It's All in a Name - Batman: The Dark Knight
by Alex Billington
April 17, 2008
A discussion that has emerged numerous times in the last few months questions the title of some of this summer's movies - specifically the title of The Dark Knight. One topic that my friends and I usually discuss every night is the ongoing debate over what's going to be the biggest box office earner this summer. I say The Dark Knight, my other friend says Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, another one says Wall-E. While that's a debate that can be saved for another day, a consensus that seems to have been reached amongst all of us is that The Dark Knight might struggle because the name isn't as recognizable as Indiana Jones. It needs something more - it needs to be called Batman: The Dark Knight. Why?
My friends have made a very convincing point that I think is worth mentioning for the sake of discussion. When considering overall box office revenue and potential earnings, one must consider every last person in the US that might see a movie. Thus you have to account for everyone who is not as knowledgeable as just about every last person who is probably reading this. Their point is that The Dark Knight doesn't have as much traction as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull right now (refer to The Moviegoer's Most Anticipated Summer 2008 Movie) because it's not instantly recognizable as a sequel nor even as a Batman movie. The character name - Batman - isn't in the title and therefore it has not built as much buzz as a sequel or film in that franchise.
This doesn't mean to say that The Dark Knight is a bad title. In fact, I love the title, and wouldn't suggest they change it. However, if Batman were added to the front of it, it might help the film's exposure just a bit more. Unfortunately I agree - and it's unfortunate because I hate the idea of changing a title just to expand the exposure of a movie to a wider audience. The reason why Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull could edge out The Dark Knight in earnings is because it has the character's name, Indiana Jones, right smack there at the beginning of the title. People know and love Indiana Jones and instantly realize that it's another sequel in the series. People know and love Batman, but not everyone has instantly recognized The Dark Knight yet.
I'm sure in due time Warner Brothers will focus their marketing efforts on reminding the public that this is the sequel to Batman Begins (a title that did include Batman). However, the issue still remains and the question is still valid. Would the same movie perform any better or gain any additional traction if it were named Batman: The Dark Knight instead of just The Dark Knight? How important do you think having the name of a prominent character in the title really is? Obviously not all movies could be like Indiana Jones and throw the character's name in the title, which is why I like Christopher Nolan's creative choice to call it The Dark Knight anyway, but it's still a concern that needs to be considered as a prohibitive factor in the film's performance.
All of this is really for the sake of discussion. I'd love to open this discussion up beyond my friends. Chime in with your thoughts below and considerations on the performance of The Dark Knight based purely on its name. Will it perform better than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull this summer?
Reader Feedback - 47 Comments
I hate to say it (just because I don't want to sound insensitive) but I think this movie has one thing that no other movie has this summer. It was Heath Ledger's last completed movie. I don't think Warner Brothers would market it that way, but even when Heath died everyone was talking about the Dark Knight being his last compeleted film. Just my opinion.
Drew on Apr 17, 2008
Bullshit. If Warners isn't concerned, neither should you be. The planet will know that The Dark Knight is a Batman movie, most do already.
J on Apr 17, 2008
Good point. While I personally really like just "The Dark Knight", "Batman - The Dark Knight" could probably be a better choice for the best box office results. Craig Mazin wrote a great article on this subject a while back http://artfulwriter.com/?p=87
Andreas Climent on Apr 17, 2008
Warner must have done research on doing this--even though Chris Nolan was rambling about how cool he is for releasing it without Batman in the title years ago. The flip--Superman. Is "The Man of Steel" more recognizable? And, I hate to say it, Joel Schumacher at least understood the title should have to do with the content.
