Why So Serious? Why, It’s My Fifth Dark Knight-iversary!

Five years ago today, I attended a sneak preview with an enthusiastic Seattle audience, and watched this guy for the first time.

Complicated, thought-provoking, discussion-starting, well-acted, full of awe-inspiring action sequences, unpredictable… I hadn’t seen a comic-book-hero movie as ambitious or as impressive. Nor have I seen one to match it since. 

(If you want to read my first-impression post, which I posted on July 18, 2008, here it is.)

Considering recent headlines, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight seems to have been somewhat prophetic. Remember Batman’s high-tech detective tactics?

But alas, the movie has had a damaging effect on the genre.

Since then, too many films — including Nolan’s — have been “Nolan-ized,” relying on an overbearingly grim tone, relentlessly ominous soundtracks, thunderous bass notes to punctuate the seriousness of everything, and villains who try to upstage the Joker. The tone intensified, eventually drowning out nuances of personality and storytelling, leaving characters like Leonardo DiCaprio’s in Inception swept away in a tsunami of their movies’ own self-importance and solemnity.

If you want a clearer illustration of what I mean, put on your headphones, go here, and press the red button. Yeah. I’ve heard enough of that.

It’s time for some new ideas… or better, a new genre, to take center stage.

This movie’s slogan seems strangely timely: “WHY… SO… SERIOUS?”

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Jakeithus

    Still possibly my favourite movie of all time. I walked out of the theatre with the strong desire to go back and immediately watch it again, something I can’t say I’ve ever wanted to do before or since.

    It has its flaws for sure, but everything it did right it did SO right, that I’m still waiting for a movie that can hit all the same notes for me.


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