Heath Ledger's Death: The Success of THE DARK KNIGHT?

Heath Ledger's Death: The Success of THE DARK KNIGHT?

The great Joker debate. Is Heath Ledger's death the driving force behind Christopher Nolan's monster hit; THE DARK KNIGHT? NeoBaggins gives his thoughts and asks for yours.

We explore Heath Ledger's death and it's impact on the grand success of THE DARK KNIGHT.

We've heard people say it, some of us, from our own lips; The Dark Knight owes it's success to the death of Heath Ledger- or at least to a large degree. Let's take a look at this claim and try to get a better understanding of the theories in which this popular belief is based. From my point of view, Ledger's Death lifting The Dark Knight to it's Billion dollars status seems like one of those things people believe, but never really thought about why they believe it. I've come to that conclusion because anyone I've ever heard make the claim, merely makes the claim and NEVER elaborates on it. It's like saying greasy foods give you acne and being in the rain will give you a cold. Nothing else needs to be said because, we all know these things to be true. Right?

The first thing we must establish with such a phenomenon is the level of Ledger's notoriety, his popularity. The most popular man on Earth generated a spike in record sales upon his death, as well as Whitney Houston. But we can all agree that Heath Ledger was no Kurt Cobain, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix or Michael Jackson when it came to popularity. He's not a world renowned recording artist, so how popular was he as an actor? At the time of his Dark Knight casting (which I initially hated), I only remembered Ledger from the film 'A Knights Tale' and later learned he was one of the main stars in Broke Back Mountain. If he was in anything else up until that point, I'm unfamiliar with it. Never heard of it. This would appear to me that as an actor, Heath Ledger was not a house hold name, or at least not famous enough to generate a Billion dollars in tickets sales upon his death. I have yet to meet a person (in person or online) who was not going to see The Dark Knight until they heard of Ledgers death. Not a single one.

Some have posed the argument that Ledger was famous amongst a young female audience. I wouldn't doubt that he was, but I WOULD doubt that a young female audience pushed a Batman film to a Billion dollars. Maybe Broke Back Mountain was the vehicle of popularity that fueled his posthumous frenzy? Probably not. The Dark Knight and Broke Back Mountain are obviously aimed at two different target audiences. Not saying that movie-goers aren't versatile, just saying that the group that likes both would be too small to make such an impact on The Dark Knight's box-office.

The imaginarium of doctor parnassus. No billies at the box-office here. 30 MIL Budget. 60 MIL gross. Anyone who is more knowledgeable and with greater and more accurate sources, please intervene with numbers where they apply. Statistics and gross is not my thing. This is an open forum so please feel free to make corrections. Now, If there was something about Ledger that led his death to generate a Billion dollars for the Dark Knight, wouldn't this trend have at lease continued in some capacity in Doctor Parnassus or greater? It did not, and from my understanding, his death was an actual part of the films marketing. Far more tailored around his last performances than The Dark Knight ever was. And it wasn't.

So, I'm just not seeing the logic behind Heath Ledger's death being the driving force behind the success of the Dark Knight. I can see his PERFORMANCE being a driving force. But the actor just wasn't famous enough to generate that type of interest. Shortly after he died, I was at work and a co-worker was online and ran across the news of his death. The article had to piece together for him that Heath Ledger, who died, was playing the Joker in the upcoming Batman film. All he knew before this was that the Joker was the villain and that it was a movie he was going to see. I remember this because this is someone I had discussions with about movies on a regular basis.

Some say the Dark Knight Rises will suffer due to the absents of Ledger. This is a strange thought process considering that even if he was still alive, he wouldn't be the villain again anyway. Who thinks Nolan would make Joker the villain in back-to-back Batman movies? His death is completely unrelated.

So, that's my outlook on that theory. My personal experience and thoughts on the material. I'm looking for accounts that would explain how his death did indeed (or probably) made the Dark Knight the highest grossing CBM of all time. I may have overlooked something or haven't yet considered a certain aspect and would like to hear opposing dialog on this.

Award winning performance or death of an acting icon?

Ok, go.
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Member Since 8/22/2010
Filed Under "Batman" 4/16/2012
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