Australian Council on Children and the Media

Dark Knight, The

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Not suitable under 13, not recommended 13-15 (Violence, disturbing scenes and themes).

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Dark Knight, The
  • a review of Dark Knight, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 17 July 2008.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable due to violence, disturbing scenes and themes.
Children 13 - 15 Not recommended due to violence, disturbing scenes and themes.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Dark Knight, The
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Frequent action violence
Length 152 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The Dark Knight is set a year after Batman Begins, and opens with the Joker (Heath Ledger) and his band of villains successfully robbing a bank with the Joker eliminating his accomplices one by one in the process. Following the film’s introduction, we find that Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) together with Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) have formed an alliance, and have a plan in place to capture the Mob’s money deposits. However, a Chinese Mobster called Lau (Chin Han) foils Batman’s plans by making the money disappear with Lau escaping to Hong Kong.
The Joker re-enters the story promising a consortium of Mob bosses headed by Salvatore Maroni (Eric Roberts) to recover their money and get rid of Batman in return for half of the Mob’s money. The Joker then unleashes a reign of terror and chaos which includes killing Commissioner Gillian (Colin McFarlane), and a Gotham Judge, making an attempt on the lives of Lt. Gordon and Bruce Wayne and capturing Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Bruce Wayne’s ex-girlfriend, and Harvey Dent.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Sadism; organised crime

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The Dark Knight contains brutal violence enacted against men, women and children, and while only minimal blood and gore is depicted, this violence is very disturbing and has considerable impact. The Joker is presented as a psychotic and nihilistic agent of chaos. Examples include:

  • A bank robbery orchestrated by the Joker involves armed masked men forcefully entering a bank firing their guns into the air, a screaming woman dragged across a bank counter and a gun pointed at a woman’s head. On the Joker’s orders, his accomplices execute each other throughout the robbery until only the Joker remains. A male bank worker picks up a shotgun from his office and shoots a bank robber dead, then tries to shoot several other robbers before being shot himself. He is left lying wounded on the ground. A bus comes through the wall of the bank, running over one of the robbers.
  • The Joker puts a grenade in the mouth of the wounded bank worker lying on the ground and ties the grenade’s pin to a piece of string. The Joker enters a bus and drives off with the pin being pulled from the grenade but, rather than exploding, smoke erupted from the grenade.
  • One scene depicts a drug deal between the Scarecrow and his henchmen and a group of gangsters with nearly all men holding machinegun-like weapons. Several Batman impersonators, some wielding machineguns pop up out of nowhere, one impersonator fires his weapon at the drug dealers. Batman arrives in his car and joins the fight, during which he is injured by a guard dog.
  • The Joker rams a man’s head down onto a pencil with the pencil disappearing into the man’s head. We do not see the pencil penetrating his head, but the man falls backwards in a lifeless manner.
  • The Joker inserts the blade of a knife into a mobster’s mouth, and proceeds to tell the mobster that he received his own facial scars when his father attacked his mother and then him with a knife. Following his speech the Joker slashes the mouth of the mobster (not seen).
  • Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb drinks a glass of what he believes is scotch, but the glass actually contains acid. He is shown writhing around on the floor and liquid from the glass smouldering on the desk top. 
  • A Batman impersonator hangs by the neck from a rope with the body banging against the mayor’s window. We then see television footage of the Joker videoing himself torturing the man prior to the hanging.
  • A female judge is killed when her car explodes in a ball of flame.
  • During a party held by Bruce Wayne, the Joker points a gun at the head of a woman and threatens a man with a knife.
  • The Joker terrifies Rachel by holding a knife to her face in a threatening manner and then tells Rachel the story behind how he got his facial scars.
  • Rachel kicks the Joker in the groin and punches another man in the face.    
  • During a fight between the Joker, his henchmen and Batman, Rachel gets thrown through the window of a high-rise building. Batman jumps through the window and manages to catch Rachel just before she hits the ground.
  • The Joker, masquerading as a policeman, tries to shoot the police commissioner with a rifle. The Joker misses the commissioner and hits Lt. Gordon instead, killing him. We later see Gordon’s wife being told the news and see her collapse in tears with her young son watching on.
  • During a nightclub brawl Batman punches, elbows and kicks several men and bottles are broken over people’s heads. Batman dangles a mobster over the side of a balcony rail and lets go. The man falls to the ground and we hear the sound of bones breaking. Later we see the mobster using walking sticks and walking with a limp.
  • D A Dent holds a gun to the head of a man tied in a chair. Dent tosses a coin in the air, stating that the toss of the coin will determine whether the man lives or dies.
  • During a street battle between the Joker, the police and Batman, the Joker fires at police cars with machine guns and fires a rocket launcher at a police truck, blowing the truck up into the air. Batman in the Batmobile runs the Joker’s truck off of the road. In response, the Joker blows up several police cars and the Batmobile, with the Batmobile later self-destructing. We see the Joker driving a truck through the chaos, stating “I like this job.”
  • Gordon’s wife slaps him hard across the face when she learns that his death was a deception.
  • Batman jams a chair under the door handle of the interview room and slams the Joker’s head into a tabletop twice, smashes the Joker’s head into a wall mirror and punches him several times in the face.
  • Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent are tied to chairs in two separate warehouses. They have bombs strapped to them and are surrounded by drums of flammable fuel. The bombs explode, killing Rachel outright while Batman manages to save Dent, but not without Dent’s face catching fire, leaving Dent with a horribly disfigured face.
  • A prisoner in a jail cell falls to the ground complaining of stomach pains. The man’s stomach has a large scar and what looks like a cell phone implanted beneath his skin. The phone rings and there is a large explosion that engulfs most of the police station in flames.
  • A man is tied to a chair placed on top of a pile of money.  The Joker sets the money on fire, burning both money and man.
  • Bruce Wayne drives a sports car recklessly and deliberately crashes into a police convoy.
  • Two Face shoots dead the driver of a car with the car flipping over and bursting into flames. He punches a woman in the face.
  • Two Face takes Commissioner Gordon’s wife and children as hostages, threatening to kill them if his demands are not met. He knocks Gordon to the ground and points a gun at Gordon’s head. Two Face then threatens to kill Gordon’s wife, and points his gun at her and Gordon’s children. Two Face holds a gun to the head of Gordon’s young son threatening to kill the boy. Batman knocks Two Face and Gordon’s son off of the top of the building, killing Two Face whose broken body we see lying on the ground below. Batman is able to save Gordon’s son.     
  • Two ferries loaded with passengers have drums of highly flammable liquid wired to explode. The Joker tells the passengers on each ferry that they can save their own lives by triggering a detonation devices wired to blow up the other ferry.
  • A number of hostages are dressed by the Joker to look like gangsters with guns and dozens of police aim their guns at the hostages. Batman punches kicks and attacks several policemen, knocking them unconscious in an attempt to prevent them from shooting the hostages by mistake.
  • Several guard dogs attack and maul Batman. Batman punches one of the dogs and throws a second dog through the air.
  • The Joker attacks Batman with a metal bar striking him several times with the bar. We see the Joker punching batman in the face, kicking Batman and knocking Batman to the ground.
  • Batman fires knife blades (that come out of the sides of Batman’s gloves) into the Joker’s face (we see cuts on the Joker’s face) causing the Joker to fall from the top of a building, but the Joker is save by Batman and left dangling upside down from a rope.

