Batman: Hoping for a Dark Knight

By Joel Ebert
7-19-2008

You will undoubtedly read and/or hear about the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight, in some form or another sometime in the next few weeks. Critics will rave about it, fans will recommend it, and kids will demand that parents take them to it. These are the ways things work in the film industry.

According to an article in the International Herald Tribune, The Dark Knight, which was released just yesterday, set a box office record for its midnight debut. Box office totals from the 3,040 theaters that showed the film are said to be at $18.5 million. This figure does not even include the ticket sales from 3:00 am and 6:00 am viewings.

What’s more is that the film hasn’t even seen its full release yet. The Dark Knight, yet to be released in some countries, is officially scheduled to show in 4,366 theaters – the largest number of theaters ever to show a film.

What is really interesting about the Batman series is that each film has made more money in the United States than around the rest of the world. This isn’t typical for most films Hollywood has made, or otherwise. Most films (with a few notable exceptions) make most of their money from global distribution.

So the fact that the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight, is selling in droves in the United States didn’t surprise me. But what did surprise me are the numerous reasons why people are attending the film. While there are several different reasons why people are flocking to the film in record numbers, I would like to concentrate on one factor that you most certainly will not read in a critic’s review. That factor is a collective desire for hope in America today.

In the beginning of the film, the citizens of Gotham City (the fictional, yet reminiscent of reality, city in the Batman series) are in distress. They do not know whether they are safe from Batman, the mob or alternative villains. When District Attorney Harvey Dent comes around, the citizens project their hopes and desires for Gotham onto the man, even referring to him as the White Knight. But what they don’t know is that Batman is really making things happen. He is the Dark Knight that is making Gotham a safer city. The hope that Gotham’s citizens express for Harvey Dent is not unlike the hope many American citizens have felt, and continue to feel, about the current race for presidency.

Hope was the key word for a while in the presidential primary race and will most likely continue to be big in the race for the presidency. Hope has been used by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain to entice and invigorate Americans to have faith in the future of America once again.

We, Americans, want to believe that we can get behind one person who will lead us to a better, less fear driven world. And this is exactly what the citizens of Gotham City want Batman to do for them. But they are skeptical. They think that Batman could be doing more harm than good, seeing as how innocent people are still dying while Batman is trying to save the day.

This is because Batman isn’t superhuman. He can never fulfill all of the hopes and desires that Gotham’s citizens have for him. But this does not mean he isn’t working for a better day when Gotham’s citizens can feel safe and trust their city is going in the right direction again.

But this desire for hope may not be the number one reason why people are flocking to The Dark Knight this summer. But I think that the welcoming reception that the film has received has something to do with our hope for an ordinary citizen who can lead us to better understand ourselves and the world around us.

1 comment:

Dr.C! said...

joel, your article definitely has me wishing that more "culture critics" if you will, would offer more critique as you clearly do. thanks, buddy! i can't resist making connection so here it goes, may be the large numbers flocking to the film "The Dark Knight" is foreshadow of a majority flocking to another, living, dark knight -- wink, wink ---.