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The Dark Knight’s first 5 minutes say more about The Joker than the rest of the movie

A film’s opening scene is massively important, especially given the surplus of movies to choose from if you’re the type of person subscribed to a few streaming services. And one of the great opening scenes of the last decade, film historians are beginning to agree, is the one kicking off Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, which finds Heath Ledger’s Joker overseeing a gritty, violent bank heist.

A new video essay from Films&Stuff about the film’s opening draws one neat parallel straightaway, showing just how directly Nolan was influenced by the heist scene in Michael Mann’s Heat, a revelation that also helps to explain the welcome but unexpected presence of national treasure William Fichtner.

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The essay also manages to dig into the question of The Joker as character versus The Joker as performer. That The Joker wears a mask atop his own cracked makeup speaks volumes here, and the essay argues that the opening offers us what might actually be our purest glimpse of the character. To see more than a glimpse, after all, would diminish the villain’s mystique, which one can argue is the thing that makes The Joker most dangerous. Consider this yet another argument for pretending nobody ever uttered the words “Joker origin story.”

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About the author

Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.