Of late, friends have acted gobsmacked when I tell them I’m not the least bit excited about going to see The Dark Knight Rises.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely going to see it. (I mean, c’mon. And I went to see Elektra, and while I expect DKR might be a downer, it should be a competent downer) I just wish I could excited about it.
Which is odd, because I loved Batman Begins. Still do. I was stupid excited to see The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger’s Joker was amazing, and I left the theatre thinking it was an fantastic film. And then I watched it again on DVD, and I turned it off before it was finished.
It was so relentlessly depressing (and I’m not saying all movies have to be shiny and happy) but also it wasn’t a Batman movie. Not really. Comic book fans are still waiting for a real Batman movie. You could say it’s nerd rage, or any other buzz word for a disappointed fan. But bear with me.
Batman has so many facets, and we’ve never come close to capturing them all on film. (Or in the comics either, sadly. Batman has being growing aggressively more dickish and one dimensional since Frank Miller’s The Dark Night Returns. And as Adam West once asked: “Why doesn’t Batman dance anymore?”)
Batman is a perfect physical specimen. He’s among the greatest martial artists in the world. He’s a skilled actor and impersonator. He’s an escape artist. He has cool gadgets. He’s part of a larger superheroic world as a member of the Justice League. Most importantly, he’s the Dark Knight Fucking Detective. (I would watch the hell out of a Batman movie that used more mystery/thriller tropes than action tropes, but maybe that’s just me. It certainly feels that way judging from the sound of crickets every time I bring it up.) None of the films, Nolan’s or otherwise, have come even close to showing us all sides of Batman. (The cartoons have. Batman The Animated Series and Justice League, both produced by Bruce Timm, remain in my mind the definitive take on the character–even more so than the comics that spawned him.)
I rewatched Tim Burton’s Batman recently (the less said about the following installments in the franchise the better) and was surprised how well it holds up today. For instance, within six minutes, viewers have achieved Batman, and two of those minutes were the opening credit sequence! Compare this with pretty much every other superhero movie and Burton’s Batman looks even better. (Yes, yes, I’m aware of how horribly the Prince soundtrack has aged, so no need to bring it up. Or Basinger’s performance as Vicki Vale for that matter.)
Nolan’s Batman does has a lot going for it. Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne, Michael Caine’s Alfred Pennyworth, Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon (somebody please make a GCPD HBO series!) chief among them. Come to think about it, everything I love about Nolan’s films turns on who he has cast to bring his take on Batman to life, rather than his actual take on Batman.
I’m sure Dark Night Rises will do huge bank. I’m reasonably sure it’ll be a good film. I’m sure I’ll go see it. I just wish I could be even the tiniest bit sure that I’ll enjoy it.