The Dark Knight at 10: 10 ways it Introduced a Little Anarchy

Batman The Dark Knight at 10

“Why so Serious?”

Heath Ledger’s Joker, disappearing pencils, Harvey’s lucky coin, love triangles, Batpods and a Caped Crusader having to cross the line. Cinema’s greatest comic book adaptation was released 10 years ago.

It’s a decade since the majestic centre point of Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy simultaneously elevated the perception of what comic book films could be on film and set a tone, whether resisted or followed, for a genre making its way to the top of the box office.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the year of The Dark Knight’s release also saw the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, imperceptibly starting on its own journey to redefine Hollywood blockbusters. That behemoth began rather inauspiciously with the double-bill of an unstoppable force of chaos and a super crime fighting multi-millionaire playboy. Although there was little appreciation that the billion dollar box office barrier The Dark Knight smashed through would soon become de rigueur for the flagship films of DC’s great rivals.

Nolan’s vision soon proved to be definitive to the point of irony in the fast-growing comic book genre.

A decade on, The Dark Knight stands tall as Batman’s finest celluloid hour. That’s saying something for a film that’s part of a rigid, isolationist trilogy and for a character whose live action pedigree stretches across multiple iterations and 70 years. Nolan’s vision soon proved to be definitive to the point of irony in the fast-growing comic book genre. The trilogy was an impossible springboard for an expanded film universe, but it set the tone under the light guiding hand of Chris Nolan for the difficult DC Extended Universe that followed in the past decade.

The Dark Knight wasn’t the first comic book film that strove for a level of realism or ‘darkness’, but it’s effect was immediate. Given the successful but unfashionable steps to colour that DC’s big hitters Superman and Batman had taken in the 1960s and 1970s, in the 21st century their incarnations would be set by The Dark Knight. The DCEU that duly emerged half a decade later was dark, gloomy, robust, powerful and hard-hitting. This was the universe of gods, eager to set a strong and lofty tone that comic pages could translate to screen. It now seems odd now that this sprang from the grounded and gritty Dark Knight trilogy as much as Nolan’s film’s became a watchword for darkness (read ‘not kids films’) without being mired in it, unlike Batman versus Superman or Man of Steel.

There have been few disasters in the DC films that followed. 2011’s Green Lantern may be the true exception, although that came mid-Dark Knight trilogy. But there have been plenty of disappointments, a far cry from the heights of The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. The impact of Nolan’s trilogy on the DCEU is still difficult to call. On the anniversary of The Dark Knight’s release this weekend, Warner Brothers premiered trailers at San Diego Comic Con for two new DC films that broke their so-called dark curse: Shazam and Aquaman. Alongside those was an early glimpse at the New Romantic-set sequel to one of last year’s great comic film successes, Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman may have felt like a fresh slice of quality amid other major DC output from the last few years, but it’s storytelling style, reach and multiple levels owed much to Nolan’s trilogy, proving that Batman’s greatest celluloid moment, has a legacy as complex as its narrative.

To celebrate the modern comic classic, Jokerside presents 10 ways The Dark Knight broke the mold and unexpectedly gave us one of the most influential films of all time.

Dark Knight at 10 - Batman

1. It’s extraordinarily faithful

“I think you and I are destined to do this forever”

A struggle with origins have long dragged down the comic book medium, and the rot set into Batman’s modern film existence as soon as Tim Burton’s 1989 classic let a rather homicidal Dark Knight avenge his parents’ death. 2005’s Batman Begins made its more mature intent clear: there were no easy answers, and the crux lay in the battered tussle between Bruce Wayne and Batman.

It was a broad canvas ready to be explored in the sequel, but what was extraordinary was Nolan’s faithfulness to the source material. Joker was no stranger to public consciousness, but his film credentials were tied up in Jack Nicholson’s definitive 1980s take. The rather obvious idea of directly translating many great and classic storylines from the pages of comic books has only settled in over the past decade. After Begins Nolan had his sights set on the very beginning of Batman’s much explored and interpreted nemesis, and adapting an origin lost over decades of character development.

In the run-up to the film, eyebrows raised at Nolan’s assertion that his Joker would follow the character’s original 1940 comic book appearance. But there it is. The chillingly cool opening bank robbery, albeit to a different end, shows the same effective big dollar robber. Working alone for the most part, this Joker is quite at home with physical altercation, even if he doesn’t quite match his early comic book counterpart who could best Batman in a scrap. He comes from nowhere, with no identity but an intelligence to match the otherworldly comic horror of his appearance. And just as in Batman #1 the Joker issues warnings before commiting crimes. Now in a different medium, and not so clearly because he’s obsessed with his own brilliance, he still remains a man of his word. Read more…

Batman at 75: The Ultimate Festive Favourite – Batman Returns

The Penguin - Batman's Santa Claus

 

From a comic universe ice-packed with cold foes, and a franchise often shovelling snow and ice, Batman Returns sits at the top of the tree as the most festive of the Batman films. One of Tim Burton’s finest hours, and the one that pissed off McDonalds.