Andrew Wickliffe on Apr 17, 2008
Hi Alex, Good article, but i agree with #2: it's their problem. Although the question has its interest and it's perfectly understandable from the POV of marketing, it doesn't add much in the POV of die-hard (or not so) fans of Batman, who are more than well informed about the movie, from viral propaganda to websites like yours. Does the wider audience need more info than it already has, without dumbing down DK ? And btw, IMO, I think that all that Harvey Dent's wonderful viral bs is more cryptic than DK, whose title has the batman logo behind, whereas HD could be more effective if was referred as Two-Faces. If one doesn't know what Dark Knight is, how will he connect the dots from Harvey Dent to DK ? Only die-hard fans will. Calling this "yet another Batman adventure" is dumbing down the movie, and Warner already did that with Batman and Robin. I'll watch DK regardless of it's title. For example, i've seen Cloverfield in the cinema even if it's title was not self-explainable. Would more people watch that movie if it was titled "Cloverfield - JJ Abraham's Godzilla" or "Monstrous" ? Just my .50cent, cheers!
Fox on Apr 17, 2008
I think regardless of the title, The Dark Knight won't make as much money as Indiana Jones this summer. But to more directly answer your question, I also don't think that it would make more money with the word "Batman" thrown in front of it. You have to take into account that Batman and Superman are hands down the two most iconic comic book characters of all time, let alone the most long-standing. They are ingrained into people's psyche whether they know it or not (although one could make the argument that "The Man of Steel" would have better name recognition than "The Dark Knight" because Superman is more patriotic and arguably more easily recognizable to the average American), so we have to assume that people know what mantle Batman goes by. And with the marketing for the film sure to kick up in the next month or so, there's little chance that the average moviegoer wouldn't have at least seen a TV spot for the film by the time they are standing in line at the theater shelling out money for ever-rising ticket prices.
Ben on Apr 17, 2008
But has Batman ever been known in popular media as "The Dark Knight." They mention it in "Batman Forever" and it was probably on the cartoon... But it wasn't on the TV show--still the most recognizable Batman to the over 30 audience. "Batman Begins" was meant to appeal to the early-to-mid 20s female Spider-Man fans. "The Dark Knight" sounds like a Jet Li movie Artisan put out dubbed, not a Batman movie.
Andrew Wickliffe on Apr 17, 2008
I have to say the not inclding BATMAN in the tittle is an awesome move. It makes me think of a different story line were this character becomes a real legend and grows from what we saw in Batman Begins. And just an FYI, I'm from Latin America and the films tittle is being translated to BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT. Basicly becasuse Batmans other allies is nota big part of our pop culture.
Tremolan on Apr 17, 2008
Does how much money a movie make change how good the film is? Nah... Its going to be the best summer movie despite if it makes #2 in the box office. I thought that that reoccurring Batman - Returns... Batman - Forever... Batman - and Robin thing got kinda old. I love the more artistic choice "The Dark Knight" better. I think its more about making an amazing movie for Nolan, and more about the money for the studio. Plus people don't really go see a movie these days without seeing a poster or trailer anyways so they will all know its about Batman. The trailer played before millions already during I Am Legend anyways.
Joel on Apr 17, 2008
Everyone I know calls this film "the next Batman" or just plain ol' "Batman". Example: "He's fucking dead? Did he finish Batman?" Yeah, moviegoers are lazy and call it what it is. No Crystal Skull shit, just Indiana Jones.
Ivan on Apr 17, 2008
I disagree. Quite frankly, if you don't know that this is a Batman movie, you don't deserve to see it.
Nick Gligor on Apr 17, 2008
"In fact, I love the title, and wouldn't suggest they change it." Like it or not though, Alex; the mere existence of this article becomes a suggestion that the title be changed. The Dark Knight works as a title (as you said, Alex... just to be fair). It's simple. It's easy to remember; and... doesn't that bat logo behind the title provide enough of a tip off that, it is indeed a Batman film?
Simon Luxury-Yacht on Apr 17, 2008
I don't think Alex is arguing for the title to be changed. He's just wondering if the film would get more recognizeable exposure if it had "Batman" in front of it. And personally I think it would. I visited my parents out in LA for a little vacation about a month ago and The Dark Knight came up in conversation, five minutes into the conversation my mother asked "Is this a movie about Batman?" Obviously "The Dark Knight" didn't stick with her as Batman's pseudonym. So yes, I think that adding "Batman" to the front of the movie's title would help it's exposure and in turn help it's box office. Should it be changed? Hell no! Calling it "The Dark Knight" is just one more beautiful way Nolan is separating himself from the Schumacher atrocities.
