10 Years Later, The Dark Knight Still Matters

By Mark Hughes

1200x630bbAs we celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Batman film “The Dark Knight,” most talk centers on the film’s status in the superhero film genre and the iconic performance by Heath Ledger. But it’s worth remembering the film’s powerful reflection of our national debate about balancing social fears and security with our individual liberties and right to privacy, amid the so-called “war on terror.” It remains one of the most socially relevant and resonant action films of the modern cinematic age, and even more so specifically within the superhero genre.

“The Dark Knight” is among a group of high-profile films forcing us to consider the sacrifices and conflicting ideals civil society must confront in an age of anxiety about domestic terrorist threats and loss of individual autonomy. “Prisoners,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “Rendition” are among those spiritual siblings to “The Dark Knight,” representing literal or analogous depictions of the rising national security state apparatus and how it has changed our culture forever. The best of such films also include themes about technology becoming both an existential threat to, and instrument of expression for, our security and our liberty.

I recommend watching a movie paring of “The Dark Knight,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Prisoners,” and “Rendition.” Specifically, I’d suggest watching them in that precise order, to achieve maximum impact. These films take different yet comparable paths to examine many of the same or conflicting ideas about terrorism, torture, privacy, abuse of power, and the painful choices we make or refuse to make, depending on if and when a given moment allows us to transcend ourselves and serve a greater good.

Does the greater good require us to violate our ideals, or does it demand we double down on living up to them? Do we take the easy path, or the hard path, and where does that path lead and any given moment? What are we willing to give up, and what is too precious to sacrifice in the name of either safety or liberty? When does our principled idealism have to give way to the truth about mandatory compromises to save civil society and our ideals from those who use them as weapons against society itself? Is it noble or foolishly selfish to keep our own hands clean and wave the flag of idealism, rather than get our hands dirty doing things to protect society even if society will damn us for it later?

These and many more questions are posited in each of the films I recommend you watch for this marathon on the anniversary of “The Dark Knight”’s release. And I hope everyone will participate in such a marathon viewing, to remind us all that these questions have not faded or lost relevance, even a decade later. Indeed, the relevance grows ever more obvious, and cinema has always been a great way for our society to confront our inner demons and major issues of the day together, in a church of pop culture where ugly truths and painful questions can be vocalized and portrayed in ways inviting us to let our guard down, internalize the themes and messages, and walk away willing to face the questions directly, with new insights and understanding of different perspectives.

Today, our nation faces a renewed crisis of conscience and existential threats to the very survival of civil society and democracy, if not eventually the survival of the world itself. The threat of terrorism was and remains very real, but larger threats have conspired and aligned against us both domestically and externally. So we cannot ignore the renewed importance of our debate about how we prevent and fight terrorism, without losing our fundamental liberties to authoritarians abusing those national security considerations as a means to grab power and undermine democracy.

It’s a testament to the power of cinema that it can play a significant role in how we visualize, consider, and ultimately address the most troubling questions about what sort of future we want for our country. “The Dark Knight” is one of several superhero movies proving comic book films are a valid part of artistic expression relevant to our national dialogue about who we are as a people, particularly with regard to waging war at home and abroad in the post-9/11 age.

The impotent cry of “keep politics out of superhero comics/movies” from certain corners of fandom is transparently absurd at face value, since of course comics have always been political and some of the greatest comic book stories are great precisely because of their social commentary and political relevance. Such is the case for superhero movies, and “The Dark Knight” proves it perhaps better than any other example from the genre. No reasonable viewer could watch “The Dark Knight” and fail to recognize its social and political relevance. How you interpret it is of course dependent on what you bring to the experience and how you perceive the world, but it’s also possible to interpret the film contrary to your own views, or to glimpse morally ambiguity within the story as well.

“The Dark Knight” might conform to your own views, or it might conflict with them, or it might conform to them in some ways while conflicting with them in others. Or it might all seem ambiguous and uncertain, the lessons hard to describe as either intentionally righteous or flawed and doomed to fail. What you get out of it can be radically different, even while certain aspects of the film have an element of objective truth to them, simply serving as mile-markers of sorts to keep our moral and intellectual journey honest.

It’s great when a superhero film entertains. It’s even better when a superhero film entertains and also informs. But it’s perhaps best when a superhero film entertains precisely because of how it informs. “The Dark Knight” is a terrific example of the latter, a film that is thrilling and transcendent because of how it informs us, how it challenges us, and how it makes us realize this caped crusader, this masked vigilante, this Batman, is a truer reflection of us and our world than we ever realized.

