The Dark Knight Is 10
Today, Christopher Nolan’s seminal superhero film THE DARK KNIGHT turns ten. Between its release and the numerous contemporary think pieces and anniversary features praising the Batman movie that raised the bar for the action and now-burgeoning comic book genre, the significance of THE DARK KNIGHT has been well-chronicled. Throughout my high school years, it was my favorite movie. I still love it, and Batman, but something something changing tastes. In any event, it’s no leap to say THE DARK KNIGHT is a great movie, and an important one. But as we celebrate ten years since its release, I look ahead to the future and wonder when we’ll get another Batman movie that can even remotely come close to the heights of Nolan’s film.
I’ve already written, recently, about my dissatisfaction with Warner Bros. DC Extended Universe films. A large part of my frustration stems from the lack of movies for the hard-hitting characters from the DC universe, including Superman and, of course, Batman. There is no concrete plan or definitively announced Batman film since this continuity’s Bruce Wayne (played by Ben Affleck) was introduced in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016). It may very well have been the defining characteristics of THE DARK KNIGHT that has made this come to pass.
MAN OF STEEL (2013) and, therefore the DCEU that sprang from it, was clearly informed by Nolan’s Batman trilogy, the most realistic and grittiest take on superheroes that film had seen. But this was in the hands of Zack Snyder, whose own brand of grit usually veers back into the cartoonish. Much of the criticism of the DCEU films is their lack of humor and inability to embrace the Marvel Cinematic Universe style for superhero movies. Besides the fact that the MCU was not yet established at the time of THE DARK KNIGHT’s release, the movie’s seriousness was not widely criticized. That’s because it was pulled off incredibly well; say what you will about Nolan, but he doesn’t lack vision. That’s clear in each of his movies. As an even more corporate-formulated venture, one that isn’t even as tightly controlled as Disney’s, the DCEU films can’t really maintain a consistent quality or tone, in spite of everything the movies’ makers want to owe to THE DARK KNIGHT.
This is all to say that in attempting to emulate THE DARK KNIGHT, the minds behind the DCEU made a crucial misstep. Superman is not a dark brooding type with daddy issues, and the Suicide Squad really should be more fun than they were presented in their own film. The DCEU films have landed flat so far, with the exception of WONDER WOMAN (2017), and that’s clearly causing some trouble for their slate. Affleck’s standalone Batman film, which he was originally attached to direct, is in an unclear state. He undoubtedly owes Warner Bros. a number of films as Batman, but there were even reports that he would be dropping the role…before the iconic character even got his own film in DC’s new cinematic world order. These kinds of production woes rarely result in great, cohesive films, so I’m not holding my breath for a great Batman film in the DCEU.
I figure there were about 13 years between good Batman films; from BATMAN RETURNS (1992) to BATMAN BEGINS (2005). THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012) is incredibly disappointing, but it was of higher quality than even most DCEU movies. I’m just going to say we’re probably due for another good Batman film in just under a decade, once Warner Bros. drastically redoes its DCEU plans or scraps it altogether for disparate films as the film industry had always done before Disney’s Marvel formula. The DARK KNIGHT trilogy was a product of a changing perspective of superheroes and a reaction to the sheer volume of bad superhero movies that were coming out post-X-MEN (2000). And before it, I suppose. The next landmark Batman film, and I do believe there will be one, will have to come out of a landscape that has become stagnant and desperately needs reinvention. It’ll probably come in the form of a film separate from a “cinematic universe” (as Warner Bros. has already started exploring with its Joaquin Phoenix Joker movie). We’ll just have to wait until, like, 2025 or something. Prove me wrong, Ben Affleck.