 

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are several images likely to scare and disturbing children under the age of five including the following:

  • Half of Harvey Dent/Two Face’s face is burnt away leaving him with a horrifically deformed face. We can clearly see exposed eyeball, cheek muscle, jawbone and teeth with the image resembling a skeleton.
  • The start of the film contains images of men wearing masks while robbing a bank. The masks are clown-like and have a menacing appearance.  
  • The Scarecrow wears a scary looking sack over his head.
  • The film contains images of several large scary guard dogs that attack and maul Batman.
  • The Joker’s has a very intense presence and demeanour that is scary, sinister, evil and threatening, and he is completely remorseless when he kills. The Joker’s face is covered in clown-like paint with red paint emphasising the scars that the Joker has on the side of each of his cheeks. He has a threatening evil voice and laugh and he makes numerous disturbing violent threats against people’s lives.   
  • We see vivid images of Harvey Dent thrashing around on the ground with the left side of his face on fire. 
  • Bruce Wayne stitches up a bloody gash on his arm.
  • In a couple of scenes, guard dogs attack Batman. We see Batman punching the dogs and throwing the dogs through the air and hear the sound of the dogs yelping in pain. 
  • Joker tells vividly violent stories about how his face became scarred. One story tells how the Joker as a young boy was forced to watch his father brutalise his mother with a kitchen knife before being brutalised himself.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned violence and disturbing scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned violence and disturbing scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group and some adults may also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • While standing on the deck of a yacht surrounded by bikini clad women, Alfred makes mildly suggestive remake about applying suntan lotion.
  • Rachel holds Harvey’s hand and suggestively asks him to take the rest of the day off.  Harvey refuses.  

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • We see images of Bruce Wayne/Batman’s naked torso including the images of several large scars the obvious results of previous violent encounters.
  • A Russian ballet troupe are seen in bikinis on the deck of a yacht.
  • A man and a woman kissing each other on the lips in a couple of scenes.
  • Women wear evening dresses with low cut tops that reveal cleavage, shoulders and back.
  • At a party, we see a man and a woman hop up from a couch in a rushed manner when disturbed. The man is tucking in his shirt and the woman rearranging the top of her dress.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • a drug deal between the Scarecrow and the Mob
  • people holding glasses of wine/champagne at a party and in a restaurant
  • Bruce Wayne holds a glass of wine but doesn’t drink the wine and, when not observed, discards to glass’s contents.
  • Police Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb pours himself a glass of scotch, he then comments on how he uses scotch to help when under pressure.

Coarse language

The Dark Knight contains infrequent low-level coarse language and put-downs, including:

  • Bloody mess, Stupid, Did your balls drop off, Hell, Arse, Damn it, Son of a bitch, Bastard, Scum bag and Freak.    

In a nutshell

The Dark Knight is a dark and disturbing action thriller. The film’s visual effects are superb and Heath Ledger provides a performance that makes the Joker appear believable and disturbing. However, even some adults may find some of the film’s content disturbing and it is definitely not suitable for children and many younger adolescents.   
Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with older adolescents include self-sacrifice and perseverance.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as

  • the dilemma of ordinary people forced to choose between killing other people and saving their own lives
  • the circumstances in which it could be acceptable to break the law  in order to achieve a greater good

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