Anyone close to me knows how much I am looking forward to this Thursday night's premiere of The Dark Knight. By nearly every account, this film is going to be nothing short of incredible. It's being compared not to other comic book movies, but to classic crime films like The Godfather, Heat and Goodfellas. I have no doubt that it's going to blow all our socks off.
However, I'm concerned to see that the film is being marketed toward children through a number of toys and even a couple of food tie-ins. This is an adult film. The Joker is a gruesome serial killer who takes delight in his victims' suffering and finding the most twisted ways imaginable to murder. The Dark Knight will surely push the limits of the PG-13 rating, and in many parts be terrifying even to adult viewers.
I have to say I find it irresponsible that such a film should be marketed toward children. Naturally, parents assume that a comic book movie featuring a household name like Batman is going to be okay for their kids to see, but the rating alone belies that assumption. Normally I'd side with the filmmakers and place responsibility on the parents to research a film before blindly sending their kids to see it, but the fact that the under 13 crowd is being directly targeted with marketing understandably warps their perception of just what this movie is going to be.
This phenomenon is nothing new, of course. In the 80s there were Rambo action figures, and the 80s saw the same treatment for the Aliens and Terminator franchises. But precedent doesn't make it okay. What I fear most is a backlash by parents that could end up hurting The Dark Knight. Earlier this summer, the follow-up to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, received criticism for being too violent for the children's market at which it was aimed, and I do believe that word-of-mouth about this issue negatively affected its box office returns.
Of course, it's a little late for these ruminations as the toys are already out there. I think it's just an example of Hollywood putting cash before integrity. This does not reflect on Christopher Nolan or his choice of tone for The Dark Knight; rather, it reflects on the money-grubbing suits in studios who, knowing the content of the film, felt it was still okay to entice young children to see it for the sake of the almighty dollar.
Thankfully, cooler heads must have prevailed when it came to a Burger King tie-in, as that is only happening in Germany. I don't know if German kids are more desensitized to violence or something, but I bet the decision not to do the same promotion here was directly linked to parents' potential reaction.