Icarus on Apr 17, 2008
I would agree that the film would hit a ton more folks if it had Batman in it, especially the younger crowds. And older for that matter.
Movie Reviews on Apr 17, 2008
I love the title "The Dark Knight", but I have to agree that adding "Batman" to it would help exposure, and ticket sales. Anybody who reads this site would know it's about Batman, but to assume the rest of the world does, is dumb. For those who grew up on the Adam West show, Batman is the "Caped Crusader" who along with "The Boy Wonder" Robin became "The Dynamic Duo". I understand Nolan's desire to further distance his movies from the Burton/Schumacher films, but the title is one of the most important parts of the movie. Many great films have tanked because their titles sucked. I personally think "The Dark Knight" is a great title, but I'm biased because I've been a die hard fan my whole life. I want "The Dark Knight" to be a success, because I want more movies made, so if adding "Batman" to the title makes a slight difference, then I say it's worth it. Use your logic, search your soul, and you'll see that this would be a necessary sacrifice. It doesn't take anything away from the movie, does it? My only concern for the franchise is that they'll add Robin, and title the film "Batman: The Dynamic Duo". Worse yet, they'll hand over the directing gig to Uwe Boll. Count your blessing people. It's gonna kick ass no matter what it's called, and you will see it because it's Batman.
TCox on Apr 17, 2008
TDK is going to own the box office, the hype around this movie is sick. Nobody wants to go see Harrison Ford old ass slangin' a whip.
Don P on Apr 17, 2008
Actually, given Ledger's death, Warner doesn't have to worry about a thing. I wonder how much value the publicity they're getting from his death--I mean, $50 million, a $100?
Andrew Wickliffe on Apr 17, 2008
I agree with #10, everybody I know calls it "the new batman movie", and I mean C'mon google was filled with heat ledger's searches by the time he passed away. I believe everyone knows there's a new batman film out there, but not everybody knows it's called the dark knight. As the months pass by and it gets closer to the release date I hope the posters with the bat logo will make it clear that "The Dark Knight" is the "new batman" flick. I say don't change the title, but they probably need to...
bltzie on Apr 17, 2008
Don P - While I'm not enterested in seeing Ford's "old ass", I'm on board for the next Indiana Jones. (I had to specify because these people would rip me apart if I didn't). I like how Hollywood's not afraid to show us our childhood heroes as older men (Die hard 4, Indiana Jones 4, Rocky 6, Rambo 4, etc). I like the evolution of the characters, and the aknowledgement that these guys aren't young anymore. Andrew - You can't put a price tag on it. As much as they will benefit from his death, it's pretty safe to say they would rather he lived to help promote the movie and return in the next installment. You got to remember that above everything else he was a great actor, who everyone loved. Let's not speculate as to what benefit his death brings to the movie. Doing so makes seeing the movie feel somewhat dirty.
TCox on Apr 17, 2008
Seriously, only people with less than half a brain won't recognize "The Dark Knight" as a Batman movie. And the marketing (not to mention the merits of the film itself) is what sells a movie, not the title. Then again, if there are people in this country that really ARE that stupid...
Andrew on Apr 17, 2008
I think the name The Dark Knight goes hand in hand with Batman for anyone who knows anything about comics and movies, only these people will go see it anyway. I wouldn't think that adding Batman onto the title would have any effect on it's performance. Besides, having "Batman" in the title didn't exactly help the original 4 movies not suck, so to that effect I am glad they are continuing to break the mold and dust off the stink of tragedies like Batman and Robin. Given the publicity due to Ledger's death I think The Dark Knight is already cemented into movie history as his last great work, possibly his greatest role.
interl0per on Apr 17, 2008
It is possible that most people won't know that The Dark Knight is a Batman movie, infact, when Heath Ledger died my stepmom asked me what it was about and I was like "It's another Batman movie" and she was like "Really? It doesn't have Batman in the title..." and she's an average movie goer who knows her stuff. But the thing is, Warner Brothers really need to go out of their way to remind people that it is Batman, like during the trailers they have to say Batman like 3 times to get it in people's heads that yes, it is batman. If the Warners play their cards right, they can have The Dark Knight be the biggest movie of the summer.
