The Loyal Opposition

30Jul12

What is a blog if not a typed therapy session?

I’m still processing my thoughts on “The Dark Knight Rises,” and as part of my process, I’ve been reading reviews (both professional and semi-pro) and listening to podcasts dealing with any manner of the film. I’ve been in touch with friends, sending emails and Facebook posts, trying to start conversations and talk this thing through.

So far, it seems I’m in the minority opinion. It’s “The Avengers” all over again.

Let’s get this straight: I liked “Dark Knight Rises.” I did. There are many moments in the movie that I enjoyed and haven’t been able to shake. It was bold and exciting. I had fun watching it.

But I didn’t love it. Or I don’t, yet. I’m sure I’ll buy it on DVD and I’ll re-watch it 20 times and get swept away in it. I’ll somehow give myself over to it, by the simple virtue of having Batman in it.

That might very well be the reason for my uneasy feelings. I’m a Batman fan. I’ve seen every theatrically-released movie in the theaters (yes, even “Batman & Robin”… YES even “Batman: The Movie”; it was a re-release matinee). I’m predisposed to seek out Batman things and on some level, find a version of love within. So it is safe to say that I can’t judge Batman films objectively. Sure, I can make lists ranking the Batman films against other Batman films, but after that, it becomes very difficult for me to judge.

I’m a natural skeptic in my regular non-Batman life. Maybe I’m pessimistic. Or maybe I’m just a jerk. I don’t quickly declare love for something on first read, watch or listen. Not regularly, anyway. Sometimes things grab me (“Moonrise Kingdom”), but in general, I take things in, think them over, and then deliver a verdict. I sort of trust my gut, but not completely. Your gut can be wrong.

As I said, the reviews and my friends’ feelings have ranged from “liked it” to “FREAKIN’ FANTASTIC.” Most were on the latter side. Among my most vocal friends, I’ve been the lowest opinion. This is a usual place for me. Maybe I never expected greatness from myself and others, so I’m naturally suspicious when I hear people speak so highly of anything.

Or maybe I just don’t know how to focus on the positive aspects. I watched the IGN video review, and the three British reviewers loved all over the film. They had a section where they talked about parts they weren’t crazy about (plot holes, confusing moments, etc.), but it was very minor. They were also some of the same problems I had with the movie. So why could they get past them and I couldn’t? Why can they focus on the good while I focus on the bad?

As you may know, “Rises” has gotten a few negative reviews, and the writers of those reviews were blasted by fanboys, some even receiving death threats. It’s ridiculous for me to ask “Why?” but… WHY? What excited these fans so much about a movie they hadn’t even seen that they felt they needed to protect it from the slightest criticism (criticism that has been widely assumed as the minority opinion)?

I suppose this may have to do with the strange fascination we have with the hope for perfection in others. People seem to accept their own imperfections more than they do the imperfections of others, and especially the imperfections of other’s art. George Lucas has felt this a few times over, as have the creators of “The Matrix.” I distinctly remember (and never tire of bringing up) the moment about 6 episodes into the FIRST SEASON of “Lost” when a friend commented “I’m loving this show. So far. I hope this doesn’t’ suck in the end.” We weren’t even half way through the first season, and already the thoughts had turned to hopes for a kind of perfection; or at least against the idea of failure, spurred on by such recent “dropped the ball” runs of “The X-Files” and “Alias.”

The greatest sin any form of entertainment can commit is to waste the audience’s time. Perhaps that’s what I’m sensing with “The Dark Knight Rises.” Not that it wasted my time COMPLETELY, but it certainly wasn’t careful with my time. The inclusion of non-dynamic characters, ungainly story elements and other such choices give me the feeling that the Emperor has no clothes. I focus on the hollow everyone else chooses to over look because those elements are, in traditional non-Batman-related entertainment, kisses of death.

Maybe everyone loves Batman as much* as I do, and they cannot see the Nolan movies — films that seem to give the audience what they think they want — as anything but great. Maybe it’s a matter of comparison. There’s never been a Batman treatment quite like these films. Compared to the last set of Batman movies, the Nolan movies are clearly superior in simple movie-making ability.

Yet that doesn’t mean I have to love them. I don’t HAVE to. I don’t. With annual Best-of-the-Year lists and the Oscars and such, there’s a kind of assumption that, every year without fail, there are a set number of great movies. And that’s not true. Some years could have 10 truly great films. The next year, there might only be 4. But because of the demands of awards shows and magazine publishers, the need to fill the list builds an assumption. Pessimistic? Absolutely. Possible? I think so, and I’m the only one writing here, so there.

Where does this leave “The Dark Knight Rises?” I’m not sure. I will see it again, and even after that, I might still have quibbles and questions which maintain my slightly-negative feelings. More importantly, what does it say about me? Am I just a pessimistic person, who focuses more on negativity than others? Am I incapable of love?

*Impossible.

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