind as dark, twisted, and cynical as we all feel at times, or can we be forced into good?


Plot Summary: In Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight," Batman (Bruce Wayne) faces his greatest challenge yet as he battles against this chaotic and unpredictable force of a new criminal mastermind known as the Joker.


The Joker, a psychopathic and sadistic criminal, aims to bring Gotham City to its knees by sowing fear and unleashing chaos. Batman, along with his trusted ally Commissioner James Gordon and the newly appointed district attorney Harvey Dent, form an alliance to combat the Joker's reign of terror. As the Joker's plans escalate, Batman finds himself pushed to his limits, both physically and morally. He must confront the question of whether his methods as a vigilante are truly effective or if they contribute to the cycle of violence.


"The Dark Knight" is a gripping and intense superhero film that delves into the darker aspects of Batman's world. With its memorable performances, including Heath Ledger's iconic portrayal of the Joker, the movie leaves a lasting impact, immersing audiences in a suspenseful and morally complex narrative that sets it apart as a defining entry in the Batman franchise.


Did You Know:

  • Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, as Holmes chose to star in the crime comedy Mad Money (2008) instead.

  • In preparation for his role as the Joker, Heath Ledger hid away in a motel room for about six weeks. During this extended stay of seclusion, Ledger delved deep into the psychology of the character. He devoted himself to developing the Joker's every tic, namely the voice and that sadistic-sounding laugh (for the voice, Ledger's goal was to create a tone that didn't echo the work Jack Nicholson did in his 1989 performance as the Joker). Ledger's interpretation of the Joker's appearance was primarily based on the chaotic, disheveled look of punk rocker Sid Vicious combined with the psychotic mannerisms of Malcolm McDowell's character, Alex De Large, from A Clockwork Orange (1971).

  • Heath Ledger's sudden death from drug toxicity on January 22, 2008, prompted immediate speculation over this movie's state and Ledger's disposition prior to death. Soon after Ledger's death was announced, Warner Bros. issued a statement that verified that Ledger had finished all of his scenes in principal photography, as well as post-production duties (looping), thus making the Joker his final, completed movie role. Rumors abounded that playing the intense role had taken its toll on Ledger's mental state, causing him to become depressed and take a wrong combination of drugs as a result. However, his family has since put such rumors to rest by stating that far from being depressed, he had a lot of fun playing the role. Ledger did suffer from insomnia throughout his life, and would often take sleeping pills together with other prescription drugs (something his sister had actually warned against the night before his death). Unfortunately, the mix he took on that night proved to be a fatal combination.

Best Performance: Heath Ledger (Joker)/Aaron Eckhart (Harvey/Two-Face)/Christopher Nolan (Director/Writer)

Best Secondary Performance: Christopher Nolan (Director/Writer)/Heath Ledger (Joker)

Most Charismatic Award: Heath Ledger (Joker)/Gary Oldman (Gordon)/Christian Bale (Bruce/Batman)

Best Scene:

  • Bank Heist Open

  • Kitchen Meeting

  • Do you wanna know how I got these scars?

  • Joker attacks Fundraiser

  • Dent takes the fall

  • Transport Chase

  • Interrogation

  • Rachel v Dent

  • Two-Face

  • Blow Up a Hospital

  • Ferry Rides

  • Final Showdown

Favorite Scene: Transport Chase/Interrogation/Ferry Rides

Most Indelible Moment: Final Showdown/Blow Up a Hospital/Do you wanna know how I got these scars?/Magic Trick


In Memorium:

  • Jeffrey Carlson, 48, American actor (All My Children, The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, Hitch)

  • Randy Fullmer, 73, American animator (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Beauty and the Beast) and film producer (The Emperor's New Groove)

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

The Joker: If you're good at something, never do it for free.


The Joker: Who did you leave him with?


The Joker: What's the time?

Lt. James Gordon: What difference does that make?

The Joker: Well, depending on the time, he may be in one spot, or several.


Harvey Dent: You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.


The Chechen: [in a warehouse next to a mountain of money] Joker-man, what you do with all your money?

The Joker: You see, I'm a guy of simple taste. I enjoy dynamite, and gunpowder, and gasoline! [he pours gasoline on the mountain of cash]

The Chechen: [panicked] What the...?

The Joker: Ah-ta-ta-ta-ta. And you know the thing they have in common? They're cheap.


The Joker: [in a warehouse next to a mountain of money] All you care about is money. This city deserves a better class of criminal. And I'm gonna give it to them!


The Joker: Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it! You know, I just... *do* things.


[bumps along while driving a hijacked semi truck]

The Joker: [driving in the driver's seat] I like this job - I like it!


The Joker: ...and the suit, it wasn't cheap. You oughta know; you bought it!


The Joker: [giggling] I don't, I don't want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, NO! No. You... you... complete me.

Batman: You're garbage who kills for money.

The Joker: Don't talk like one of them. You're not! Even if you'd like to be. To them, you're just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don't, they'll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve.


The Joker: If we don't deal with this now; a-Gambel here, won't be able to get a nickel...for his grandma.


Lucius Fox: [to Reese] Let me get this straight, you think that your client, one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world, is secretly a vigilante, who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands, and your plan is to blackmail this person?

[Reese's face falls and Fox smiles] Good luck.


The Joker: You wanna know how I got these scars? My father, was a drinker, and a fiend. And one night, he goes off crazier than usual. Mommy gets the kitchen knife to defend herself. He doesn't like that. Not. One. Bit. So, me watching, he takes the knife to her, laughing while he does it. He turns to me and says, "Why so serious?" Comes at me with the knife. "WHY SO SERIOUS?" He sticks the blade in my mouth... "Let's put a smile on that face." And...[glancing at thug] Why so serious?


SWAT Member: What is that? Is that a bazooka?!


The Joker: I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hmmm? You know... You know what I've noticed? Nobody panics when things go "according to plan." Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it's all "part of the plan". But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds! [Joker hands Two-Face a gun and points it at himself] Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I'm an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It's fair!


Harvey Dent: The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.


The Joker: I took Gotham's white knight and I brought him down to our level. It wasn't hard. You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push!


The Joker:[putting a gas grenade in the banker's mouth] I believe, whatever doesn't kill you, simply makes you...[takes off his mask revealing the face of the Joker] ...stranger.


James Gordon Jr.: Why's he running, Dad?

Lt. James Gordon: Because we have to chase him.

James Gordon Jr.: He didn't do anything wrong.

Lt. James Gordon: Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 9.63

Impact/Significance: 10

Novelty: 9

Classic-ness: 9

Rewatchability: 9.5

Audience Score: 9.35 (93% Google, 94% RT)

Total: 56.48


Remaining Questions:

  • Are there too many people involved for a conspiracy?

  • What number did the silent alarm dial during the opening heist?

  • Would killing the Joker have stopped anything?

  • Why does the Joker give Batman the switched addresses?

  • Why does Harvey fight Batman saving him?

  • Why doesn't Bruce have a second Batmobile?

  • Where did the pencil go?

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