I saw The Dark Knight Rises last night. Packed theater, lots of energy in the crowd, and I was able to get great seat by virtue of showing up more than an hour early. (I live in NYC, where the one constant is lines. Because so many people live here, everywhere you go, anything you do, other people go and do it too. And if it’s something particularly cool or anticipated… well.)
I liked the movie a lot. I think that Nolan obviously set out to tell a finite Batman story through the three films (or perhaps that’s what he decided to do once he realized WB would allow him to, after the success of Batman Begins.) It’s not the story of the comics version of Batman, but it’s A story of Batman, and in many respects a fantastic one – one of the best we’ve ever had, and certainly the best on film. One of the reasons Batman has endured for more than 70 years is his incredible flexibility – you can have Batmen as distinct from one anoter as the one in the 60s show, the original comic version, Miller’s 80s-90s work, the day-glo Batman from Schumacher’s films, the mildly comic (but still badass) Batman from The Brave and the Bold and so many more. I’ve seen a bunch of complaints about people being upset because ‘Batman wouldn’t do that…” The thing is, Batman DID do that, in The Dark Knight Rises. When a creator as talented as Nolan makes a film out of an established property, if you prevent yourself from getting into his version just because it’s not the way you’ve seen it done before, then you’re cutting yourself off from something potentially inspired. The movie exists as the movie exists. Calling one story beat or another “bad” for the sole reason that it’s not how many other creators working with the character have done it before is ridiculous. Do we really want to see the same thing over and over again? I know that many do, but for me, seeing a take on Batman that acknowledged the physical, mental and spiritual toll such a path would cost was exactly what the doctor ordered. We see what being Batman did to Bruce Wayne, and we understand why he kept going regardless. That’s Batman to me.
Can’t wait to see it again.
So, that’s my take on the film. I can’t end this post, though, without talking about what happened in Aurora, Colorado last week. Insanity and evil have always been a part of human society. Sometimes we are able to prevent tragedies before they occur, and sometimes, god help us, we just have to deal with the aftermath. I don’t think it’s American society and its easy access to guns that’s to blame – if that fellow hadn’t been able to get a gun he’d have found another way to kill, probably. Things like this happen all over the world, even in countries with strict gun control laws. Off the top of my head, there’s the psychopath who opened up at the summer camp in Norway, the Aum Shinrikyo attacks in Tokyo subways, the Madrid and London bombings, etc. I know that if I hit up Google I could find dozens of similar events – but that’s not how I feel like spending even a part of my morning. For the record, I do wish it were harder to get some of the truly deadly weapons with no apparent purpose beyond the murder of humans (handguns and assault weapons), but as I said, I’m not sure that would have prevented James Holmes from doing something horrific.
The difference between last week’s tragedy and, say, Columbine (at least for me), is that millions of people around the country are replicating the exact experience the victims had before the attack began. The killer in Aurora began firing right when the first big shootout occurs in The Dark Knight Rises. Going forward, everyone who sees the film in the theater sees the same images as the Century 16 crowd, sits in a theater very similar to the Colorado space, and yet we walk out a few hours later talking about Bane or Catwoman, and twelve people in Aurora did not. We did nothing differently than they did. We walked the same path in basically every way. It’s not like saying “Oh, I went to high school – wouldn’t that have been terrible if some kid came in and…” or “I ride the subway every day, wouldn’t it be awful if…” Those are nothing more than rough analogies – we’ve had experiences like the ones surrounding other tragedies. In this case, however, this one, strange, horrible situation, it’s easy to imagine precisely what it was like for the people in that Colorado theater. In fact, (for me), it was hard not to. It’s like the country now has thousands of theaters which are inadvertently letting moviegoers role-play part of that godawful nightmare. Strange and horrible.
What does this mean? It’s just an observation, and I don’t know that I want to put it in some larger political context, or hope that the potential resonance of the experience causes some sort of political change. This is just a silly little personal blog, after all. Perhaps the inevitable cultural longevity of Dark Knight Rises will keep people thinking about tragedies like the Aurora shootings a little more than they otherwise would, as the blu-ray hits, and the inevitable three-pack, and it ends up on year-end lists, and so on. And if that happens, perhaps people will reach out more, give more help, take better care… hard to say. Anything’s possible. The Dark Knight Rises is no longer just a movie – certainly for worse, but maybe just a tiny bit for better, as well.