Knight Too Dark For Japan

It’s the biggest box-office earner in over a decade in the US, the biggest earner of the year internationally, and still the best reviewed, wide-release live-action film of the year according to Rotten Tomatoes.

Yet “The Dark Knight” has hit an unexpected stumbling block – it’s flopping in Japan where the film has pulled in just $8.7 million so far in its first three weeks of release says Tokyo Reporter. To give you a comparison the first Chris Nolan/Christian Bale team-up “Batman Begins” scored $14 million in just its opening weekend in Japan.

Several predictable factors have come into play. As comic books are very much a part of American culture, movies based on them have always done significantly better domestically rather than globally with only the rare exception to that point.

Likewise another movie juggernaut is dominating the scene – “Ponyo on the Cliff”. The latest animated epic from acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononoke”) has pulled in a staggering $93.2 million in its first four weeks.

Yet there’s more to it than that, and film critic Chika Minagawa offers one possible explanation: “The story is very pessimistic. It has a dark and gloomy texture that Japanese movie fans do not find appealing in a ‘comic hero’ film… Japanese movie fans expect such films to be fun and action packed, for the hero to be attractive, for the villain to be loud and outrageous, and for the movie itself to be easy to understand and light.”

Meanwhile the film has just surpassed the first “Spider-Man” as the biggest comic book movie of ever made. “Knight” has taken in $492.7 million domestically, beating the original Sam Raimi movie which took in $403.7 million back in 2002 and now sits at $491.95 million when adjusted for inflation.

Globally it is expected to pass the $900 million mark this weekend. It’s foreign cume of $400 million so far is more than double that of the previous best-selling Batman movie “Batman Begins” with $166 million.