Archive for July, 2012

See life is full of tragedy. It affects everyone and people have different ways of dealing with it. Sometimes tragedy it natural and sometimes it is manmade. And it is the manmade disasters that hurt me the worst. The recent shootings at the midnight showing of the Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado truly make me stop and count my blessings. My heart goes out to all those effected by this horrible moment.

See my entire family lives in Colorado. I have a strong connection to that state and the people of that state. I remember the day of the Columbine shooting almost as clearly as I remember 9/11. Only being in 5th grade, I remember my mother, who worked at my elementary school, not telling me much and just that she was worried about our cousins (thankfully none went to Columbine). I saw the aftermath as it changed the entire country. I saw how a trench coat instantly became a badge of troubled youth. I saw  how people were quick to blame everything from video games to movies to music for causing those teens to plan and act out a massacre. Although not the first act of gun violence in United States history, Columbine was one of if not the most prominent. For many, this was a once in a lifetime heinous act. People had memorials, some made movies about it, others just prayed. Gun violence  had cut a permanent tear into the fabric of the United States.

See but that once in a lifetime tragedy turned out to be not so once in a lifetime. Since 1999, acts of gun violence seem to be on an upswing. There was more school shootings, like the Virginia Tech shootings. There was the Fort Hood shootings which effected the military. Earlier this year, there was a shooting at Oikos University, a religious school in Oakland. And of course there was the most recent, in Aurora, Colorado. The most recent shooter is the same age as me. He has been influenced by many of the things in society that I have been influenced by. He was a young mind when Columbine happened. He was raised in a society where are man who made his lifestyle fighting, killing, and blowing things up can become a govenor, where Call Of Duty is the top selling video game, and one of the worst recessions ever has negatively effected millions of people.

See what does this say about our society? Are we at the point where massacres and shootings in public spaces are becoming expected instead of outrageous? Can we not provide for the citizens of the United States? If we prescribe to the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, then we are all somewhat to blame for what happened. Does society not provide a support system for those with issues? Is society actually the problem in these people’s lives? Is it crushing them and providing expectations that sometimes are impossible to live up to? Or are these people just the outliers that are their own creation? Have these people always existed in society but now they have the weapons to make more of an impact? Why is there so many questions that have few to no answers?

See people overreact. They don’t take time to think. They have a knee jerk reaction to a huge event and don’t stop to connect the right lines. Banning costumes at the movies does not address any issue that arose from the most recent shooting. Me sitting here and saying that the second amendment needs to be done away with is over reacting, though about four or five more of these shootings and I will seriously start to think about it. The fact of the matter is, if we can’t have an open an honest conversation about what is causing these tragedies to occur, we will never move on. We need to stop attacking each other’s ideas and start listening. We need to stop looking at things that don’t matter and start focusing on what does. People are afraid to have hard conversations because they have hard answers. It is easier to attack ideology and personality than put forward a plan for change. At this point, anything is better than nothing. I’ll even listen to ideas about bullet control.

Some works of art transcend genre. Some are able to break the mold and get passed the labels. Some works of art require humans to stop and think for a while instead of instantly tagging it with a word or a catch phrase. Breaking free from conventional trappings, these works of art often lift up the entire genre they were associated with and bring a new sense of respectability to all things associated.  The Christopher Nolan Batman movies have so far done that for comic books and comic book movies. They are movies about more than a guy running around in his pajamas from when he was a kid, or one of those ice-speed skater suits.

Just to be clear, as I sit writing this, I am wearing my skintight Catwoman outfit, batman tighty whities, a cape, and am playing the theme from the original batman TV show. I love Batman. I love comic books, or graphic novels as those pretentious intellectuals, who like to pretend that all comic books somehow merit consideration for the Pulitzer Prize, call them. I grew up on a steady stream of Batman. When I was a kid, I used to watch Batman the Animated Series religiously with my brother. I watched the Michael Keaton Batman movies countless times (Ever danced with a devil in the pale moonlight?). I watched the Adam West Batman TV show on TV Land with my father. I watched the fan made movie where Batman fights a predator. I read the comic books. I even sat through the terrible Val Kilmer and George Clooney Batman movies. I love the character.

