For many movie fans, July 20 was supposed to be one of the highlights of this year.
The Dark Knight Rises was expected to be the capper to a trilogy that put comic book movies on the same level as “serious” films – movies with cinematic gravitas, such as Unforgiven or Citizen Kane, but built around characters revered by geeks and nerds the world around.
Midnight showings are a tradition for this kind of movie – art films don’t get hundreds of people lined up dressed as elves or Ewoks. The anticipation was off the charts.
Then, at a midnight showing in Colorado, this happened.
I would have been in a theater that night if I hadn’t had to work the next morning, just as excited to see the next great story unwind from the projector.
I spent that Friday reading stories and tweets about what happened. This self-proclaimed “Joker” may not have gotten the hair color right, but he got the Clown Prince’s craziness pitch-perfect.
Mass murder has been done before, and sadly, will be again. There’s no accounting for crazy.
But this one invaded one of the last sanctums of adult imagination – a place where men and women can put aside having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, worrying about paying the mortgage, how their children are doing in school, what they are doing with their lives.
Summer movies – the out-of-this-world scenes, the dark superheroes with tortured pasts, the whip-cracking wit – these are our great myths, our great stories.
Some will take the intellectual high ground here and argue that the summer tentpole movie form of entertainment shows how depleted our society has become.
I’ve got no argument for that – I’ve thrown away enough money for dreck such as Transformers II to understand where they are coming from.
But even Shakespeare and Joyce wrote some losers – the difference is at this point, their “Spider-Man 3” has been consigned to the wastebasket of history, while we’re stuck with it on blu-ray for the foreseeable future.
Taking two hours to be as badass as Wolverine, as cocky as Iron Man, or as determined as Batman is how we escape from the daily grind – the same way ha’penny heads crammed into the Globe Theater saw MacBeth, Hamlet, and Othello fight their demons.
This killer splattered real blood on the stage where our players – those embraced by moviegoers everywhere – stood up to injustice and wrongdoing, and made the stage a little smaller and a lot more real.
About the movie: Friday night, I had tickets to The Dark Knight Rises. As I sat in the theater and listened, the buzz was there, but quieter – restrained and questioning instead of joyful celebration.
After the movie ended, the buzz resumed – still lower than one might expect, but interested – people examining the story with each other to understand it. Like The Dark Knight, I feel like I have to see it again (and possibly again) to catch the nuances.
Some mild spoilers ahead.
In general, I found Bane’s blunt battering ram of a villain to be an apt metaphor for the movie – it winds up with a telegraphed swing, but still hits like a truck. The Dark Knight, in comparison, was like the Joker’s knife – it was in your ribs, twisted and out again before you even knew he was there.
Personal preference – I liked TDK, then TDKR, then Batman Begins. But they are all of the highest quality when it comes to superhero-based movies.