The Dark Knight's "No Success"

How did this film succeed? What is success? What is The Dark Knight?

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By VicSage - 6/23/2010
Wow, have I been gone a long time! Well, I’m back and ready to rumble. To start off my new wave of articles, I bring you the reasons why The Dark Knight was a success. Now, this article may mean next to nothing to many of you because you know why this movie was a success. You are also probably tired of hearing those three words too - The Dark Knight - despite how much you like the movie. However, this article is for the ignorant, the small-minded, and/or the ill-informed amongst moviegoers, comic book geeks, and the general public. Below, I will clear up why The Dark Knight was a success. Now, let us get to it.

1) The Marketing: All major movies have some kind of marketing ploy. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight played a viral marketing campaign that had never been seen before. Sure, many films have had viral marketing campaigns where the reality of the film melds with our own. Fans are given the opportunity to become one with the movie’s universe. They can read the Daily Bugle, help build Stark’s newest destructive weapon, or help Gotham PD track down the whereabouts of Dr. Jonathan Crane.

But this time around, one movie did it bigger and better than any movie had ever done – The Dark Knight. Their decision not to show up at 2008’s San Diego Comic-Con but rather to use it as the launch for their campaign, where fans had their faced painted like the Joker and marched throughout the streets of San Diego. Not to mention there was that plane in the sky with that phone number… hmm.

No doubt, Warner Brothers went all the way with campaigning for this movie, and it paid off in the end. The film had plenty of media coverage, and yes, Heath's death did exacerbate it. Which brings us to the overstuffed second point which is, in fact, about five different points in one.

2) Heath Ledger’s Death/It’s the G**damn Batman/Joker: Now, many say the movie wouldn’t have made a penny had Heath not died. That, my friend, is absolute bull. True, Heath’s death did attract some non-Batman fans or non-comic book fans to see the film who, otherwise wouldn’t have seen it. Yet if anyone with half of a brain took certain factors into consideration, they’d know that these people only amounted to, at most, $100 million of the film’s gross which stood at roughly $960 million before its January re-release.

First, this is Batman. This character has been around since 1939 and spawned a hit 1960s live-action TV series (which has made its mark in American pop culture), the largest number of film’s for a single comic book character (Batman: The Movie, Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, and Batman Begins), a groundbreaking animated series in the 1990s (that eventually branched off into Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited), as well as the most direct-to-video releases for a major comic book character and the most animated renditions (Filmation’s Batman, Hanna-Barbera’s SuperFriends, Bruce Timm’s Batman, 2004’s The Batman, and 2008’s Batman: The Brave and the Bold). Batman has reached across many mediums and attracted people of all ages and races for years, whereas characters like Iron Man and Wolverine have only just been introduced to younger audiences in the ‘90s through their animated series. Case in point: It’s Batman. IT would’ve made money. Especially in a time where comic book movies are on the rise. Why shouldn’t one of the most popular characters amongst comic book-dom reign supreme? He’s the g**damn Batman! Period.

Secondly, this movie features the Joker. Whether this character was being played by Crispin Glover, Daniel Day Lewis, Jack Nicholson (again), or Tom Green, people would’ve seen this film. Why? Because Joker, like Batman, is amongst the most popular comic book characters within the comic book world. The Joker is a box office draw. Yes, people went to see if Heath would do it justice, but Joker alone ranks up there with Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, Lex Luthor, and Magneto as one of the most recognizable villains regardless of medium. Case in point: Joker is like Batman, he is popular, recognizable, and box office draw.

Thirdly, I’ve heard people say that Batman Begins didn’t make much money. While not a huge blockbuster in theatres, you have to give it some credit. Clearly, this film was only seen by true Batman fans and avid moviegoers. Batman Begins had just come off the heels of Batman & Robin, which, even after eight years, can leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. In addition to following after a complete blunder of a film, not many were familiar with the new Batman Christian Bale, and even less were familiar with the co-writer/director Christopher Nolan, AND even LESS were familiar with these “new”, obscure villains Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, and some guy named Carmine Falcone. Whereas in the past, people were almost drawn to Batman specifically for his fantastic rogue’s gallery consisting of the Joker, the Riddler, Catwoman, the Penguin, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze. Batman Begins had a hard time, but after resonating with audiences as a great Batman depiction and a great film, it was inevitable that The Dark Knight would succeed.

A picture by yours truly! VicSage aka Colin in the "real" world.

