One factor that caused a minor controversy on release, however, was that it was extremely violent for a superhero movie, especially one that received a PG-13 rating. It’s a fair point, too, as the Joker is fond of using knives to kill and torture people, the Two-Face CGI is notably gory and there are no concessions to comic book physics in the fight scenes.
So, how did it get away with a PG-13? Well, first and foremost, there’s very little blood in The Dark Knight and secondly, Nolan’s such an astute editor that he can make you think you’ve seen more violence than you actually did. David Dastmalchian, who played the Joker acolyte mental patient Thomas Schiff, told THR the following about how they edited his key scene:
“[Nolan] told me a funny anecdote. He said he really liked the scene, but he said when we were shooting it, I was pushing my head against Aaron’s gun and he was pushing the gun back. I remember for a few weeks after I had a big welt on my head and a little goose egg and black bruise. He said that was one of the moments the MPAA asked him to go back and he had to cut out the indent from the gun barrel on my head.”
In a similar fashion, remember the moment when a hanging corpse of a Batman imposter suddenly drops from the rooftop against an office window? In the original cut, there was a Joker card pinned to the body with a bloody knife, but in the theatrical cut, it was more neat and less gorily attached to the outfit.
There’s probably a ton of these little moments throughout the film, and while it seems unlikely at this point that we’ll ever see a Director’s Cut of The Dark Knight, it just goes to show just how far Nolan was prepared to push the envelope. And, for that matter, how far Warner Bros. would allow him to go.
Let’s just hope Matt Reeves gets a similar amount of freedom with The Batman, eh?