|The Bat Elvis, An Eventuality|
I really should have seen "The Dark Knight Rises" months and months ago. I loved Tom Hardy in "Bronson" (seriously, see this movie, it's fantastic), so having him take a shot at Bane was all kinds of win. I've liked Anne Hathaway in lots of stuff, mostly because she's been a good presence in kid movies that I've endured for the pleasure of sitting down with my daughters, and a few art movies as well. The Christopher Nolan reboot of the franchise might be the most financially successful move in movie history. I've watched Bat-stuff since I was a child. It's been a really long time since Arnold Schwarzenegger made me want to rip out my frontal lobes for paying money to see fifty ice puns jammed into every possible orifice. Get with the cultural zeitgeist already.
And yet, well, I hadn't before late last night. And it was only then because I had put the DVD in my Netflix queue once upon a time, and it swam to the surface because we've cleared some other stuff.
Why the reticence? Well, I'm 43 years old as I write this, and honestly, 43 is a very interesting age. It's the age where you still remember as much of your childhood as you ever will, but you get that, even with exceptional health and luck, you are at halftime or later. You start to get to the point, assuming you have any self-consciousness at all, of understanding what is Craft and what is Art... and while you can respect craft, it's more or less what you've seen before. Art seems like a better way to spend your minutes.
Now, a superhero movie can be many things. It can be well made or shoddy, gritty or campy, masterful or inept. But what it can not be is Art; it can not truly surprise you assuming you are past a certain age, and it can not be something that people should take seriously.
And yet, now, we do. Mostly because they make a ferocious amount of money, and telling anyone in this country that something that is popular is dumb sets you up as a humorless drone, elitist, or killjoy.
When all you are, really, is 43. And not afraid to take what you are supposed to think and happily go 180 degrees away from it, with speed and surety.
"Rises" is nearly three hours. It has plot holes you can drive comically oversized assault vehicles through. It takes a stunningly hot Hathaway and more or less wastes her by trying to make a larger-than-life borderline psycopath into a flinty one-note prostitute. It swerves hard in the final hour rather than stay with a far more interesting graying of the traditional roles between hero and villain, and more or less punts in the idea that drastic social change could become popular for more than the corrupt. (Seriously, this is a movie in which the 1% is more or less rounded up and shot, and the populace seems entirely neutral or absent on whether or not Things Have Gotten Better.) It has about as much suspense as a trip via train: you know where you are going, you know the route, and the only difference is the speed and weather.
Oh, and I'm not even going to get into the fact that Christian Bale and Nolan seemingly decided it was OK to have the Batman speak like Cookie Monster. Other than to point out that, well, that's just about the stupidest thing ever, and makes every parody of this thing the comedic equivalent of bringing a Kalashnikov with you on your trip to Fish Buckets R Us. Moving on.
And all of that, of course, does not matter at all, and never had a chance of mattering. The only thing that kept this thing from making a ridiculous amount of money was a nutbag killing people at the premiere; all of the good or bad reviews in the world wouldn't have mattered. Including this one.
Andreas Cornelis ("Dries") van Kuijk, better known to the world as Col. Tom Parker, the wildly abusive and overcompensated manager of Elvis Presley who prevented the King from touring abroad for fear of losing his illegal citizenship, once said that movies with his client didn't need names, they just needed a number, so that they knew they hadn't already seen it. That's mean and cynical, and well, accurate.
Finally, there's this. When I was a child, I'd flip through the handful of television channels that were available (I grew up pre-cable), and inevitably wind up thinking too much about PBS, since that was in the mix of the 6 to 10 choices that were available. I'd never stay there, of course, because I was a kid and not terribly interested in dramas, operas, British stuff or the other stuff that was on PBS in the mid to late 1970s... but what did strike me was that there was a whole 'nother world of High Culture that adults were supposed to watch and like, and when I was a grown-up, I was supposed to watch that stuff, too.
It didn't really matter to me that I didn't see adults watch that; it just mattered that they had their shows, and I had mine, and if a grown-up was watching a show with you, they were probably doing a nice thing for you, rather than watching it for their own enjoyment. And if they liked the same shows I liked for the same reasons, that would have just been, well, sad and creepy.
Which is, well, how I felt at the end of "Rises"... and how I really feel when, say, my Twitter feed bursts wide open with people freaking out over who the director of the next Star Wars movie will be.
Adults still care, deeply, strongly, without a trace of self-awareness or irony or camp value, as to who will direct a Star Wars movie.
Shouldn't they, you know, have moved on to something else by now, rather than sit in the same freaking sandbox for the past 35 years?