On the occasion of The Dark Knight’s 10th anniversary, Polygon is spending the week investigating the comic-book blockbuster’s legacy. Why so serious? Because Christopher Nolan’s Bat-sequel gave us lots to talk about. This is the retrospective you deserve and the one you need right now.
My favorite moment from The Dark Knight... doesn’t appear in the movie.
The scene pits the Joker against Batman in an interrogation room, something that does happen in the movie, but everything is just a little off. The makeup is amateurish, the lighting is terrible and, most emphatically, the relationship between the Joker and Batman is made even bleaker through awkward comedy.
The scene wasn’t directed by Christopher Nolan, but a classic spoof video created by Raul Lezcano, who goes by Monkey and Apple on YouTube. It’s also one of the first videos I recall my friends and I sharing and obsessing over for weeks.
In the video, Lezcano, dressed as both the Joker and Batman, performs an exaggerated version of Christian Bale’s heavily mocked, guttural voice. Nothing he says is intelligible. Lezcano bases the entire sketch around a slightly saner version of the Joker who spends his entire time in an interrogation with Batman just trying to understand what’s being said.
Lezcano’s video introduces an element to The Dark Knight that doesn’t seem to be missing until you watch the sketch: comedy. In a recent interview, Lezcano tells Polygon he hated Bale’s Batman voice in Batman Begins, but it wasn’t until The Dark Knight that he found a reason for the sketch.
“When clips from the film began getting released, I was astounded to realize he actually doubled down on it, which made me want to lampoon it immediately,” Lezcano says. “The clip that inspired me was actually the rooftop scene with Batman, Gordon and Dent, which in the spirit of beating a dead horse, I later ended up spoofing as well, but that was a bit impractical for me to execute at the time so I choose the interrogation scene instead. From there it was just mostly improvising.”
The interrogation scene spoof is a reminder of just how ridiculous The Dark Knight gets while sustaining a tone of utmost seriousness. A caped crusader asking a deranged clown questions that no one can understand while Gotham basically falls to the ground around them — it was ripe for mocking. Spoofs weren’t anything new when this video popped up in the aftermath of The Dark Knight (Saturday Night Live’s constant ability to mock a piece of pop culture on a weekly basis is proof), but there was something about Lezcano’s DIY style that came across so charming.
YouTube was a different place 10 years ago. Some of today’s most notable creators weren’t yet creating videos. Cat videos still reigned supreme, and the term “influencer” wasn’t in our everyday vernacular. YouTube was even more of a digital island full of misfit creators and eclectic artists, where videos like Lezcano’s stood out for quite some time. Lezcano wasn’t the only person who worked on a Dark Knight spoof, nor was he the only person who decided to make fun of Bale’s questionable tone of voice (CollegeHumor was still at it three years after the movie’s release) but Lezcano’s video really harnessed the idea that anyone with a good idea can make a video seen by millions.
The video’s viral success was something Lezcano wasn’t prepared for at the time, and neither was his computer.
“I had it set up so that I would get an email for every comment and like and it nearly broke my rinky dink computer at the time,” Lezcano said. “I think it was because I put it up on the Sunday of the opening weekend and a lot of people were looking for validation of their nagging feeling that Batman had sounded very silly throughout the movie.”
The Dark Knight spoof is one of the earliest viral videos that I remember. Everyone watched it at some point, and friends went out of their way to ensure they shared it with as many people as possible. I was 16 at the time; I wasn’t on Twitter, and barely used Facebook. I spent my time either reading fan fiction, playing really bad HTML games or watching YouTube videos. Lezcano’s Dark Knight parody became a cultural touchstone for people in my neighborhood and amongst friends. We quoted it incessantly, and watched it whenever there was a spare moment in computer lab classes.
I still watch Lezcano’s video from time-to-time. So do millions of other people, as its 30 million view-count indicates.
“I think people tend to click on things that have a lot of views out of curiosity,” Lezcano said. “Also both Batman and seeing someone get repeatedly punched in the face never get old.”
The spoof is still funny, and it rekindles my love for both The Dark Knight and early YouTube days in the process. There’s something incredibly magical about celebrating a movie through a small creator’s heartfelt DiY sketch, and that’s what Lezcano’s video allows me to do. Lezcano admits he feels the same way.
“I’ve spent a lot of time making fun of the movie but in the end I do love it a great deal, as my Hot Toys collection will attest. I’m pleased to have provided some contribution to the film’s legacy, however minute and infinitesimal it is.”