When Benjamin Franklin suggested that "in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes," sometimes one must wonder whether he knew how true his words were.
One of the coolest posters ever.
Personally, I propose that nothing in this world is certain, except death and money. Or rather the uncontrollable grip that both have over us.
In the case of this summer's undeniable hit, THE DARK KNIGHT, these two certainties go hand-in-hand - death sells.
And I am probably the only individual on this side of the ocean who has not seen the film because of it.
Had Mr. Ledger not passed away before the premiere of the film, the newest Batman film would probably not have been as big of a success as it is.
This is not meant to be a cold statement; Ledger, by far, deserves all the credit he receives for the art he creates, as well as critically acclaimed ingenious portrayal of the film's Joker. He's a talented individual and hadn't yet hit his prime.
But it feels wrong that movie corporations get to cash in on his death.
There is no way of ever validating it, obviously. But just take a look at the numbers, and specifically those of both of Christopher Nolan's BATMAN flicks.
On the night of Thursday, July 17, midnight screenings alone of THE DARK KNIGHT brought in $18.5 million dollars. The film generated $158.4 million dollars over opening
weekend - over $100 million dollars more than its predecessor, BATMAN BEGINS (which scored an opening weekend of $48.7 million, according to boxofficemojo.com.)
More great talent in DARK KNIGHT.
THE DARK KNIGHT has already brought in $471 million dollars in only two weeks, beyond surpassing BATMAN BEGINS' total box office sales, which came to about $372 million dollars, in over twenty weeks.
Now take a look at the audience.
A good majority of people I have interviewed have not even bothered to see BATMAN BEGINS before hopping into the theatre for THE DARK KNIGHT. Several others did manage to watch it within the few weeks prior, in order to "prepare" for the newest film.
Now to me, this doesn't seem like fandom at all. It seems like the public's incessant need to take part in something historical.
It's just unfortunate (and to me, somewhat morbid) that in this case, the event people feel the need to relate to is the last-standing legacy of one man's death.
It's not the first time that the untimely passage of an actor has caused hype enough to overwhelm box-office expectations.
KNIGHT has been most popularly compared to recently is THE CROW, and rightfully so. Not only did Brandon Lee's death bring in extra people to the box office, but there are other similarities as well - comic book adaptations, a noir-style film feel, the actors died at the same age,
and one could even argue that the characters share similar looks. THE CROW, and Brandon Lee, went on to become gothic cult icons and we can already see Ledger's Joker on his way there.
A few similarities.
There are plenty of other films that featured actors who died uncharacteristically young before the movie's release, striking a bit of controversy before time erased the reasons and left us with [debatable] legends.
Both sad and ironic, this list includes Bruce Lee, father of THE CROW's Brandon Lee. The martial artist died one month before the release of ENTER THE DRAGON.
Back in the days of drive-ins and $0.21-per-gallon gas James Dean stole the hearts of young female movie-goers. After the 24-year-old actor passed away as the result of a car accident, a heart-broken America was able to view not one, but two of his last films on the big screen.
Clark Gable, best known for GONE WITH THE WIND fame, suffered a heart attack before his final film, THE MISFITS, which co-starred Marilyn Monroe, was released.
About a year later, Monroe also passed on. Like James Dean, she was a major generational icon. Her departure due to a drug overdose preceded her film SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE.
The list goes on and on, including actors that the current generation may be more familiar with - Aaliyah from QUEEN OF THE DAMNED, Tupac Shakur from GRIDLOCK'D, SNL
comedians Chris Farley and Phil Hartman of ALMOST HEROES and SMALL SOLDIERS respectively.
R.I.P. my man.
No one can really say whether or not the films that followed their stars' deaths really made more money because of it. Some might even say that even if they did, that it is a tribute to the actors and the art that they created. I am definitely not opposed to this idea.
If anything should be opposed, it is the fact that nameless individuals at large corporations are reaping the benefits of such a death, probably more so than the individuals' families themselves.
Well that, and also that the performers did not even get to see their own finished art.
Either way, I propose that people go see films for the right reasons - because they look forward to the art, not because of some sort of hype. Excitement about movies caused by the promotions, reviews or even for uncontrollable reasons such as the death of a key actor is how the business is run, but the thrill of going to see something that you really want to and have been looking forward to for a long time is where the enjoyment truly lies.
Nothing in this world is certain, except death and money. The important thing, however, is that we make our own individual choices about where to put the latter before the former wins out.
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