Kail on Apr 17, 2008
At first I had the same complaint Alex but I think by looking at a trailer or an ad or poster behind THE DARK KNIGHT poster there is a pic. of the batman sign. More thinking even if you aren't aware after it comes out people will realize by word of mouth that it's Batman. Once the TV ads get going it will be much bigger. However, I think WB MUST have done some research on this because it is a slightly risky move.
Ryan on Apr 17, 2008
I guess the name bright night is out because rhyming doesnt really work in hollywood
CHEEKYmonkey on Apr 17, 2008
The 800 pound Gorilla in the room that a lot of people tip-toe around is that Heath Ledger's death raised an awful lot of awareness of this movie. I'm not saying that anyone is trying to cash in on that in any overt way, but there it is. Yet even if Heath were alive: Every Batman fan on the planet knows that Batman is the Dark Knight. Anyone who doesn't know that, and somehow misses every last single radio, TV, print, theater, and Internet ad on the subject, aren't the type to go to movies. You repeatedly brought up INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. So bear in mind dude, the first movie was called RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. The first sequel was called INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM. No name recognition factor between the two at all, where only a name is concerned. Was there any Raiders fan who wasn't instantly cognizant of the second movie? Of course not. Where is the name recognition between EVIL DEAD and ARMY OF DARKNESS? FRIDAY THE 13th and JASON GOES TO HELL? CHILD'S PLAY and BRIDE OF CHUCKY? The TV show FIREFLY and the movie SERENITY? and so on. So the question isn't valid and the concern in tacking on "Batman" to the title is superfluous. I'm kind of surprised at this discussion, Alex. As big a film fan as you are, and as cognizant of cinematic trivia as you are, you should know these sequel exceptions as well as the rest of us. It's not like the movies I listed are obscure. One Mo: I tried to figure out a way to say all of this without it reading like a moment of keyboard courage and a virtual backhand (but I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this either!). Don't want to come across like that so please accept a friendly happy face 🙂
Feo Amante on Apr 17, 2008
Purely based on name I would have been more proud in having named my movie "The Dark Knight" rather than "Indiana Jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull" and as for box office (again purely on name) Indiana Jones name shall have very good effect but only on Indiana Jones Fan for some reason if somebody didn't like Indy in preceding films then bam this is a big NO to them But The Dark Knight while attracting all and I MEAN ALL of the fans also garners many non-believers (as of the preceding Batman films in the series). It just has that mystique in the name that clearly kingdom of crystal balls doesn't have (Purely based on name)
psyche010 on Apr 17, 2008
If, on the day of it's release, a single potential viewer of TDK doesn't know it's a Batman movie, then Warner's has an unimaginably incompetent marketing team. I know The Hottie And The Nottie is a Paris Hilton "film" and no one had to incorporate her name into the title. Surely the TDK campaign will be at least on par with Hottie's. I can not believe there are people who put serious thought into whether or not this movie would be more successful with BATMAN in it's title. Get a life. p.s. TDK doesn't stand a chance in hell against Indy's box office, regardless of how much better a film it might be
M. on Apr 17, 2008
I don't think it really matters. Anyone that would possibly be interested in the film knows by now that "The Dark Knight" is the new Batman movie. I'm surprised no one has brought up the Bond franchise as an example. None of those have "James Bond" or "007" in the title. Maybe I'm biased because I love the title so much.
CajoleJuice on Apr 17, 2008
i think that's a good point. cause when i talk to people that i don't normally talk TDK to, i have to refer to the movie as "the new batman movie" and not just "the dark knight". calling it batman:the dark knight, would most definitely draw more people to the movie.
craziemutant on Apr 17, 2008
I think going back to past discussions on letting the movie and director make their claim and let art speak for itself, I think the title is as much as a piece of that art as the whole movie. I love the title personally, just because its a different approach than the usual B.S. I feel that proper marketing will make this movie stand out at the right time, but lets remember...Its Batman. You can't F%*K with that!
