The Dark Knight
Christopher wanted to cast an actor with an all-American "heroic presence" for Harvey Dent, something he likened to Robert Redford but with an undercurrent of anger or darkness. Josh Lucas, Ryan Phillippe, and Mark Ruffalo were considered, as well as Matt Damon, who could not commit due to scheduling conflicts.[o] According to Christopher, Eckhart had the all-American charm and "aura ... of a good man pushed too far". Eckhart found portraying conflicted characters to be interesting; he said the difference between Dent and Batman is the distance they are willing to go for their causes, and that after Dent's corruption he remains a crime fighter but he takes this to an extreme because he dislikes the restrictions of the law. Eckhart's performance was influenced by the Kennedy family, particularly Robert F. Kennedy, who fought organized crime with a similarly idealistic view of the law. During discussions on the portrayal of Dent's transformation into Two-Face, Eckhart and Christopher agreed to ignore Tommy Lee Jones's "colorful" portrayal in Batman Forever (1995), in which the character has pink hair and wears a split designer suit, in favor of a more realistic, slightly burnt, neutral-toned suit.
The Dark Knight
Principal photography began on April 18, 2007, in Chicago on a $185 million budget.[s][t] For The Dark Knight, Pfister chose to combine the "rust-style" visuals of Batman Begins with the "dusk"-like color scheme of The Prestige (cobalt blues, greens, blacks, and whites), in part to address over-dark scenes in Batman Begins. To avoid attention, filming in Chicago took place under the working title Rory's First Kiss but the production's true nature was quickly uncovered by media publications. The Joker's homemade videos were filmed and mainly directed by Ledger. Caine said he forgot his lines during a scene involving one video because of Ledger's "stunning" performance.
Several publications called The Dark Knight the best comic-book hero adaptation ever made. Roger Ebert said it, alongside Iron Man, had redefined the potential of superhero films by combining comic-book tropes with real world events.[ai] Some appreciated its complex moral tale about the effects of vigilantism and terrorism on contemporary society. Emanuel Levy and Manohla Dargis praised the depiction of the characters as possessing both positive and negative aspects, such as Batman's efforts to end crime provoking unintended consequences and a greater response from criminals; Dargis believed The Dark Knight's exploration of chaos, fear, and death, following the September 11 attacks in 2001, represented "that American movies have entered a new era of ambivalence when it comes to their heroes or maybe just superness."[aj] Others criticized the dark, grim, intense, and self-serious tone as lacking any elements of fun or fantasy.[ak] David Denby said The Dark Knight was a product of a "time of terror", but focused on embracing and unleashing it while cynically setting up a sequel. Stephanie Zacharek and David Edelstein criticized a perceived lack of visual storytelling in favor of exposition, and aspects of the plot being difficult to follow amid the fast pace and loud score. Christopher's action direction was criticized, especially during fight scenes where it could be difficult to see things clearly, although the prologue bank heist was praised as among the film's best.[al]
The Dark Knight focuses on the moral and ethical battles faced by the central characters, and the compromises they make to defeat the Joker under extraordinary circumstances.[ay] Roger Ebert said the Joker forces impossible ethical decisions on each character to test the limits of their morality. Batman represents order to the Joker's chaos and is brought to his own limit but avoids completely compromising himself. Dent represents goodness and hope; he is the city's "white knight" who is "pure" of intent and can operate within the law. Dent is motivated to do good because he identifies himself as good, not through trauma like Batman, and has faith in the legal system. Adlakha wrote Dent is framed as a religious icon, his campaign slogan being "I believe in Harvey Dent", and his eventual death leaves his arms spread wide like Jesus on the Cross. Eckhart described Dent as someone who loves the law but feels constrained by it and his inability to do what he believes is right because the rules he must follow do not allow it. Dent's desire to work outside the law is seen in his support of Batman's vigilantism to accomplish what he cannot.
