Back in 2008, when The Dark Knight was released, people said we were at a turning point for comic book films. With the release of 2009’s Watchmen, we were clearly entering a new era of comic book influenced films. These films were making the transition from little boys’ fantasies to legitimate big boy cinema.

Here we are four years later, and Joss Whedon’s The Avengers has caused just about every comic book fan, heck most movie fans, to die happy. Now, the anticipated movie, The Dark Knight Rises, finds itself in a position few thought it would be.

Why Go Dark

Let’s talk about 2008’s, Iron Man, for just a second. This film had a huge build up and when released, made a killing at the box office, earning more than $300 million. My point? With everything audiences have been through in the real world, escapism is still alive and well. It’s why The Avengers, with all its one-liners and happy-go-lucky attitude, had the biggest opening weekend EVER, and still continues to break records.

Move out of my way.

It’s also why James Cameron’s Avatar (and yes I know its story is about as original as if I took the plots of Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings, mashed them together and changed names) was able to become the highest grossing film of all time.

Clearly, audiences weren’t too worried about the lack of original story. They liked being transported into another world. So much so that you’ve got some crazies out there who are actually depressed that Earth isn’t like Pandora.

Home Sweet Home

One could argue all this means little to The Dark Knight Rises. It will still make a ton of cash. But, earning more than $500 million isn’t a lock. Will it earn more than The Avengers? I’m not so sure. Before TDK, our definition of a dark comic book film was, well, the old Batman movies and those were about as dark as if they made a Candyland horror film. Not to mention, it was at a time before many people felt the full effects of the recession. Have some audiences moved past the dark comic book films? Perhaps.

Times Are Changing

Don’t believe me? Look at the box office grosses of the following:

  • Kick-Ass, a more serious comic book film. Disaster? No, but it wasn’t a smashing success either.
  • The Green Lantern? Just no.
  • The Punisher: War Zone- didn’t do as well as we thought it would.

Meanwhile, films like Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger and the Iron Man films have all been at least moderate successes. People want to go to the movies for a good time. It’s why they’re willing to pay obscene amounts of money (I’m included in that group) for a ticket.

To think The Dark Knight Rises won’t make money would be silly. But, to think that it’s going to make more than The Avengers or even as much as TDK, might be equally as foolish. I’d rather go see a movie that makes me laugh and have a good time than one that makes me want to go sit alone in a dark corner listening to emo rock. But that’s just me.