While the new Batman is still setting records since it's release 10 days ago, I began to wonder if it's the momentum created by Heath Ledger's untimely death last January or if people can really be this much into dark films? Obviously, it must be Heath Ledger that has made this film the blockbuster it is - and not so much that his death has been a contributor to the box office receipts, but also that he must have turned in a truly convincing, stunning performance as an evil villain (I have not seen the film so I'm going based on other people's opinions expressed to me).
This article from the WSJ acknowledges it as such:
"The Dark Knight" isn't simply another superhero movie. In fact, taken on its own terms, it's really not a superhero movie at all: It's a supervillain movie, and the many critics and fans who are calling for Mr. Ledger to be nominated for an Academy Award are reading the film correctly -- they want him nominated for best actor, not best supporting actor
But then the author goes on to ruminate over whether or not Dark Knight was actually a contributor to Heath Ledger's death:
But there is another, more troubling, aspect to this part of the story. We know that Mr. Ledger died of an overdose of prescription drugs after a period of insomnia and acute depression. What we see on the screen in "The Dark Knight" -- as we are plunged into a netherworld that provides no escape from its brutal realities -- may well be a projection of Mr. Ledger's inner torment as he tried to fight those afflictions: a portrait of a Method actor who could not keep a proper distance from his role, an artist who stared too long into the abyss and saw a twisted, drug-addled death mask staring back at him. (This past weekend, Christian Bale was arrested then released on bail following charges of assault from his mother and sister; "The Dark Knight" must present one heck of an abyss.)
The author then concludes:
We know enough about how involved actors can be in their roles to see that this idea is not far-fetched. Does that make "The Dark Knight" a $180 million-plus snuff film? Give that a thought before you plunk your $229 down for that action figure.
This should give us pause. If life and art so tragically merge together, then how should we view movies that take people into deeper despair and darkness? I'm not advocating slappy-happy, feel good films. I'm just wondering if, in our search for authenticity, we haven't overstepped some bounds in the presentation of evil and darkness, most especially when it's presented without a hope?
How sad that a hope or redemption wasn't offered in the film - one that Heath Ledger could have grabbed onto as he immersed himself in his role. Who knows - perhaps he would be alive today...