I’m not going to tell you the ending of The Dark Knight Rises. I’m going to tell you where Batman begins. Deep in the slums of Shaolin, or in an area that could be considered a dump, my crew of friends and I drove to the UA theater on Forest Ave to see director Christopher Nolan resurrect who we believed was the most revered hero in the DC Comics universe. Our youth attracted us to the fictional crime fighter we grew up with; the maturity of our 20s brought us back in 2005 to revisit it through the eyes of a director who had previously built a reputation for provoking thought, and conversation in Memento. In Nolan’s take on Batman, we expected it to be more serious than the previous versions because America was a seriously dark place to be in the age of George Bush politricks and economic upheaval. A Batman movie would have to parallel present day events with plots and characters so extreme that it would make us sneer at crime and terrorism in our home of New York City, without flinching.
After attending the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises last night with my lady, and the after party at the NY Public Library (above), I was overcome with every form of restraint not to tell my crew until they read today’s reaction article to the film. [Ed. Note: What you are reading is actually a second draft. The first one mysteriously didn’t save in my Gmail account.] One of my friends who’s accompanying me to see TDKR again this week (in IMAX) said I’m probably going to have the biggest hard-on ‘til Friday, as I try not to fuck it up for everyone else. And he’s so right.
Seeing the first two films countless times, and now the third and final installment, there’s no need to debate which film is better. There is no competition. The past seven years of Batman movies are all perfect in their own right, comparing them just isn’t fair. They are made for a certain audience, during a specific time period, with a cast that could only work with Christopher Nolan. Tim Burton’s first magnum opus with Batman, followed by Batman Returns were each released in the late ‘80s to early ‘90s. They were unprecedented for superhero flicks which at the time were finding a new home at the box office. Of course they would be fun for kids of all ages. Tim Burton’s imagination set the bar for subsequent filmmakers like Joel Schumacher and Chris Nolan to push the envelope. Writing in villains like Joker, Penguin, and Catwoman to play opposite Batman, they would have to match Burton’s flare for showmanship manifested in their sometimes silly, quirky, and demented characters. It’s not worth even mentioning what Joel Schumacher did. Any true fan would spit Penguin’s goop upon Schumacher’s cinematic mess out of disgust just for mentioning his work in the same sentence as the Academy-Award winning TDK. To be fair, in order to appreciate how far we’ve come with the recent three films, you have to really loathe Batman Forever and Batman and Robin.
Batman fever will soon take over the world as it did in 1989. It takes huge balls to make movies of this magnitude with budgets that could feed nations. Frown upon that notion if you want. The underlying theme of privilege is at the heart of the plot in The Dark Knight Rises. Rich versus poor; good against evil; these themes have run a course of seven years, with characters that question morality and decency. These are topics Superman and Spidey wouldn’t dear swing near, even if Michael Moore put on a cape and some tights. Sorry for that mental image. Then there’s the whole ambiguously gay superhero thing. First of all, a pretty straight mega rich dude by day, who parades around at night in a rubber suit—sometimes with his “friend”—”taking down” “bad guys,” some of whom might wear makeup, or a vinyl catsuit should be pretty outandaboutdotcom with it these days. Green Lantern is openly gay. Frank Ocean and Anderson Cooper are pretty super in their own fields of music and journalism, so what’s another gay pop culture figure. Do you Bats.
‘Nuff props going to Warner Bros for assembling a dream team that’s crushed box office numbers like a Hurricane named Heath (Rest In Peace, you were the illest). Bane is a whole other natural disaster, god. I’ll leave it at that. Seriously, you have to be thankful for Nolan making a series that no one should be mad at. Disgruntled fanboys should eat their Comic Con laminates with a side of special sauce if they think Nolan’s veered too much from what reference material he might have read. Me and the homies did some extra-curricular reading in between all three films, pretty much getting a sense of every literary work from the minds of Alan Moore, Jeph Loeb, Jim Aparo, Frank Miller and many others who put Batman/Bruce Wayne in more compromising situations than DMX. Say hello to the Dark Man this Friday July 20th.