Any comments? Sound off below, I love feedback.
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VicSage - 6/23/2010, 5:07 PM
Leave it to me to make a mistake. I mean 2007's Comic Con CBM fans! Pardon my typo!
AshleyWilliams - 6/23/2010, 7:11 PM
Awesome article! TDK is the best CBM IMO.
Awesome sketch and welcome back!
elcaballerooscuro92 - 6/23/2010, 7:58 PM
really nice sketch and article, im one of those who went to see the dark knight for heath ledgers death, and now im a batman and a comicbook fan thanks to this film.
VicSage - 6/23/2010, 8:20 PM
@NightAvenger: Thanks! I've been gone for what seems like forever. I can't wait for you guys to read my other planned articles.

@drknight92: Well, thank you, and welcome aboard the comic book train! Might I recommend that you read: Batman: Year One, Batman: Long Halloween, Knightfall Trilogy, and Batman: Hush for starters. Great way to get your feet wet in the Batman universe. Of course, I could go on, but those books are essentials and stepping stone to understanding the Dark Knight.
AverageCitizen99 - 6/23/2010, 8:32 PM
Great article! Those are definitely the essential reasons why this film was the success it was. And nice sketch. :)
Christuffer - 6/23/2010, 9:28 PM
True homie. I loved Batman Begins. It's one of the movies I have separated from all the other movies.

My favorite image is that one scene where Scarecrow gets tazed, and he rides off on his horse. That was an epic win.

You inspire me VicSage. lol I wanna write more articles
TheAmazingSmitty - 6/23/2010, 9:35 PM
Fantastic article and what a great picture of Batman! I always thought that they got Batman's cape wrong in TDK because it never went over his shoulders.
theartofoneness - 6/23/2010, 9:40 PM
Batman begins was good and there was some anticipation for the second movie. I remember it well actually. The thing was that the main anticipation was who the villains would be and who would play them. When it became clear that two face may be in the movie interests went up. Then when we all found out that heath ledger would be playing the joker everyone was shocked and wondered how he would do it. At this point though the craze was not on yet. It was just like any other movie. In fact im sure people were complaining.

Its quite obvious that the main reason this second movie made as much as it did was because Heath Ledger died. This doesnt mean the movie sucked. It just means that we all became fascinated, because humans are very fascinated with death, that we could see his "last performance" which was of an impossible character. We all lived in the unknown and doubted that he could deliver on the joker. The shocker was that Heath played an amazing joker. So not only was it a unique experience to watch a "New" movie with a dead famous actors last role the fact is that he did an amazing job solidifying his name in history.

The story and all that is fine and dandy but I dont remember ever watching for any other reason than to watch heath and his amazing performance. I just wish there was more of him in the film.
VicSage - 6/23/2010, 9:58 PM
@AverageCitizen99: That's why they're there! And thanks for the compliment!

@Fartman: I inspire you? I do hope you're being sarcastic. I'm just a comic book/film geek like many of you here who hasn't even posted a total of five articles on this fantastic site yet! Nor do I have nearly the "fan"base or "forum-draw" as some of the other well-known users.

@DeadDrool: First of all, funny/great name. That kind of bothered me too in TDK. There were aspects of Batman's suit (and the movie) that I didn't like when compared to Begins which has some better aspects, in my opinion. One being, the cape. Nolan and Bale had it down in the first one with the prowling, crouching, cape flowing aspect, but threw it all out in The Dark Knight. Not a great change.

@theartofoneness: I believe partially what you said. Many of us did go see the film for Ledger, but first and foremost, we saw it because it was the Batman. Despite what people say about Bale's performance, or how the suit looked, we saw that film for The Dark Knight, first. The Joker and Heath's portrayal of that character, second. At least, that's how it applies to comic book fans, I think.
wavehunter - 6/23/2010, 10:04 PM
I'm a big fan of Batman even though I never read any of the comics. I hated the 60's tv show and thought that was Batman - lame. Then Tim Burton got me into the character a bit - good movie at the time. What really got me on board was Batman the animated tv series. That got me hooked on DC (still don't own or read the comics but love it just the same). Thank God Batman Begins came out to rekinndle the franchise. I hope it doesn't follow the same demise. BTW great drawing ang great article!
batmbl - 6/23/2010, 10:12 PM
Great article...I've been a Batman fan for as long as I can remember...watching the old 60's show in repeats and going to the Saturday morning serials at the local movie theater...When Batman came out in 1989 I thought is was a great movie...and enjoyed the 2nd and 3rd...not so much the 4th...When I went to the IMAX midnight showing of Batman Begins everything I had seen before in live form was total crap...
I have yet to watch the original 4 movies from the 80's and 90's all the way through since then and don't have any desire to either...Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are the only incarnations in live action form to stay true (not necessarily literal) to the comics...of course Batman TAS and IMO The Batman did a great job as well...
Now to me there is one major thing that The Dark Knight did that no other CBM in the past or present and probably not the future either mainstreamed the CBM experience more than anyone else...and did it with out the title character(s) name in the title like every other CBM has always chosen...true we comic book geeks know who the Dark Knight is but before the viral campaigns started no one else knew but they were still drawn to it...
Vafrous - 6/23/2010, 10:15 PM
I agree with you a hundred percent...To me,TDK is the greatest film ever...until Batman 3 arrives!!!!!!!!!!!!!
ClintEastwood - 6/23/2010, 10:34 PM
Good article, great picture!
JackJNapier - 6/23/2010, 10:38 PM
Very good article, plus you have an outstanting screen name.
entouragefan - 6/23/2010, 10:53 PM
@ VicSage

