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The Dark Knight

By Adam Clement

In 2005, Batman Begins was able to do what Frank Miller’s 1986 graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns did for the once-campy comic book character. It rejuvenated a worn and commercially battered icon, taking him back to the pulpy and gothic roots originally laid out by creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger.

Now, The Dark Knight looks to continue running on the same steam which powered Batman Begins. Judging by the footage already released in trailers and clips, director Christopher Nolan’s use of noir-flair seems to have been heavily influenced by graphic novels such as The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, as well as a host of other entries into Batman’s comicbook universe.

Given the gobs of source material as well as each comic’s meticulous structure, it’s no surprise that Nolan and company have looked to extend Batman’s latest adventure, which reportedly clocks in at approximately 2 1/2 hours—as first hinted by Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells (from an unnamed source) and recently confirmed by Peter Travers’ review of Knight in Rolling Stone.

It’s no surprise that Warner Bros., who may be concerned about scaring off those with short attention spans, hasn’t been vocal about the running time. Yet Jeff Bock, Box Office Analyst for Exhibitor Relations, alleges that the length of the film will bear no major consequence.

“Comic book movies regularly run over two hours… But as far as this film in particular I don’t think it’s going to affect the box office very much, only because the hype for this film is as big as Indiana Jones’ was. These are two films that were on everyone’s radar,” he said.

Bock also points to the success of past blockbusters with drawn-out running times. “This is a decent length. We’ve seen films like Lord of the Rings over 2 1/2 and it really hasn’t hurt those films.”

Although, Bock addresses a primary concern many exhibitors will face when placing the film into auditoriums. “You’re definitely going to lose possibly one showtime throughout the course of a day, but it’s going to be playing on so many screens.”

Seconding this notion, Dale Hurst, Director of Marketing at Carmike Cinemas, sees a few ways around the problem.

"It's definitely going to hamper the number of showings we can do, but we may probably start earlier and then have some of them start a little later.”

Warner Bros. has allowed Nolan near-final cut control in his endeavor to translate the finer moments of the comics and graphic novels onto the big screen.

As a result, many thematic devices and prominent imagery from the comic counterparts look to have made their way into the film. Based on what we’ve seen so far, Knight seems to have specifically drawn from the triad of justice formed by Harvey Dent, Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Batman (Christian Bale) that was featured in Long Halloween.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Not to be outdone, the late Heath Ledger’s Joker does not go without foundation.

“Well, The Killing Joke is the one that's being passed around and Arkham Asylum kind of. But I really tried to read the comics and put it down,” Ledger told IESB.net when speaking about his familiarity with the source material.

Furthermore, in an interview with IGN, director Christopher Nolan name-dropped the first and second issues of the Batman comic canon as a trajectory for which to flesh out a more “grim jester.” Snippets of inspiration from The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge! may also seem subtly intact to more comic-savvy viewers.

Even though the varied source material has resulted in an elongated theater experience, expectations remain high for this much anticipated sequel. According to Movietickets.com, Knight is selling a staggering eight times as many advance tickets on their site as Spider-Man 3 did at the same point in the selling cycle.

"I think with The Dark Knight being two and a half hours long, it's probably going to contain so much excitement it's probably not going to seem like 2 1/2 hours," said Hurst, echoing the anticipation of many fans and eager patrons.

The Dark Knight opens July 18th.

Additional reporting by Phil Contrino.

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