As I sit here typing these words it is exactly seven days until The Dark Knight Rises hits movie screens across the world on July 20th. If the strong remarks that have slipped out in the wake of private screenings of the film for Warner Bros bigwigs, select bloggers and movie critics (there have been accounts of standing ovations and tears shed) are any indication of what we will see next week, then we may very well have another touchstone to place next to Detective Comics #27, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Tim Burton’s Batman ’89, RockSteady’s wildly successful Batman-themed video games, Dini and Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series, and a worthy conclusion to the ambitious trilogy started by Christopher Nolan and company seven years ago.
Like most every Batman, comic book, and movie connoisseur, my anticipation for this film is higher than the temperatures have been this summer (I am a Stateside writer if you UK readers are wondering!) but the fire rising from this hoped-for box office and critical juggernaut has been much more enjoyable to endure. I want to see if all the unconnected scenes shown in various trailers and TV spots in the massive media campaign leading up to the movie’s premiere come together into a coherent whole just like I want to know how the enigmatic Nolan ties up his particular imagining of the Bat mythos, just like I want to spend the rest of my life discussing and arguing the merits, pro and con, of not just this film but this series of films impact on popular culture. Heady times but I want to savor this anticipation of the unknown as my imagination runs free until I see what actually unspools on the screen next week.
The feeling that is normally lost and unremarked upon after an experience is the expectation before it happens. The hope and desire that this big event you await impatiently for is by some miracle even better than what you’ve whipped up in your mind’s eye. Whether it’s a big soccer match with your favorite team, a date with the hot chick in your office who finally said yes, or, in this case, a big movie spectacle, the desire of things hoped for and imagined far outstrips the reality. In the cold, unromantic world we live in, most times your team gets a mud hole stomped in its ass, the hot chick is a neurotic STD carrier, and the movie you think is going to revolutionize cinema turns out to be the bastard love child of Battlefield Earth and John Carter. Anti-climatic disillusionment or even happy satisfactions rarely live up to the desires our minds create for us which is why they should be cherished before the reality of it all overwhelms their fragility.
One of the favorite movies from my youth is John Boorman’s Excalibur from way back in 1981. As a testosterone-fueled kid about to go through puberty, I loved the sex and violence on the screen but as a teenager studying the movie in my advanced English literature class years later, my teacher, Mrs. Powell, taught me there was so much more to the story of King Arthur’s Camelot than severed limbs laced with scenes of Lancelot and Guinevere getting busy in the green. I mention the film not because I awaited its release with bated breath back at the dawn of the Eighties as I do TDKR now but because of a speech made by Merlin portrayed by the great Nicol Williamson in the aftermath of a battle during the movie. Merlin cautions Arthur and his knights in so many words not to forget the joy of the journey in the rush to reach the destination.
My thoughts exactly because, tortured metaphor aside, while I have little doubt Nolan has crafted one of the best movies of the year, the possibility is still there that I and other viewers will be disappointed by what we see but it’s the chance you take if you get personally vested in something outside yourself that will happen whether you show up for it or not. I love comic books and I love movies so whether The Dark Knight Rises, or falls, I don’t plan to start hating either one after Friday of next week. No, I plan rather to let my imagination run wild thinking about the new Judge Dredd movie, the next Bond flick, Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth in The Hobbit, and how Zack Snyder and Henry Cavill will resurrect Superman on the silver screen next year in The Man of Steel.
I’m sure that one or more of the movies listed and not listed will frustrate me by not living up to my imagination in some way and while I’ll be somewhere letting my displeasure be known, I will still do it all over again gladly. Why? I’m going to do it again and again not because I’m insane but, as I alluded to before; real life can be a heavy load to carry at times so a sweet bit of anticipation helps the bitter cynicism go down a little easier.