The nearly universal consensus is that Dark Knight is better than expected, and maybe the best film of the summer–so far, at least. The film also hit the theaters with a bang, earning a record three-day ticket sales of $155.3 million over last weekend,
shoring up what so far had been a wobbly year at the box office. The reasons for the film’s success are multiple: good character development, stylish visuals, a familiar concept, the poignancy of Heath Ledger’s death shortly after principal shooting, lack of strong competition, and a generally glum national mood. Dark Knight could be the title of the entire summer of 2008.
Despite its evident quality, however, Dark Knight feels middle aged. In fact, many of the summer superhero films–Hancock, Iron Man, Hulk–have an autumnal feel to them. In the case of Dark Knight, this feeling comes from the age of the franchise (est. 1989), along with the sense that Batman has relived his past (Batman Begins) and has now dropped his youthful pretenses and callowness. But Batman doesn’t seem to be settling into middle age with much grace or perspective. Christian Bale’s Batman and Heath Ledger’s Joker both seem to have come out of a long internal process in which they accept their own murderous, even totalitarian impulses. Dave Kehr has gone so far as to compare the film to Dirty Harry. It’s as if we’re watching a Weimar Expressionist film after fascism has eaten its terrified heart.