Date: July 18, 2008
Prologue: How often can the dead speak to us? How often can they inspire us?
This past year, a jester sought to commune from beyond the grave, and in doing so he presented us with perhaps the most important question we have been asked in ages...
On January 22, 2008, rising star, Heath Ledger died of a sudden and tragic overdose to sleeping pills. After some research, it was discovered that Ledger became so addicted to the sleeping pills because he got so into his role of The Joker for the upcoming summer blockbuster, The Dark Knight.
This immediately picked the interest of a rabid fan base, who were at best, hesitant to see the same actor from 10 Things I Hate About You and Brokeback Mountain portray one of the most infamous villain in the entire DC Comic universe.
After several more months of some excellent viral marketing (including the amazing, whysoserious.com), the big day finally arrived, and everyone went to see it. The movie set the opening day record with over $67 million, shattering the previous record of $58.1 million.
Hype goes a long way to setting opening day records, but if the product lacks, it is hard to maintain serious drawing power (see: 3, Spider-Man). However, for all of the hype surrounding The Dark Knight, it did something almost unimaginable in the age of superficial blockbusters, it was better than it's hype.
The film was universally praised by fans and critics alike. Ledger's performance as The Joker was simply legendary. He performed a rare feat of having a villain completely steal the show, and joins the elite pantheon of Hannibal Lector and Darth Vader as the most engaging and multi-dimensional antagonists in film. Meanwhile Christian Bale was excellent once again in his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman, excellently contrasting the characters idealism with his borderline sociopathism. Perhaps the most underrated character in the film though is Aaron Eckhart, who is able to take the pretty-boy-do-gooder Harvey Dent, and believably turn him into a comic book super villain, while remaining true to his motives as a champion of justice.
The rare combination of hype and quality helped generate a box office mega-success. When it was all said and done, The Dark Knight became the fastest movie to reach the $500 million mark, cutting The Titanic's run in half, and ended up finishing as the second-highest grossing film of all time, only losing only to to the afformentioned film about a boat and a love story. Upon its release to DVD, it sold 3 million units in one day, once more, shattering a record.
Not only did this movie prove that dark, twisted movies can sell, but it was perhaps the most successful use of viral marketing in history. As such, one can anticipate that more and more of both will be used in the future.
But the most enduring legacy of this film, is and always will be Ledger's performance. It is heart-breaking that we were robbed of an amazing talent at such a young age, just as he was hitting his peak. Who knows what more the man could have done with a full career ahead of him?
The tragic thing is that we will never know. But do not grieve to badly, I don't think that he would want you to take things so seriously.
Epilogue: The most interesting development in the coming months will be the consideration it gets during Oscar season. After winning several nominations and awards in other venues, it remains to be seen if a very un-Oscar movie receives a nomination. A growing vocal majority is repeatedly making claims that the movie deserves a nomination for Best Picture, and that Heath Ledger deserves the nod for Best Supporting Actor.
We will have to wait until January 20, to find out.
Until next time,
Achieved Year in Review Posts:
The Fall of the Prophet - January 6th
The Rise of the Ice Queen -January 7th
An Unlikely Fruition - January 7th
Attack of the Three-Headed Terror - January 9th
A Most Sincere Inquiry - January 10th
The Golden League - January 14th
The Fall from Grace - January 16th
The Eighth Layer of Injustice - January 16th
The Transmuter of Nations - January 22nd