Marqwest on Apr 17, 2008
i think for marketing purposes leave it "the dark knight" but throw batman in front at the ticket booth cuz that will catch the eye of anyone unaware i love indiana jones but i think batman will outdo him this summer, and he'll barely edge out ironman and wallE
harrison on Apr 17, 2008
No Way Alex!!! THE DARK KNIGHT IS PERFECT!!!
m4st4 on Apr 17, 2008
I just spent a few comments defending you against Jo Blo, but if you seriously don't cut it the hell out with these useless, petty bullshit "discussion topics" about things nobody cares about, I swear to God that I'm leaving and going there.
John on Apr 17, 2008
I think a good point has been made here in saying that more people might understand that this is a Batman movie if it were called "Batman: The Dark Knight." At the same time, however, there may be more people who understand that this is a batman movie than Alex realizes. 1) The movie poster marketing has been up for a year, including ones with the Bat Symbol, which I think goes just as far to market it as a Batman film as putting the name "Batman" in the title. 2) The trailer has already arrived, and I'm sure that everyone who has seen the trailer (in front of a different movie) knows that it's a Batman film. Also, once the TV spots kick in, most everyone will understand that it's a Batman film. Everyone I know who doesn't pay much attention to movies starts paying attention and getting excited for a movie once the TV spots start appearing. They will know it's Batman if the very image of the Bat symbol or Batman himself is in there. I don't think it'd be a bad thing to put the name "Batman" in front of the title. It wouldn't hurt it, and I'm sure there are people out there who won't see any previews or advertisements that will walk into the theater randomly to just go see a random movie and won't immediately understand that it's a Batman movie. But I'd say that that's an extremely small minority. I don't think we have much to worry about with this movie making tons of movie, being that it's Heath Ledger's last film. They could play up the marketing with that as well. The first movie caught a good following that grew even more on DVD than in the theaters.
Dan Geer on Apr 18, 2008
I find it commonplace that when I say to a friend "I can't wait to see The Dark Knight!" their immediate response is "What's that?" "The new Batman movie," I explain. "Oh! I didn't know they were making another one." They barely know about the movie, much less the viral campaign. They're amazed to hear about it, had no idea it was going on. All the advertising seems to be for fans (which, as a fan, is something I love), but that makes it more difficult to market. The name combined with the type of advertising they've been doing have made The Dark Knight seemingly unknown to your casual movie-goer.
Squeak on Apr 18, 2008
Simply put, its a Batman movie. And so, yes, I wanna see the name 'Batman' in the title. It does matter how different the movie is, it doesn't matter who is involved in the making, it doesn't matter what is said in the movie. The first thing that comes to my mind (probably to most people's mind) when we think about this movie is that its a Batman movie. And the title should reflect that.
Gdn | TD on Apr 18, 2008
I understand this because personally i thought the title was pretty much the only thing that lets down the otherwise excellent in every way BATMAN BEGINS. so here we are again, and THE DARK KNIGHT is perhaps not the all round title it should be. But i wouldnt worry about that, this movie is about to insinuate itself into the innocent minds of random people everywhere so people who would normally never consider a Batman movie are probably already talking about it. They wanted unique titles and i stand by that. Be grateful it isnt called Batman 2.
chris on Apr 18, 2008
Could be worse. Could be BATMAN VS. JOKER BATMAN: RELOADED BATMAN BEGINS: AGAIN DARK KNIGHT aka BATMAN THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY BATMEN BATMAN: THE THRILLING DETECTIVE CHRONICLES BATMAN II: THE SEQUEL TO THE CHRISTIAN BALE ONE and finally BATMAN AND THE LOST TEMPLE OF DOOMED CRYSTAL SKULLS
Feo Amante on Apr 18, 2008
I'm sorry...are we afraid that people are THAT stupid to not see this movie because it doesn't have "batman" in the title. Am I mistaken, but isn't the batman symbol a 'watermark' along with the title? and if ya can read, know how to use a computer or something called 'research', and have any inkling of interest in films, you KNOW what the heck the dark knight is. read people!! wow- they must think people are utterly mindless, clueless and need everything spelled out for them. and if there are people who are that stupid/ limited...maybe they should just not go to the cinema anyway...before their close-mindedness becomes infectious. why is this even a discussion?
