Just when you thought that public opinion on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight was all but unanimously positive, here comes the wacky Japanese market to put their own spin on things. After its second week in theatres, the movie is struggling at the box office in Japan, earning just $8.7 million thus far — almost $6 million less than what it earned in the smaller Korean market. To be fair, some of the movie’s thunder may have been stolen by the latest Hayao Miyazaki animated blockbuster Ponyo on the Cliff, which has tallied a staggering $93.2 million in its first four weeks. However, the numbers are even lower than Batman Begins, which made $14 million in its opening weekend in Japan.
Historically, many Hollywood blockbusters and comic book movies in particular haven’t fared well in Japan (with the exception of Spider-Man). Critic Chika Minagawa offers some possible explanations for why The Dark Knight hasn’t caught on in Japan:
“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.”
Actually I’d say I agree with those requirements for the most part, although The Dark Knight is one of the few exceptions to the rule. Still, I do find it a little odd that Batman is getting the cold shoulder in Japan, if only because of the animated Batman: Gotham Knight movie, which brought various Japanese animation houses like Production I.G. and Madhouse together to embrace the character in their own way. I suppose there’s just no accounting for taste.