Happy anniversary, “The Dark Knight.” Of all the praise I could give you, I think the best is this: you mattered, and you matter even more today.

Episode 117: SDCC2018 Trailer Breakdowns

 

 

San Diego Comic Con is in full swing and with it a trio of DC trailers have hit the internet highway! Kyle, Justin, and guest Drew Kiess examine the trailers for Titans, Shazam, and Aquaman! All of our likes and dislikes will be layed out, so kick back and follow along as we talk about these trailers.

10 Years Serious: The Legacy of the Dark Knight

by Drew Kiess

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“You changed things…forever”

Do you remember 2008? The New England Patriots just failed to complete an unbeaten season, Indiana Jones is hiding in a refrigerator, and Sarah Palin is still the craziest Republican. The world has changed quite a bit since 2008. Except for the Patriots. They’re still really good. Dangit.

Superhero movies had been on the rebound since the turn of the century, starting with X-Men in 2000 and the Spider-Man in 2002, and their respective sequels. These films took a more grounded approach to the subgenre and were hits. Marvel comics on film was finally hitting the big-time after decades of false starts, but DC was dead in the water following Batman and Robin (and to a lesser extent, Steel and Catwoman) and attempts to relaunch Batman and Superman on the big screen were troubled and often misguided.

Enter Christopher Nolan.

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In 2005, Batman Begins was a modest success, but it offered one of the most nuanced and earnest interpretations of a comic book superhero to date (and perhaps since). Begins may not have lit the box office on fire, but Batman was back and people were paying attention again.

Three years later.

The build up to The Dark Knight in 2008 was the return of Batmania. There was an energy to this movie that hasn’t truly been replicated since, and when the movie finally hit, it hit hard. Heath Ledger’s Joker took the world by storm, taking a legendary pop culture figure and re-writing the legend entirely. “Why so serious” was now intrinsically tied to the character, and burned into public consciousness as an all-time great film moment. The Dark Knight was a massive success, clearing the $1 billion mark (a much more rare of a feat at the time). Comic Book movies would never be the same.

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The reason they would never be the same has less to do with The Dark Knight’s serious storytelling than with it does with its success. Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, despite neither being spectacularly lucrative, had a more long lasting impact in the storytelling department than did The Dark Knight, as every company wants their own universe now. Warners has two shared universes, Fox had their own comic book universe which is now in limbo thanks to a corporate buyout, Universal has struggled to get one off the ground, and Sony has thrown everything from Men in Black to that one guy who once appeared in an ad in a Spider-Man comic at the wall in hopes that people would look forward to seeing their films. And of course, Marvel Studios built a multi-billion dollar business off the backs of their 2008 films.

No, the legacy of The Dark Knight is that no superhero movie since has been like The Dark Knight. At least once a year, we see a critic refer to a superhero blockbuster as “the best since The Dark Knight”. It changed the way audiences perceive the ceiling for comic book movies. These aren’t just superhero movies—these are real movies. They can contend for awards, and you can say you like them without feeling silly. Without The Dark Knight, there is no MCU, because The Dark Knight didn’t just make Batman cool again, it made superheroes cool.

There is still a lot of talk about whether or not The Dark Knight is the greatest superhero movie of all time. Maybe it is. I don’t think that’s a very interesting conversation, though. What’s more interesting is the fact that the conversations are happening, still, even ten years later. The Dark Knight was a landmark moment for cinema that ushered in an age of geek-domination at the box office.

If The Dark Knight were to be released today, I cannot help but feel that it would not be quite as beloved as it is. It came out at the perfect time. Not a day too soon or late. It was lightning in a bottle, which is why it has never been replicated. Even The Dark Knight Rises (which, in my opinion is every bit as good, if not better) could not repeat the cultural impact, despite being an even bigger financial success. To sum up the legacy of the film by simply saying that it was special seems too quaint, but that is exactly where we are. There was nothing quite like it before its release, and there will never be another like it again.

So, no, I don’t think it needs to be the best superhero movie of all time, but I do think that it is easily the most important superhero movie of the modern age. While Superman The Movie may have been responsible for planting the seed, it was The Dark Knight that reshaped the landscape and finally tilled the ground.

And for those who wish to argue its merits based on inconsistencies and compare it to other movies’ ability to stick to the source material, all I have for you is one question:

Why so serious?

