It's only been in theatres for 10 days, but The Dark Knight's domestic box office total now stands at $300 million, the fastest a movie has ever reached that total.
Yep, it's safe to say that this will be the movie business story of the year. What's most interesting to me is that an almost opressively dark and uncompromising film connected this much with audiences. Looking at it on its face, it would seem to be a tough sell to an audience from a studio's point of view.
First, it's long. At 152 minutes it's quite a bit longer that studios like. Shorter run times means more showings per day, yes, but studios also point to market research that says that audiences don't like long movies.
Second, it's grim. The story line takes itself and its chracters very seriously. It's clear that Nolan wanted to tell this story with as real stakes as possible, namely; if a guy in costume was working as a vigilante in your city, and a psychotic criminal with no scruples whatsoever became fixated on said vigilante, very bad things would happen and it would be a good idea to move. Not cartoony things, but actual bad things. The film doesn't shy away from this in any way. The Joker may be entertaining, but he's also honestly terrifying. Part of it is certainly the performance, but a lot is in the writing. You actually have no idea what he's about to do next.
Finally, its complex. It has a deliberate commentary to make on escalation of force, on the cost of an orderly society, on terrorism and the world we live in.
God, it makes Iron Man (which I enjoyed a lot) look like a kid's cartoon.
So, why has it clicked? Well, because of two reasons, IMO. First, contrary to the beliefs of the studios, audiences aren't dumb. They know quality when they see it. If a movies' good, they'll accept 152 minutes of grim, complex stuff. Second, Nolan and company didn't completely go art-house here. There are still some great action sequences throughout that are customary for a big summer blockbuster, and these sequences are exceptional.
Will The Dark Knight change the way blockbusters are done? Probably not. The main ingredient to its success has been its quality. The buzz, fanboys, and Ledger's death may have gotten people in the door, but it's massive success is due to its quality. That's much harder to replicate.
(and on a lighter note: I believe the poster above is a fake. So much for trusting my veracity)