Young on Apr 18, 2008
Young #39 - No question about it. People are that stupid. The general public does in fact need things spelled out for them. There's still a large portion of people out there who no nothing of computers, or the internet. There are people without cable, not because they can't afford it, but because they don't want it. I know. It's f'in crazy. My first instinct is to say "To hell with them." On the hand I want "The Dark Knight" to succeed, which it will. The more people they can get in the seats, the better. If that means spelling out BATMAN for them, then I say do it. It takes nothing away from the movie what-so-ever. Turning away from potential ticket buyers because of their ignorance is truly "close-minded".
TCox on Apr 18, 2008
for those saying that the bat symbol is watermarked with the title, it's true, it is. but when you go to a movie theater and look at all the movies listed that are playing, they're just text and not the movie logos. i think that's where the lack of mentioning "batman" in the title poses a problem. but i'm sure as others have said, with the posters and tv spots hitting before the release, anyone that hasn't been living in a cave for the last year will know it's a batman movie come july 18.
craziemutant on Apr 18, 2008
Leave it alone. Just leave it alone. If you go to the movies based on a title, you might not see this movie. If you follow the franchise, you will see this movie. If you know the comic book, you will see this movie. If you know anything about comic books, you will see this movie. Nevermind the publicity that Heath Ledger's death has thrown on the movie. I don't go see movies based on titles. If I see a movie and think the title sucks but the movie is great, I'm not gonna tell people, "Oh, don't see The Dark Knight cause the title just blows." Look, in this age of the internet instant fix and 24 hour news channels, its going to be hard not to know what The Dark Knight is. And as far as names go, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ain't exactly blowing up my skirt here. But I'll go see it. My son asked about Indiana Jones. He's never seen the other films. But he knows who the Dark Knight is and he's anxious to see the movie. And even though I'm still introducing him to lots of great cinema, he's looking forward to our trip to see Indie. Now, given the considerable amount of publicity all these blockbusters are getting and the following some of these franchise movies have, it's gonna be tough. I'll put Wall-E last. Between Iron Man, The Dark Knight and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I'm gonna go with Indiana Jones, The Dark Knight and Iron Man. Although... Iron Man has lots of potential. That's my two-cents, for what it's worth. -30-
Julian in San Antonio on Apr 18, 2008
And, to reference an earlier lame discussion topic, just think of how many inappropriately young kids and their clueless parents would be lured into the theatres if you added "BATMAN" to the title. That might be great for the box office, but it's no good for the attentive, discriminating teens and adults in the audience, whose DARK KNIGHT experience is ruined by a bunch of noisy imps. And it's more likely to 'hurt' the franchise if a segment of it's audience go expecting a campy, day-glo romp in the vein of those delightful Schumacher pics, and instead are confronted with a dark, gritty Batman fighting the mob and a ghoulish psychopath.
M. on Apr 18, 2008
good point, M. i didn't think about it that way.
craziemutant on Apr 19, 2008
Agreed, thats probably the most important point so far.
chris on Apr 19, 2008
Bull-shit. Don't you understand?!? This is not some kind of child popcorn shit! I'm tired of you AICN morons... DO YOU LIKE MOVIES? DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT 'THE DARK KNIGHT' MEANS? FINE, LIVE IT BE...DON'T BE THAT SILLY '89. CHILD THAT NEEDS 'BATMAN' IN THE FRAKING TITLE... END OF STORY. My favorite comment these days: 'Goyer ruined the franchise.' Franchise? You mean, Clooney stuff?!? Shit...These Michael Bayers these days...
m4st4 on Apr 19, 2008
I'm not going to see Indiana Jones in the theatre...I'm afraid that I will find myself bored after 15 minutes and forced to sit there and fight off panic attacks sinful thoughts until the end of the movie, due to my friends having drove. That will be a bittorrent- I mean rental viewing for me. The Dark Knight on the other hand- for that I may just brake out my vintage batman costume (sky blue tights included) for that theatre trip. I'm not gay by the way.
dish on Apr 24, 2008
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