Batman is my favorite comic book character. And when I get into discussions with people about it, they always ask why. Every common question has common answers. Mostly everyone who likes Batman will tell you, “Batman is just a man. He has no super powers, and yet he is one of the most powerful superheroes ever.” That is a good answer. It answers the question and it very logical. People connect with similarity. Since Batman isn’t from Krypton, live underwater, run at the speed of light, join a universal police squad, or the last of the Martians, people like you and me can connect to him more readily than other characters. Since I am difficult and love to be different, I had to think long and hard about why I really like Batman. I have broken it down to his mental fortitude. As a man, dealing with the tragedies in his life, Bruce Wayne is the strongest character I have ever read or seen, across any medium. Where other men crumble, he seems to rise to the occasion and even flourish. He funnels the anger, hate, guilt, and sadness from the tragedies in his life into fighting crime.

Now with all of this being said, comic books are still viewed by many as simply children’s literature. Many adults or those who are seemingly more mature scoff at the ideas of heroes and the constant battle between the forces of good and evil. The X-Men trilogy and the Spider-Man trilogy are perfectly good evidence of this idea. Yes they were entertaining blockbusters, but they were essentially stories about grown men and women running around in skin tight suits spouting off one liners. They helped lay the foundation for super hero movies as we know them today, but they did not elevate the medium to a higher level.

Christopher Nolan has so far put together two movies that have managed to elevate the comic book movie medium. Batman Begins was a better comic book movie than the Dark Knight. The Dark Knight was a better movie than Batman Begins. Batman Begins focuses its efforts on creating a thrilling hero movie, with Batman saving the day and the forces of good reigning triumphant once again. The Dark Knight goes much deeper into the problems that plague society and the inner workings of people. The Dark Knight transcends the comic book genre because it dares to put questions about what humanity is and how it can stretched to it’s limits right there for the viewer to ponder. Batman and the Joker could be taken out of the Dark Knight and replaced and the movie would still be strong and believable. We watched the part of the Dark Knight where the two boats have the opportunity to blow each other up in my AP Psychology class. We looked at the psychology behind the Joker’s “Social experiment.” I watch that movie and see comparisons between Bruce Wayne, and his tiring of being a symbol and doing what is right while sacrificing his personal life, and myself and many of the people with strong character in my life. I look at Bruce Wayne wearing a mask and ask myself, “Is Batman the mask or is Bruce Wayne the mask?” Then I begin to question myself on what masks I wear. When art dares to ask larger questions it often fails, but Christopher Nolan succeeded in asking those questions and presenting them to a wider audience than a normal comic book movie. I sat in the theater at the midnight showing of the Dark Knight, everyone was silent (even the rowdy teenagers), as they all took in a cinematic experience that few other movies have even come close to offering in my lifetime. I still get chills every time I watch that movie and the soundtrack comes on, with the one note holding and extending, building tension, creating an atmosphere that feels like it could bust out at any moment. Did I mention Heath Ledger did a pretty good job too?

            The problem is, after creating one of the best comic book movies of all time and one of the best movies of all time, can Christopher Nolan catch lightning in a bottle for a third time? Do I believe in Christopher Nolan? I have read a lot of interviews where they are focusing on Batman as a symbol. They are wrapping up a lot of loose ends by tying it into Batman Begins. I have my doubts. They are introducing a lot of new characters for one movie. They are trying to use Bane as a villain, which would be more true to the comic books than the ridiculous character in Batman & Robin. The Knightfall story line where Bane breaks Batman’s back was the first Batman comic book arc I ever read. They have a flying batmobile. Historically, it is hard to have a strong third episode of a trilogy. Return of the Jedi went all-cute and cuddly with Ewoks, Back to the Future III was a joke, Mockingjay the third book in the Hunger Games series ruined the entire series for me. I have my midnight showing tickets for the Dark Knight Rises. I am going to go. I am going to see it. I have my reservations about it. I am worried. I want to see a strong powerful resolution to the trilogy. I am going in excited, open-minded, but emotionally reserved. I do believe in Christopher Nolan, I just don’t envy him.