The name “Batman” might not be as recognizable as “James Bond” these days, but the Dark Knight is back!

The Hollywood blockbuster franchise, which first launched in the 1950s, has always been dominated by male actors in the starring roles. But with the upcoming release of Joker, the first major female-fronted Batman movie in over a decade, that could all be about to change.

Why Are People Suddenly Interested In Batman’s Past?

It’s fair to say that Batman has never been completely absent from popular culture. The comic books first published in the United States in 1939 were an instant hit and have been continuing to grow in popularity ever since. And while traditional masculinity and the idea of the “strong man” have certainly declined in recent years, there’s still something about Batman that has made him a perennial favorite among both men and women.

The Dark Knight has been seen as a welcome breath of fresh air for gender-bending fans. In a 2016 survey conducted by the American Institute of Stress, 34% of the participants listed “the desire to see a superhero movie that is not centered around fighting and conflict” as their top reason for going to the movies — and you can probably guess which superhero movie they were referring to.

The fact is that Batman has always been a movie star. He was named Marvel Comics’ “Most Popular Character” three years in a row from 1947 to 1949, and between 1954 and 1979 he was consistently one of the Top 5 most popular characters in the industry. While the comics themselves may have never been more than an expensive niche publication, the impact of the larger “cinema verité” style of storytelling pioneered by directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and released through the popularization of television in the 1950s cannot be understated.

The combination of high-quality production values and witty dialogue delivered by talented comedians made traditional “B” movie stars out of some of Batman’s most memorable supporting characters. But it wasn’t just the humor or the lavish direction that made these films stand out; it was also the way that the characters were able to escape the horror of World War II and live happily ever after, thanks to Uncle Sam. And so while the genre might have been pigeonholed as chick flicks and family affairs during the 20th century, it’s truly become something more.

Will The Return of ‘The Dark Knight’ Inspire More Female-Fronted Movies?

But while the world may be ready for a female-fronted Batman movie, it’s not quite prepared for what’s next. After the surprise box office success of 2017’s Wonder Woman, the popular demand for more female-fronted movies appears to be at an all-time high. More than 20 years after the last film starring Michael Keaton as Batman, the demand for a worthy successor to the Caped Crusader remains. With Gotham City reeling from the shock of the Joker’s campaign of crime and anarchy, it’s a prime opportunity for the city’s protector to step into the spotlight.

Although the ‘90s were home to some great superhero movies, it wasn’t until the turn of the century that the tide really began to change. Ironman, Ironman 2, and Batman Forever shattered the mold of the “true blue superhero” movies, helping pave the way for a new era of comic book movies that focused more on story and character development than special effects and action sequences. With the release of the darkly cynical Suicide Squad, the superhero movie went “brony” — and it has not stopped since.

But even aside from the films themselves, the effect that they had on popular culture cannot be denied. As Richard Donner, the director of the first Ironman movie, famously quipped: “If it’s Tuesday, then it’s must be comics day!” And it doesn’t get more classic than #8212; The Dark Knight, with its razor-sharp dialogue, gritty atmosphere, and ballsy lead character — all of which were totally unexpected from a superhero movie! It was a cultural phenomenon, prompting numerous ‘TikTok’ playlists devoted to nothing but the movie’s iconic catchphrases and theme music.

It was also the start of a beautiful friendship. Between 1994 and 1998, Chris O’Donnell and Michael Keaton reprised their iconic on-screen brotherhood in four further superhero movies, culminating in the critically-acclaimed Batman & Robin. The dynamic between the two former Batman villains was a breath of fresh air for the series, as well as the fans. While their bickering and backstabbing was certainly funny to watch, it was also a perfect example of the “dark vigilante” archetype that would inspire a whole generation of comic book movies, most of which were directed by women.

The Success Of Batman’s ‘Gotham’ Revival

The Dark Knight, as well as its 2006 sequel, The Dark Knight Rises, were both shot on location in the real-life Gotham City, making them the first two installments of a successful “Gotham franchise.” But it was 2017’s Joker, the story of an insane clown-themed prankster who becomes the prey of a Gotham City vigilante, that really kicked things into high gear. The movie was both critically acclaimed and a box office hit, largely driven by an impressive worldwide premiere turnout on Alexa, with over 250 million views on YouTube.

The success of the Joker movie inspired the “Gotham premiere” trend, with fans excitedly awaiting the next installment in the popular “Dark Knight” series.

The worldwide premiere of Justice League on Saturday night was also broadcast live on Facebook, with fans watching the action-adventure film together via the social media platform. While the film didn’t make history by becoming the most-watched premiere on record, it did set a new benchmark for Facebook premieres, with over 4.7 million people tuning in to watch the big game — and all of it broadcast live!

Joker’s Massive $1.6 Billion Dollar Earning Potential

It’s not just the success of the Dark Knight franchise that has made it a popular choice for producers. With a production budget of over $1.6 billion, not including marketing and distribution costs, Joker is the most expensive standalone comic book movie of all time. And the numbers don’t lie — it is, without a doubt, the most expensive movie ever made!

But the film’s huge expense was definitely worth it. Not only did it gross $1.4 billion at the box office, becoming the fourth highest-grossing movie of all time, behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avatar, and Titanic, respectively, but it also became the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time, outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The film was met with near-unanimous critical acclaim, praising its direction, action sequences, costumes, and score, while also heaping praise on its main character, Arthur (played by Joker himself, Arthur Burghoff). In fact, Joker is arguably one of the best superhero movies ever made — and it’s easy to see why. Not only does it feature some of the most memorable scenes and #8212;—> quotes of all time, but it is also the rare superhero movie in which the protagonist is a black man looking to make a difference in a white supremacist society.

It seems that Hollywood has finally seen fit to reward Arthur’s efforts — or is it? With a sequel already in the works, it remains to be seen whether or not Joker will live up to the legacy that it has established.