Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Gotta Have Batman

At 3pm last Wednesday, I picked Peryton up at her day job, the Head Breakfast Bartender at a local strip club, so that we could go see Spiderman: Dimwitted Edition and the finale to Chris Nolan's take on the Bat-Man. It was a good thing because the first time I promised to do so, I was "beer-napped" to use her phrase. And though I had been bamboozling a bit already, from Tuesday PM on, I was able to fulfill this promise. Now I am not going to go into how bad the Spiderman movie was suffice to say that Pery moved away from me and my snide comments before the end of it.

But Dark Knight Rises was definitely worth the watch. And I say this with some trepidation because everyone familiar with me know two things about me and movies: I like bad movies; and I often am too nice to movies in my initial write-ups only to delve into what I really hate about them later as time goes on. I figure that if you do not expect watching a film or TV show to numb your mind but expect it to somehow open up new vistas of perception for you, you're 4-14 years-old.  At the same time, the cheesiness of certain millennial masterpieces gets in my craw and only work deeper. In this case, it really is a nice finish to a very decent series of movies that I won't mind re-watching a decade from now. Mind you, it definitely needs to first two flix in the series to work. I think that I will enjoy it so much that I feel the movie needs some good press outside of its producers paid-for tidbits.

What is most astonishing about Christopher Nolan as a director out of the Hollywood establishment is that he really is a Batman fan. He might have a doctorate in film-making from the prestigious Too-Much-Money-and-Priviledge branch of London PhoneItIn"bey" University. And he might think that the LA Theater Works is a source of real culture. Heck he might even consider Anthony LaPaglia one of the better soccer players of this decade. But I think he gets weak in the knees every time he sees a trade paperback of this or Batman story cycle. He gets weak in the knees just like I do.

From the fist movie on, Nolan has not only shown that he wants to show that 70 year-old Batman franchise isn't just camp and weird TV camera angles, it was about storytelling. I suspect he also wanted to show Frank Miller was a fraud when it came to being a writer of anything heroic. But still wanting to show the appeal of a gritty Gotham, while sticking to its most iconic characters, the Bat-Man, Commissioner Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth.

Now while much has been said about the "real Batman" since Nolan's movies have come out, he deftly hasn't fallen into that trap. Any kid reading the comic books knows better as they hear CNN and deal with their schoolmates almost everyday. Batman and Robin for 95% of the comic's history was about big props and the color purple. What they like about the character, is that he is person that pays attention to detail and overcomes setbacks as often as obstacles in his strategy of coping with the world around him. Overall what we, the "real fans," like is the philosophy that being "practical" ignores the imagination and aspirations of people who enact changes for the better in the world.

Instead what Nolan was reflect, rather accurately, the tastes of fans of Batman below the age of 90 in storytelling. And he did not fall into the other trap of the Ever-Adolescent generation, the 30-70 year-old crowd, that still buys comic books and lives for the latest "pop culture figure" to come to life on the movie screen, which happens to be cynical idiosyncrasy (Did someone mention Frank Miller?). Besides the use of the moniker "Dark Knight" and a tank as the Batmobile, as in the Dark Knight Returns dystopian bleakness, there just isn't a lot Miller material in the works.

Instead what we get is Denny O'Neil's influence on the work.  Not the cartoon mogul Bob Kane nor the consummate Mother's Basement Dwelling Frank Miller. Nolan levels gritty scenes and non-comic bookish dollops of reality, like aging characters, personal afflictions and the life around them with immersing the viewer into the tale of the characters. He doesn't forget the Jungian archetypes that Batman comic books should really be about. Ras Al Ghul and Scare Crow moves on to the Batman heavy-hitters of Two-Face and the Joker. And by the third movie, there is only the meta-story to tell. Let's talk about just the third movie for a bit.

Now is the time on Sprokets when we dance.

Dark Knight Rises takes us into the complicated story lines of Batman: Vengeance of Bane, Gotham City's Cataclysm and No Man's Land and wraps up the Ras Al Ghul yarn in the first movie nicely. All three of these cycles, were the best reads about the World's Greatest Detective yarns I've read over the past three decades. Nolan sticking to his reality-dollops vision doesn't take this opportunity to go hog-wild on the costumed characters, to help complete his "trilogy" of the "best-ever" Cape Crusader story on the silver screen. Instead he focuses on the foibles of the characters involved.

Bruce Wayne is so over-the-top navel gazing, he needs an ill-fated yet plucky Catwoman to get his attention. And while everyone might've forgotten about the Ras Al Ghul's Brotherhood of Shadows while dealing with the Joker, the Brothers haven't forgotten about them-- a perfect starting point for the cinema version of Bane. Now as a guy who has stepped outside of planes while they were in-flight, I might take exception to the opening sequence but the popcorn filling my mouth and Pery finally finding me after her Special Ed Spiderman film credits had me too busy to really care.

The actors' characters are quirky, and that helps the casual viewer disbelieve the outrageous and understated horrific events going on as the stage is set for the Batman to regain his bat-manliness (despite the death of Bat Manuel). Cat Woman's little yarn is especially well written. Talia al Ghul is not a moral to be ignored when it comes to love interests in superhero-dom as well as real life, and especially refreshing in the "love-interest" trope laden, like land mines, movies about comic book characters these days.

Overall an Godzilla, the highest rating of any movie in my book. Here's to Nolan's take on the Robin saga.

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