Will audiences ever tire of The Dark Knight? The movie was originally released in theaters in 2008. At the time, you were the exception if you didn’t see it. Today, the movie is on Netflix in the United States. Once it became available on the streaming service, it shot to the top of the Most Watched charts and stayed there this past week. Currently, The Dark Knight is the number two most-watched movie on Netflix. Even with a career as prolific as Michael Caine’s, The Dark Knight is one of his top films. He plays Alfred with a light comedic touch that adds a lot to this dark Batman. Even in the trailer for the movie, he adds just the right notes to lighten up the tone. Watch the trailer below.
There’s an argument to be had about what the best parts of The Dark Knight are. It’s one of filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s best-known works. Christian Bale’s gravelly voice as Batman is often brought up. The scene where Batman has to make a decision with tragic consequences will always stay in the broken hearts of audiences desperate for a truly happy ending for the character. Of course, one of the things people talk about most with this Batman movie is Heath Ledger. His performance as Joker was scary, unnerving, and easily his best ever. All of these significant parts make it easy to overlook how essential Michael Caine was to making The Dark Knight work.
The actor himself is clearly aware. Michael Caine has been in most Christopher Nolan films since he first played Alfred in Batman Begins. Most of those movies have earned over a billion dollars at the box office. Caine has joked that if Nolan doesn’t have a part for Caine in one of his projects, he’ll just have to write one in. He’s said a few times that he is Nolan’s lucky charm. It seems the two have a camaraderie, possibly won from both of them being British, having similar senses of humor, and working together for a number of years at this point. It was that sense of humor from Michael Caine that helped lighten one of the darkest movies around.
While Batman has always been a tortured character, The Dark Knight brings this out fiercer than ever. While Michael Caine’s Alfred begs Batman to lighten up a bit, Joker tests him physically and psychologically. We see Bruce Wayne with a deep desire in this movie. He wants Rachel. Batman wants a happily ever after for himself, and he’s found it in her. If he takes that, what will that mean for the world? While that’s a common superhero dilemma, in this story, we see Bruce Wayne make decisions that show he is ready to forget saving the world and find happiness for himself. The cards are stacked against him though and that decision is taken away from him. He becomes a more angsty character than ever before.
While The Dark Knight manages to dive into this and go as dark as it can, there still needs to be moments where the audience gets a chance to breathe, and that’s what Michael Caine’s Alfred provides. He makes jokes about Batman and his angst. His character manages to do this while still seeming sympathetic to Bruce Wayne, understanding, and while acting as a caretaker. This makes him easily likable and a good place for the audience to rest. Without Michael Caine’s light take on Alfred, The Dark Knight wouldn’t have worked as well.
And work it did. The Dark Knight was a hit at the box office, with audiences, and with critics. The movie earned over a billion dollars on a budget of $185 million. Today, it holds a 9.0 rating on IMDB and 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s one of Michael Caine’s best performing films in all categories.
Michael Caine often plays great, subtle side characters. He’s done this to great effect in other Christopher Nolan movies as well. Two years before The Dark Knight, Caine played Cutter in The Prestige. Two years after that, he played Miles in Inception. In the years since we’ve seen him in a long list of popular films, including Now You See Me, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and in Nolan’s Interstellar, and Tenet. The next time Christopher Nolan is ready to film, we can be sure we’ll be seeing Michael Caine in that, too.