How would you classify The Dark Knight with respect to genre?
1) Is it an adaptation?
One could answer yes and simply say (taking the easy way out) that all art borrows from other art, particularly, representational art. On the other hand, one could argue no and assert that it is a work in its own right and too distinct from any supposed single source for it to fit in so neatly to the aforementioned category.
2) Is it a superhero film?
There are people who have argued against this in the past because of their definition the term superhero. If a superhero must have superpowers in order to be such, then Bruce Wayne does not fit the bill. However, one could venture a yes based on Wikipedia’s conception of such:
A superhero film, superhero movie, or superhero motion picture is an action, fantasy and science fiction film, which is focused on the actions of one or more superheroes; individuals who usually possess superhuman abilities relative to a normal person and are dedicated to protecting the public. These films are almost always action-oriented.
3) Is it an action movie?
The Dark Knight does contain an exorbitant amount of action sequences, but it does lack some of the things individuals might associate with the genre. Batman does not save the girl, vanquish his enemy, or triumph at the conclusion. In addition, I tend to think of action films as relying more on explosions than plot and characters. In this vein, I would say that The Dark Knight does not fit into my conception of an action film.
4) Is it a crime film?
This is a rather broad category with many subgenres, and hence, we will have to address any number that may or may not apply to The Dark Knight. First, dealing with the overarching genre, one could say that The Dark Knight is a crime film because it contains a great deal of such and focuses on the lives of criminals. In addition, it appears to glamorize different types of crime in varying degrees. Nevertheless, is it also a heist film, a film noir and/ an example of neo-noir?
A heist film?
The film does begin with a heist scene, and the implications of this crime are perceived throughout the movie. Yet, when I reflect on serious and comedic heist films that I’ve seen in the past, The Dark Knight is different. Though this is of course arguable, I do not think of the Joker as the protagonist or the main character, and in all of the heist films that I have watched it is usually those who have committed the crime that are the focus.
Is it a film noir?
This genre is still subject to debate among scholars. Some argue that it blurs with melodrama or hard-boiled detective stories, and others have argued that it is limited to a particular time period as well as style in cinema. We could suggest that The Dark Knight has certain thematic and visual elements comparable to film noir, but perhaps, neo-noir is more an appropriate categorization? This subgenre, due to its progenitor, is also shrouded in contention. Robert Arnett states that “Neo-noir has become so amorphous as a genre/movement, any film featuring a detective or crime qualifies.” Though it has been argued that The Dark Knight is an example of neo-noir, can we really place it in any category that is still being defined?
5) Is it a thriller?
Like the crime genre, it is also a relatively broad category. It can be loosely understood as a film in which a character faces a perilous problem or a mystery and sustains the tension in order to provoke and emotional response in the viewer. Wikipedia details its standard elements:
- The protagonist(s) faces death, either their own or somebody else’s.
- The force(s) of antagonism must initially be cleverer and/or stronger than the protagonist’s.
- The main storyline for the protagonist is either a quest or a character who cannot be put down.
- The main plotline focuses on a mystery that must be solved.
- The film’s narrative construction is dominated by the protagonist’s point of view.
- All action and characters must be credibly realistic/natural in their representation on screen.
- The two major themes that underpin the thriller genre are the desire for justice and the morality of individuals.
- One small, but significant, aspect of a thriller is the presence of innocence in what is seen as an essentially corrupt world.
- The protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) may battle, themselves and each other, not just on a physical level, but on a mental one as well.
- Either by accident or their own curiousness, characters are dragged into a dangerous conflict or situation that they are not prepared to resolve.
If this is how we understand the thriller genre than The Dark Knight seems to fit in such, and if this is so, it likely meets the criteria of one of its subgenres, crime thriller, as well.
6) Is it a drama?
Though an exceptionally broad category, when I think of drama, the characters and situations that come to mind are usually less extraordinary than those depicted in The Dark Knight. I would be inclined to say that though The Dark Knight contains dramatic elements, it does not fit into the overarching genre or its subgenres.
Bazin conveyed that “the true aesthetic differentiations” are to be made “within genres themselves” (“Adaptation, or the Cinema as Digest,” 26). Having delved though the aforementioned genres, is this possible here? Keep in mind that, IMDB identifies The Dark Knight as a “crime,” “drama” and “thriller” film. What do you think?