Dent's corruption suggests he is a proxy for those looking for hope because he is as fallible and susceptible to darkness as anyone else. This can be seen in his use of a two-headed coin to make decisions involving others, eliminating the risk of chance by controlling the outcome in his favor, indicating losing is not an acceptable outcome for him. Once Dent experiences a significant traumatic event in the loss of Rachel and his own disfigurement, he quickly abandons his noble former self to seek his own form of justice. His coin is scarred on one side, introducing the risk of chance, and he submits himself to it completely. According to English professor Daniel Boscaljon, Dent is not broken; he believes in a different form of justice in a seemingly unjust world, flipping a coin because it is "Unbiased. Unprejudiced. Fair."
Before The Dark Knight, superhero films closely emulated their comic-book source material, and though the genre had seen significant successes such as Superman (1978), Batman (1989), X-Men (2000), and Spider-Man (2002), they were often considered disposable entertainment that did not garner much industry respect.[bb] A 2018 retrospective by The Hollywood Reporter said The Dark Knight taught filmmakers "comic book characters are malleable. They are able to be grounded or fantastic, able to be prestigious or pure blockbuster entertainment, to be dark and gritty or light, to be character-driven or action-packed, or any variation in-between."
Retrospective analysis has focused on the way studios, eager to replicate its performance, released tonally dark, gritty, and realistic films, or reboots of existing franchises, many of which failed critically or commercially. Some publications said studios took the wrong lessons from The Dark Knight, treating source material too seriously and mistaking a dark, gritty tone for narrative depth and intelligent writing.[bd] The MCU is seen as a successful continuation of what made The Dark Knight a success, combining genres and tones relevant to each respective film while treating the source material seriously, unlike the DC Extended Universe, which more closely emulated the tone of The Dark Knight but failed to replicate its success.
The Dark Knights are a team of "warriors of the darkness" assembled by The Batman Who Laughs for Barbatos. These warriors are evil and twisted versions of Batman from the Dark Multiverse who were willing to fight to keep their worlds alive.
The Batman Who Laughs told everyone that the Dark Knights' ultimate goal was to unleash the horrors of all -51 Earths from the Dark Multiverse and completely destroy the Positive Multiverse. After being defeated by the Dark Knights, the League was going to be added to the tuning fork, until Cyborg partially merged with his Mother Box and freed himself, Raven and the League. Barbatos worried that Cyborg is a wildcard, but the Batman Who Laughs assured his master that everything was still going to plan as the Justice League were unknowingly spreading his darkness across the galaxy.
The next time the Knights were seen, they split up to intercept the heroes searching for traces of Nth Metal. Despite resistance on their, the groups were captured, the exception being Wonder Woman, who the Batman Who Laughs spared so she could struggle in vain against the darkness.
The Knights were next gathered when they were hunting the team Cyborg took with him into The Bleed. Using a corrupted Carrier, they tracked down their ship, the Ultima Thule, and chased them. Though they failed to shoot down the Thule, they were able to damage it enough to allow a team to storm it. While Drowned, Dawnbreaker, and Murder Machine fought the heroes, the rest hung back to control the Carrier. However, the heroes repelled the Knights long enough for Flash to sabotage the Carrier's engine, which accidentally turned the Red Death good. The group reunited on the damaged carrier as Red Death's conversion began killing him. Laughs then revealed that their goal wasn't to shoot down the Thule: It was to charge it with dark energy and force it to crash into the House of Heroes, which it does. The Knights stayed until right before the Thule crashes, then leave.
With most of the resistance to Barbatos captured and his dark army on the move, the Knights saw to the captured heroes. However, Wonder Woman and Kendra Saunders managed to wake some of the captured heroes up, allowing Wonder Woman to reach the World Forge. When the forge lit up again, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman managed to harness Element X, and empowered some of the other Leaguers with the metal. With the power of the Tenth Metal, the League destroyed the Dark Knights, pulled the world out of the Dark Multiverse, and defeated Barbatos. The only Knight who managed to avoid destruction was the Batman Who Laughs, who was captured by Lex Luthor and the Legion of Doom.