Speculation abounds on how Heath Ledger's untimely death will impact one of the most highly anticipated films of this year, The Dark Knight. Will the studio can the film? Delay it? Can Warners sustain the Joker-centric marketing in light of Ledger's death at the expense of negative fan reaction?
It's pretty simple, folks. Of course the film will be released. It will be released on its originally scheduled date, which is months from now. And all of that is entirely appropriate and not unusual at all. I think that any actor would want his/her final work released, even given that the role is a very dark one, about a character who deals in death. Brandon Lee's final film was about a young man who comes back from the dead. Lee died making that film and it was still released, and I'm sure there are other examples I'm not recalling currently. Ledger's acting ability far outstrips that of Brandon Lee, so his final work should be seen.
And it will. Warners will not fail to put out the film that will earn them the most revenue this year.
Warners should probably be advised to slightly alter their marketing campaign, however. And I think they will. I don't think we'll see marketing sans Joker, but likely and advisedly we will see less Joker and more focus on Bale/Batman reacting. I think we will see more imagery that evokes the Joker than actual shots of him. Respect to Ledger notwithstanding (and I don't mean to imply that showing him in ads would be disrespectful), it's a smarter move to downplay the Joker in the ads so that the character makes a larger impact on the screen. Less is more.
In an only marginally related note, I agree with Joel McHale of E! Network's The Soup that media hounds need to stop trying to dig up dirt on and sensationalize Ledger's death. The man seemed like a decent human; let him be remembered that way.