The Dark Knight Screening Stopped By The Government

Hong Kong has put a stop to an outdoor screening of The Dark Knight in compliance with a two year old law that has changed the media landscape of the city.

By Michileen Martin | Published

A planned outdoor screening of Christopher Nolan‘s Oscar-winning The Dark Knight in Hong Kong has been canceled because of pressure from the government. Variety reports that the screening of the Christian Bale-led superhero flick had been scheduled for next Thursday, October 27. But on Friday a message went out to ticket holders from the event organizer, who said that the cancellation was “based on direction from the HK Government Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration.”

This is a sharp turnaround from how The Dark Knight was received in Hong Kong upon its release. The sequence in which Bruce Wayne (Bale) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) travel to Hong Kong in pursuit of the corrupt businessman Lau (Chin Han) was filmed on location, and the city welcomed the production with open arms. Unfortunately over the past few years, Hong has been experiencing what many are calling “mainlandization.”

Governed by China while physically separated from the mainland, Hong Kong has passed a number of laws over the past few years bringing it closer ideologically to the People’s Republic. Variety points to one law in 2020 which resulted in a crackdown on journalism in the form of arresting reporters and shutting down news outlets, and another from the following year which brought concerns of national security into whether The Dark Knight or any other film could be screened in Hong Kong.

Like the Chinese government, Hong Kong doesn’t comment on why they ban specific films, but most seem to agree that in the case of The Dark Knight it’s chiefly the sequence set in the city that the government office finds objectionable. The Hong Kong police are depicted as being corrupt in the film thanks to rich bribes from the villain Lau. Variety also speculates that a courtroom scene in which Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) quips that his would-be assassin fails in shooting him because his gun was “made in China” might also be an issue.

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Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight (2008), moments before his witness tries to shoot him

If things in Hong Kong continue in the same direction of mainland China, then plenty of major studios are likely to have their releases denied there as well. For example both Thor: Love and Thunder and last year’s Eternals missed out on releases in China, as did the Pixar spinoff Lightyear. In some cases it’s been speculated the presence of LGBTQ characters and themes made China keep the films out of theaters, while in others past alleged anti-China sentiments were assumed to be to blame.

In the meantime, in other parts of the world thankfully watching The Dark Knight right now is as simple as having an HBO Max subscription or owning a digital and/or physical copy of the home release. The film remains one of the most acclaimed superhero films in history, and is hailed by many as the absolute peak cinematic representation of the genre. The film took home the 2009 Oscar for Sound Editing, the late Heath Ledger posthumously won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the Joker, and the movie earned 7 other Oscar nominations.