BATMAN RETURNS PUTS ANOTHER TYPE OF BIRD INTO THE CHRISTMAS STUFFING MIX.  THE “YULETIDE CONTEXT” AS CHRISTOPHER WALKEN’S MAX SHRECK CALLS IT, IS UNAVOIDABLE IN A FILM WITH MANY A CHRISTMAS TREE POPPING UP, BUT IT’S HARDLY AN OVERRIDING MESSAGE.  The Penguin may have been born on Christmas Day (unconfirmed, but he’s certainly a Capricorn), he may be ascending at the meaningful age of 33, but most of the Biblical strands woven through Returns are stridently Old Testament.  The Book of Exodus is the most prominent.  The Penguins origin echoes Moses’ – exchanging cyperaceae for sphenisciformes – And it’s the feathery fiend who later enacts his own variation of the Plague of the Firstborn in vengeance.

Packed alongside are more Christmas elements than you could shake a cute umbrella at.  There are the pantomime villains, Dickensian grotesques (much to Alfred’s constant disdain) and even a morally flawed business man with the shock of white hair who obviously has little time for festivities beyond his annual Maxquerade ball. “Hard and sharp as flint” especially when protesting that he’s no monster. There’s also time for the type of remote controlled car that the Penguin might place under your tree (“I don’t like surprises”) and the anthropomorphic animals that still grace many a Disney film. And then there’s the omnipresent snow. Amid a high murder rate and constant explosions, there’s perpetual snow.

All of these elements and more combine to create an irresistibly stylised fairy tale tone and picture that could comfortably, and lazily, be termed Burtonesque. Even 22 years later.
Read more…

Batman at 75: Gotham City on Film I – Ill Met By Moonlight in the 20th Century

Batman's Gotham City on film

The tale of a paved and cracked actor. As Gotham turns one of the most the famous fictional cities into a television character, the first part of a look at how Batman’s city that has fared on screen, From the Manhattan of the 1940s to the nadir of 1990s excess…

“GOTHAM CITY… CITY OF JUSTICE, A CITY OF LOVE, A CITY OF PEACE, FOR EVERYONE OF US…” IS HOW R KELLY SERENEDED GOTHAM CITY ON THE TIE-IN ALBUM FOR 1997’S BATMAN AND ROBIN. One of the greatest mis-readings in popular music for one of the stupendously misguided films in cash cow history.

A jump to the comics may help. “I’ve forgotten what Gotham feels like… Night after night, hopelessness just tries to beat down anything good”.

That’s more like it. An optimistic analysis from the primary coloured, long-livid and original Green Lantern Alan Scott on a rare occasion he worked with the Dark Knight (Ed Brubaker’s Made of Wood).

From Green Lantern, through Catwoman, Gotham Central, all the spin-offs, contagions, earthquakes, Scott Snyder’s skilful rebooting as a City of Owls in the New 52 through to Lego:Batman, Arkham Origins and the expansive animated portrayals… Gotham has probably been detailed more than any other fictional city. Since it replaced New York as the Caped Crusader’s hometown in the 1940s it’s become a character in its own right, a definitive part of the myth of the Batman.

But on the big and small screens it’s a different story. Read more…

Batman at 75: Hot off the press… The Freshly Minted Batman #1 REVIEWED!

Joker alone Batman 1 1940

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On Comic Book Day, a Jokerside exclusive! After a soaring debut in the pages of Detective Comics #27 the comical Caped Crusader and his still inexplicable Boy Wonder have won their own spin-off title. In a packed first edition they take on three rogues across four rip-roaring tales – but do they, and the comic itself, have the Bat-durability to make it solo?

IN THIS FIRST ISSUE, BILL FINGER AND BOB KANE WISELY KICK OFF BY REPEATING THE AVENGING HERO’S ORIGIN STORY AS REVEALED IN DETECTIVE COMICS #33 A FEW MONTHS AGO: THE LEGEND OF THE BATMAN AND HOW HE CAME TO BE! This two-page summary concisely shows how Batman was borne of the tragedy of random crime, honing himself in science and physical feats to become, thanks to the timely arrival of a bat through the window, the “Avenger of evil, the Batman”.

Four Tales, Four Colour

In the four stories that follow, the Dynamic Duo battle three enemies each with a hook as outlandish as the last, with plots ranging from a jewel heist framed as an Agatha Christie-style mystery to homicidal clown mania. First and foremost is the debut of that deadly clown, a grim jester known only as the Joker whose statement of intent is immediately made clear when he makes a sinister ‘return’ before the book is even done. On the way to that rematch Batman and the Boy Wonder meet a debutante lady jewel thief you could only hope to find in a Caped Crusader comic, the Cat; which animal will prove to be the predator? And in between there’s just about time to thwart one returning rogue, surely a criminal set for arch-villain status. Professor Hugo Strange escapes and soon brings a band of mutant monsters to town. Strong stuff true believers! Read more…

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