Shanlian On Batman: Episode 114

 

Justin and Kyle fire up the microphones to talk about recent DC news including the merging between Time Warner and AT&T, the upcoming reveal of the Aquaman and Shazam trailer, as well as Geoff Johns working on Green Lantern! Finally the guys chat the news of Ben Affleck leaving the role of Batman, courtesy of the Forbes Article from Mark Hughes

The Reconstruction of the Superhero, part four: Doomsday Clock #5

by Drew Kiess

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The following contains spoilers for Doomsday Clock #5

There Is No God

With every issue released of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Doomsday Clock, we find ourselves in a much darker world. Finding stories in our real world to be inspired by is becoming increasingly difficult, and we all seem to be living in a world without heroes.

I’m not even sure Alan Moore himself would have written a script this twisted.

“There Is No God” is the fifth chapter of the follow-up to Moore’s Watchmen. The Supermen Theory is becoming reality daily, and Lex Luthor’s would-be assassin Adrian Veidt is recovering from a fall in the hospital. Hawk and Dove have been arrested in St Petersburg for political rioting, and the world is falling apart.

What we have seen over the past several years is the decay of real-life heroes. In the age of the internet, it’s only a matter of time before every good guy has his dirty skeleton drug out of the closet and put on display. In many ways, this is what 1986 did to comic book superheroes.

While the intention of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns was never to turn the world of superheroes into the world of dark and brooding, it certainly had that effect on the industry. It’s well documented how serious superhero stories became in light of the success of those books.

Superheroes have always reflected the culture in some way, but originally, that reflection was always reversed—a mirror in which to see that we could do and be better.

Action Comics #1 is about a man standing up for the poor and the weak. It was written by two poor Jewish boys from Cleveland, Ohio. It reflected their world, but wasn’t about presenting the world as it was, but as they hoped it could be. A savior, finally come. An Übermensch come to set things right.

And for some time, we cheered with glee as the hero prevailed. Evil loses, good wins and everyone cheers. But at some point we came to believe that the hero had to be flawed, had to lose from time to time, and might even be part of the problem.

Superman Is The Only Thing You Can Believe In

Johnny Thunder in this series, at least for me, represents an era of comics-gone-by. Him and the Legion have always been something of a relic from the golden (and even somewhat silver) age of comic books. As we know, the Legion is gone and Thunder is aimless. This has been the most captivating element of this book so far, inasmuch as it’s the story with the least amount of revelations. What exactly is Johnny hoping to accomplish, and what in the world does the Lantern have to do with it?

Rorschach saves Thunder from being mugged. In this moment, a character with a legacy of death and cynicism saves a character from a simpler, more optimistic time. Maybe heroes do still exists.

Meanwhile, Superman himself makes his first appearance since the closing panel of the first chapter. While the story has yet to give him much to do, he overhears that is a metahuman that is responsible for Supermen Theory, adding to the mystery. Can we trust our heroes, especially the good ones?

Everything Evens Out

While this issue is light on narrative, its subtext is rich. The things we hope in determines our path in life. Are we resigned to the failures of our heroes? Must we fall prey to the negativity around us? If Superman over the years has taught us anything, it’s that hope in a better world than our own is never misplaced.

While the thesis is that there is no God, the trajectory is faith. This isn’t Moore’s world anymore. Superman isn’t Manhattan, and so there is hope to be had that good will, in fact, win. While this may not have been the most memorable or ground breaking issue, but it has given me much to think about over the last few weeks. The Reconstruction continues.

 

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” -Tolkien

Leto to Get Standalone Joker Film

 

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Jared Leto is set to star and Exec. Produce and upcoming “Joker” standalone film at Warner Bros.

Now that the “Birds of Prey” film is off the ground and in the earliest stages of pre-production, the studio has shifted focus on getting Leto on board to reprise his role as the clown prince of crime.

Variety’s Justin Kroll revealed that Leto and other characters from 2016’s “Suicide Squad” will begin to branch off into their own respective films. Margot Robbie is set to reprise her role as Harley Quinn in a future “Birds of Prey” film. Plot details for both upcoming films are unknown.

Warners still has plans on developing a “Joker” solo film with Todd Phillips in the director’s chair and Martin Scorsese producing. The plan going forward will still allow multiple actors portray the same character going forward in the DC Cinematic Universe.

 

 

 

 

Source Variety

https://bit.ly/2M48qUf