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Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Why I fear for The Dark Knight Rises...

Contrary to a message I posted on Twitter last week, it would seem that the excitement for The Dark Knight Rises is, well, on the rise.

Diehard fans and those new to the genre alike are anxiously waiting Christopher Nolan’s purported final piece in this epic retelling and remaking of Batman.

Everywhere you look, there’s some form of media attention or advertising. From the movie trailers and posters, to things as unique as fake street signs, the message is clear: Batman is coming, and it’s going to be awesome!

But, I won’t be there on opening night. I won’t even be there for the first 3 weeks that it opens. 

It’s not for lack of interest; I’ve read every Batman comic I’ve ever laid hands upon. I’ve sampled 1940s Batman, fighting stereotypes on the docks and saying things like “fella”.

I’ve perused 1960s Batman, in the style of Adam West and the like. 
Sometimes, you just can't get rid of a bomb!
I’ve watched Batman don and quickly lose rubber nipples, and watched his character grow from simple to extremely dark and complex, especially thanks to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.

If you like Batman at all, please read this!
But, I will not be there opening night, and I refuse to see it until August, and here’s why: I don’t like hype, and I don’t like crowds.

The second of the two points should be clear. With the popularity of this franchise, and the considerable success and adherence to his craft, Christopher Nolan made a series, and one movie especially, stand alone in the film industry. It surprised people who hated superhero movies, it delivered a masterpiece of acting, drama, and filmmaking, and really, it just set the bar for what movies of this genre could become with the right mixture, the right audience, and considerable effort. With that in mind, I do not want to be anywhere near a theatre for the first couple of weeks. Crowds don’t bother me, but if given the choice, I would rather see something at my leisure, not be pushed in line toward the show. Some people love midnight showings, I have a friend who particularly loves them, and that’s great! I love being one of the first to show my appreciation for something and being rewarded with both the experience and the fact that I’ll be one of the first, one of the chosen few. But, when it comes to things like this, movies, video games, books, I tend to want to wait. The reason leads me back to the first of my two points, hype.

As I mentioned before, this franchise has been getting a lot of hype, a lot of media attention and praise. Even skeptics like me are thinking, “This movie is going to be ridiculously awesome”, and while I do my best to not think those thoughts, I’ve seen just enough of Christopher Nolan’s work to know he wouldn’t let anything less than perfection leave his studio. But, I hold to my skepticism.

The entirety of a film-making process does not solely rest on the shoulders of one person. Sometimes, that’s unfortunate, sometimes it’s necessary, but either way, it’s true. To cast a little doubt into your hearts, here are several ways this movie could disappoint.

The Batman voice could be back, as in the guttural, indecipherable mess which was the main, and probably only, complaint of The Dark Knight. The soundtrack, while amazing, might not be as fresh, or as well applied. I highly doubt this, but these things have been known to happen. The story could be convoluted. The acting of some of the side characters could be bad. Hell, Christian Bale might flop as Bruce Wayne. It’s not as easy of a character to play as one might think, or rather, it’s pretty difficult to affect the right tone with his character. Bale has been doing well, but I hope to see more out of him in this film. Catwoman may not be as awesome as hoped. I doubt this one as I’ve heard good things, try as I might to avoid spoilers and news like this, but Catwoman’s character is a metronome and not everyone has the right sense of timing. Bane could be 1 dimensional. Sure, this works sometimes, but I think the fans have come to expect something better. Joseph-Gordon Levitt’s introduction could feel hasty or annoying. Wait! Don’t yell at me! Know that I love him, and am indeed excited about this movie, but I’m pointing out what could be, just to get you to lower your expectations a little.

My philosophy when it comes to these things, namely the aforementioned movie/book/video game genres is to lower expectations. We’ve seen Hollywood flop before, we’ve seen fans support book series which don’t deserve the praise, and I’ve personally witnessed all the hype put into a much-awaited video game only to be met with extreme disappointment upon its release. Maybe it’s the inner “hipster” in me, but whenever I am surrounded by the general excitement of others, I tend to clam up, become aloof to the situation and the excitement. This is a trait which carries further than seeing movies, but I don’t need to get into that right now. Basically, I have been disappointed by things before, and the over-excitement of fans does little to help that situation.

