Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

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.