you were recommending Batman books for someone to read and if you havent gotten a hold of Batman: Cacophony do i read some of it tonight at the book store and my jaw dropped to the floor while reading it. And good call on Knightfall the best Batman graphic novel ever sir.
Orehrepus - 6/23/2010, 10:56 PM

While this is a good article, I hope you don't mind a constructive criticism. I don't mean to bitch on you or anything. Just an opinion that I think would've made it better. I hope it's taken as it is.

It's the structure of the whole article. It made me rather confuse. Do you have five items within the list or two items with three subitems for item number two? LOL, I can't explain it any better than that jumble of words. Here's what I meant:

Does the list consist of:
1. The viral marketing
2. The Death of Heath
3. Batman is very popular
4. Joker is very popular
5. It's the sequel of Batman Begins

Or is it:
1. The viral marketing
2. The Death of Heath
2a. Batman is very popular
2b. Joker is very popular
2c. It's the sequel of Batman Begins

Your structure seems to indicate the second option, but the content doesn't match that fact. Content-wise, it seems to indicate the first option. Or do you mean it to be an altogether different items of list?

Please forgive my confusion and I apologize if this is not the place to post this. Perhaps I should've e-mail you personally with this, but I don't know how (I'm rather new here :P)

But really, content-wise, this is a good article. And that IS a nice pic. You go, Bro! :)
VicSage - 6/23/2010, 11:04 PM
@Orehrepus: I completely understand what you mean. The structure of the article isn't the best. Talk about a comeback on my part, right? Well, if I were to choose which one is closest to the structure I was looking for, I think it would be:

1. Marketing

2. Everything Else!
a. Heath's death
b. Batman is popular
c. Joker is popular

3. Sequel to Batman Begins
JLAvenger23 - 6/23/2010, 11:07 PM
Great article, congrats man!!! And nice drawing!!!
Tobuttica - 6/24/2010, 1:10 AM
Just to throw my two cents in here, the marketing was phenominal, but I didn't go see it because of that. I saw it because of your #3. Every time I watched Batman Begins, I would get to the end and I even knew it was coming, I got goosebumps and a feeling in my stomach. The set-up from the ending, and really the whole movie made me want to see the sequel. I am glad that you mentioned the success wasn't based on Heath's death. It's unfortunate, but it's true. Sure Batman is popular, but that didn't help the other movies. It had a quite a bit to do with the feel of the movie and the realism that made it feel like it could actually happen.
Joker08 - 6/24/2010, 1:36 AM
Outstanding article, Vic. Thank you :)

Aiiwolf - 6/24/2010, 1:44 AM
Good Job on the article.

Christopher Nolan is just a mastermind at making good movies. Inception will be just as good as any of his other movies. I think the answers to "" of TDK will be answered, whne The third and final Nolan sequel comes out. I agree, that 2) Everything else ....But, Even if Heath Ledger didnt die...The movie would of made movie regardless. I believe its still the number one ranked comicbook movie. lol

WB, bro.
dczhen - 6/24/2010, 1:56 AM
true true.
marvel72 - 6/24/2010, 1:58 AM
@ vicage i think having a great director,heath ledgers death,great story,best villain in comics & about 500 million batman fans helped.
bring on batman 3.
ROMACK - 6/24/2010, 3:48 AM
Excellent article!
I would also go so far as to say that if Ledger had not died it wouldn't have change the final payday for TDK. I think his performance as the Joker was so set apart from anything that came before that it alone pulled in people who weren't your normal action movie/comic fanboys as well. It was just so well done that "word of mouth" pulled in alot of people just to see if it was as good as they had heard.
Shaman - 6/24/2010, 4:43 AM
Very very good read, Vic! I have to fully agree. And it's a damn shame i can't see your sketch at work. I love me some freakin' art :))
LEEE777 - 6/24/2010, 5:23 AM
SHAMAN @ Its pretty cool!