I want to be excited for something on my own, or with friends. I don’t want to feel the pressure or the tiring anticipation put forth by other people. I’m not saying I want people to calm down; people can do whatever they feel like, within reason, and this franchise deserves all the excitement we can give it. I’m just saying that, personally, I prefer to approach this movie with as fresh of a perspective as possible. It is only after the final credits roll do I allow myself to sit back and evaluate the movie. It is only after I leave the theatre do I make comparisons to what I just watched and what I was expecting, and compare it to what I think fans of the franchise were expecting.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very excited for this movie. If it stays true to form, it will be an experience to repeat and cherish. I love Batman and I am very excited to witness him in action once again. But, there’s one thing I want to have featured, and I’m not sure if it will be.
There is one element to Batman which has not been fully realized, in my opinion, in any of the movies, even the most recent ones. This element waxes and wanes throughout the entire franchise and I completely understand the difficulty involved with bringing it to light. This element is the sheer emotional trauma Batman lives with every day and night.

Batman is an insanely troubled character, and many would argue that he is indeed insane. His journey begins when his parents were murdered, we know this as every movie, comic, and video game is apt to remind us. But, what we don’t always witness is the psychological effect this has on Bruce Wayne. Think about this for a moment: a child’s parents are murdered. This child could have drifted aimlessly from counselor to counselor, never settling down. The boy comes from a rich family, and even this fact doesn’t save him. One could argue that it actually fosters his pain. All the provisions and privileges granted to Bruce Wayne actually keep him protected from the experience of his pain holding him back. Most people realize they must face their issues, move past them, or succumb to the emotional paralysis which ensues. In a way, Bruce has and has not faced his issues. He has dedicated his life to stopping injustice, fighting crime, and has trained his mind and body to perfection in pursuit of those goals. But, he hasn't resolved his feelings, at least I don't think he has. In Batman Begins, we saw this. We saw Bruce struggling with the death of his parents. We watched as he wished to seek justice by killing his parents’ murderer. In The Dark Knight, we saw more of Bruce’s struggle as he questioned his choice and the consequences of being Batman. But, what I really want to see is the anti-heroic qualities of Batman.

The following will make me sound sadistic, but Batman is a gruesome character and I want to see that. In many instances, he is not just motivated to fight crime, he is compelled, he is haunted by his past and being Batman is his only escape. He channels his rage and his fear while he pursues a great purpose, he does so in a manner most would consider insane. Even if you could argue that his methods are necessary because of the corruption and evil of Gotham, most would be unable to defend Batman’s sanity. It should be a question which is never settled. Batman’s true motivation should be to fight crime and to the greater good, but it’s the struggle, the ambiguous approach and perspective he has which makes his character so intriguing, to me anyway. The best example is at the end of Batman Begin when Batman tells Ra’s al Ghul that he isn’t going to kill him, but he isn’t going to save him either. This one moment sheds a lot of light, or arguably shadow, on the character of Batman. He is a human being, with faults, feelings, and drives. His is not the hero’s journey; his is the struggle to do what is needed, without succumbing to the evil his faces every day. 

And sometimes, when Batman is doing his thing, he reveals himself to be a terrifying figure to the audience. Not because he is so stealthy, we know this about him. No. Because he is so dark. Because he has a pain which is still fresh after all this time, and we struggle with his pain, and our opinion of this watchful guardian. It is this journey which I look forward to with anticipation, and which I fear might not be as emphasized or expertly delivered as I'd like in The Dark Knight Rises.

Anyway, this started as a rant about why I won't be seeing the movie right away, and grew into something larger. Like a kid who saves his chocolate long after the other kids have eaten theirs, I will savour this film, loving it in my own time.

-Thanks for reading! For all those who see it earlier, don't tell me anything about it other than whether or not you liked it, and I hope you really enjoy it!

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