Who wants to see “The Dark Knight” now?

The new Batman film The Dark Knight is due to be released in July. But with Heath Ledger’s recent death, I’m wondering how that will affect the film. His death has already nixed the film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, but only because it was all of his scenes hadn’t been shot yet. His shooting on The Dark Knight, on the other hand, was completed.

Personally, I find the thought of seeing a movie starring an actor who recently met an untimely death unsettling. It would distract me from the rest of the film, because each time the dead actor appeared on screen, I’d be thinking of him rather than his character. The suspension of disbelief and immersion in the story would all dissipate. I can’t imagine enjoying a movie under these circumstances. So my best guess would be that his death will negatively impact the movie’s success upon release.

But maybe most people aren’t like me, and the increased publicity and morbid curiosity over Ledger’s death will more than offset the people like me who are weirded out. Heath Ledger does play The Joker, who is very dark and psychopathic, so his character is at least not at odds with Ledger’s death. Now if he had been playing the male love interest in a romantic comedy (which would have a happy ending as all such movies do), his death would be more damaging to its chances of success than to one where he plays a twisted villain like The Dark Knight. In some perverse way, maybe Heath Ledger’s death will improve how his final character is received.

So, what do you all think? Is Heath Ledger’s death good or bad for the movie?

(And don’t go railing off against me for being cold-hearted or whatever. Many others have amply discussed the circumstances and tragedy of his death, so forgive me for forgoing the traditional “Oh this is so sad” clich├ęs and focusing exclusively on this one aspect.)

2 Responses to “Who wants to see “The Dark Knight” now?”

  1. drinian Says:

    Neither, the movie will stand on its own once the interest in Ledger’s death has dissipated. If anything, it will probably improve opening weekend box office receipts.

    But it’s not uncommon for actors to die before the release of a film; Spencer Tracy died a full six months before the premiere of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and Bela Lugosi only shot a few scenes before being replaced, poorly, by the director’s chiropractor in Plan 9 from Outer Space.

  2. snaked Says:

    I think it goes nearly without saying that Ledger’s death will be good for the financial success of the movie. It’s hard to imagine any newsworthy circumstances which are bad for a film. Recall “Queen of the Damned,” several years back. The death of its lead actress resulted in considerable hype over what would have otherwise probably been a totally unremarkable vampire flick (okay, no one does remember it at this point!).

    What I find more interesting is the effect this will have on the audience. I’m sure it will be remembered as being Heath Ledger’s last, rather than as a continuation of a good re-imagining of a fun franchise. The history is there. Remember “The Crow?” Do you remember it for any reason other than that Brandon Lee died during its production in a filmed gun accident on stage? The Twilight Zone movie still carries the stigma of its famous helicopter crash. I will grant that these two examples are instances of cast dying on stage, but I can hardly be bothered to think of any others…

    Wow. That was some disjointed brain activity.