VIC @ Great read man, love it! :)

Welcome back too man!!
flames809 - 6/24/2010, 5:54 AM
i gotta agree with you man on every thing. but you also missed because of the trailers everyone that saw it fan or thought that would be a cool movie to see.
ROMACK - 6/24/2010, 6:01 AM
Love the latest avatar dude!
Swanky - 6/24/2010, 7:06 AM
Nice article. Ive heard this Batman fellow is pretty popular :)
Shaman - 6/24/2010, 7:22 AM
ROMACK- Thanks dude! John Shipp is The MAN!!!
Nightwing09 - 6/24/2010, 8:45 AM
Wow Awesome Article
RorMachine - 6/24/2010, 10:44 AM
Great article Vic, and truly (imo) the greatest film to ever be adapted from a comic book.
JHowlett - 6/24/2010, 11:20 AM
Wasn't it also the first CBM to win an Academy Award? That's a pretty big success with this genre of movie is taken seriously by the empty suits in Hollywood.
UncleDrew - 6/24/2010, 11:32 AM
Your right with the Joker point. Even if Heath Ledger wasn't the Joker(can't see it as anyone else now), he is such a big comic book character, that people want to see it just because of the character.
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Nemesys - 6/24/2010, 11:51 AM
@Ror - While I agree TDK is a great film, IMO 300 is the best comic book adaptation, and honestly, even though it wasn't as great of a film to me, I'd put Watchman at 2nd place. Those movies literally jumped off the comic book page onto the celluloid of the film. I really don't see how you can top 300 as almost a frame-by-frame translation of the images of Frank Miller's story.
jman1977 - 6/24/2010, 12:38 PM
Good job on the article dude. Welcome back and keep em coming!
JHowlett - 6/24/2010, 3:00 PM
@Ozymandias I think Bale was better in Begins than in TDK but the movie (TDK) overall just seemed better to me Caine, Freeman, Oldman I thought all gave better performances and of course Ledger was just brilliant. It's sad that Ledger died because I think the original plan was to bring him back for the 3rd movie it sux that we'll never see how that would have gone.
comicb00kguy - 6/24/2010, 4:21 PM
may I ask a question here? Is this reference to the "ignorant" and "small-minded" people those who argue that the Dark Knight was NOT successful, or those who didn't like the movie? I certainly hope it's the former and not the latter!

I'm one of those geeks that did NOT like the Dark Knight, for reasons I have espoused here on numerous occasions. The movie certainly was successful- only a fool would deny that. I don't like the influence that the Dark Knight has had on the comic book movie genre.

I don't appreciate the insistence on a phony 'realism' like Dark Knight purports to have. Okay, in the real world, a guy who lurks in shadows to fight crime and stay out of sight is going to drive a very conspicuous vehicle that anyone would notice from a mile away. It would be far more realistic to drive a Bond-type car: ordinary on the outside, but tricked out with all kinds of gadgets inside.

I don't like the mean and ugly tone of the film, which has fanboys now wanting to see every comic movie "dark". Dark may work for Batman, but it won't work for guys like Superman or Spider-Man, who are far more optimistic characters.

I don't like the costuming, which has lead to seeing way too many heroes wearing armor where it makes no sense. Batman wouldn't wear armor. He's an accomplished martial artist. Armor would encumber his movements and hinder his fighting skills.

All that said, I did enjoy many aspects of Batman Begins. I thought it was clever to show an origin for some of Batman's familiar gadgets, a story that had never been told.
VicSage - 6/24/2010, 7:27 PM
First of all, thanks everyone for the comments, and you can indeed expect more from me in the near future.

@comicb00kguy: Whenever I write an article, I try to be objective and state the facts, much like the person my username has inherited. If you didn't like TDK, that's fine. I actually prefer many aspects of Begins over TDK. I am only explaining what made TDK a success. Not saying how amazing it is above other films or how it was so... etc, etc. I am merely stating how it became successful, whereas other Comic Book Movies struggle or are just a moderate success.
Optimist18 - 6/24/2010, 8:01 PM
Good article, but in all honesty, I prefer Batman Begins to The Dark Knight. The whole expierence in the theater was far better and to top it off I saw it twice (Begins). I went in to it with the idea that it'd be like the other four before it, (which I liked by the way). When it turned out to be far different, it was all the more better. If anything the hype for Dark Knight killed what impact it had on me. It is definitely a good sequel, but the "under the radar" aspect of Begins makes it my favorite of the two.
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