Still much too excited about ‘The Dark Knight’

McKean batsLast night I went to dinner with some very good friends, smart, articulate people I like and respect. First we went out for drinks, then to dinner, and after the leisurely evening was well underway, the subject of mutual friends came up and I said that I’d recently had a surprisingly intense argument with someone.

“Why! What did you argue about? She’s so great. What happened?” they asked, with genuine concern.

I was embarrassed to have to admit what had driven me so mad. I grinned sheepishly and muttered “She didn’t like The Dark Knight.”

“What? The Batman movie? What did she say that was so terrible?”

Quickly I tried to make it sound as if my extreme reaction had been reasonable. “She really didn’t like it, AND she kept explaining all the reasons why!”

Reading this back, that’s a pretty ridiculous thing to get upset about. I mean, how dare she have an opinion. Woah, that’s just crazy, she must be evil. And what gall, to try and discuss a movie about a comic book with her friend who loves comics. Boy, that is one inconsiderate friend.

Riiight.

The worse part of all of this, is that one of my friends then innocently added “Oh yeah, I didn’t really like The Dark Knight either.” I immediately felt my hackles rise and had to fight the urge to yell “WHAT! Did you hear what I JUST SAID! Clearly I can’t handle this, why are you trying to make me nuts?!”

The part that made me stop, was the look my older friends gave me. They know me pretty well, and they’ve seen me lose my mind once in a while. They caught my eye and I could see that they were bracing for me to fly off the handle. I did my best to reply calmly, but I had to begin by saying “I don’t think I can have a rational conversation about this.” And then added a few reasons as to why I liked it so much. I probably raised my voice just a little too much at some point. The “conversation” (i.e. me being a head case in public) didn’t last too long.

How nuts have I become that my friends have to humor me by loving exactly the same comics and comic-related movies that I do? And what is it about comics-related movies that incite such passion? I don’t get this upset when people don’t like Apocalypse Now, even if I think they’re being silly (because this is obviously genius). I can easily discuss it’s shortcomings with them, without feeling that horrible sinking feeling in my gut. But when my friends say that they don’t like The Dark Knight, it feels like they’re telling me that nothing is ever going to be okay again. It feels weirdly important. Why is that? Does everyone feel that way about their favorite comic character-related film?

movie batsIs it something to do with the personal experience of reading comics? Is this what creates the sense that the characters live inside us, are a part of us, and therefore the filmic interpretations of them are either the true culmination of years of great art and literature, or an affront which must be immediately forgotten?

I don’t feel this way about any other comic-related movies, not the Spider-Man movies, the Hulk movies, or even the bloody Fantastic Four movies. Not even Sin City, which I stood in line for 3 hours to see. In my book they were okay to bad, and I was very comfortable discussing the various strengths (or weaknesses) of them. I remember friends going nuts over what was right and wrong about all of those films, and while I was pretty happy about them, I wasn’t losing sleep over whether my friends agreed with my opinion.

But Batman… I feel like I’ve waited years to see him brought to life, and while Batman Begins was marvelous, The Dark Knight feels like the birth of something incredible. Seeing his values brought to the fore with such sensitivity, his motivations and inspirations exposed with such grace, it’s been amazing. Watching him fight in the ways I always pictured him in my minds eye has been so satisfying. I am absolutely mortified to admit how excited I am at the quality of this film, but I feel that if I’m to get to the bottom of my inability to cope with adult discussion regarding what is actually simply a bit of entertainment, then I need to be honest with myself about how much this means to me.

Okay, so I love seeing it brought to life so skillfully. But it’s not just that. People who I could never have forced to read Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, or Arkham Asylum are suddenly being exposed to the core of those stories (because we all know that it’s stories like those which are the backbone of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and of course I just adored those books). Okay, so I love that the movies are bringing a book I really love to a more mainstream medium so that I can finally share it with more of my friends. Sharing is good right?

Or is it? Maybe feeling so involved with Batman is the problem? Did you ever have a friend criticize someone in your family? Even if it’s someone you have problems with. You know the kind of thing; you complain that your big sister is a bitch, and your friend agrees, and you find yourself getting all protective of her. It makes no sense, because you know that she is a bitch, but your friend doesn’t know her the way you do, they don’t mean it the way you do. You know that underneath the bitch is someone you adore, so that when you complain, behind your words is a lot of love. I’m beginning to suspect that comics might work that way too.

Miller batsFor as long as I can remember I’ve been reading Batman books, and while I’m not huge on continuity, I feel like I know him pretty well. I’ll admit it, I don’t read every single book that comes out, I only read the books that really appeal to me. Even now I’m only reading Gotham Central. So why do I feel that I know this character so well, why do I feel this familial connection to his filmic representation? Do other people get this way? Is this just symptomatic of finding a comic character that really speaks to me? Or is it a testament to the quality of the film?

I wish I could answer this. I wish I could dissect the motivation and get over it. I want to behave like a normal, non-comic fan person, become one of those happy people who simply enjoy the film, and then have a rational discussion about it. Until I do, I’m just going to have to take a deep breath, act as if I’m not crazy, and be very grateful to have friends who’ll humor me and an online-comic community who share my passions.

 


Sonia Harris is a skilled art director, and a periodically unbalanced human being, with many years of experience imposing her ill-conceived opinions upon other people. You can contact her at sonia@ifanboy.com.

Comments

  1. My father has yet to see the film.  He read comics when he was young (1950’s), but doesn’t follow them now.  I am taking him to see TDK on Saturday and he is very excited.  He LOVED Ironman.  It is like he is a kid again (or so he tells me).

    I have informed him that if he doesn’t like it I will assume he has gone senile and put him in a home.

  2. I understand that mentallity, but I find it happens when it comes to the opposite. Like when I have a movie I can’t stand, but many of my friends love (I’m looking at you Boondock Saints).

     As far as Dark Knight goes, I’m happy to see so many people accepting a character I love (I got the memoribillia and tat to proove it). But as good as Dark Knight was…movie of the year still goes to Wall-E….there I said it….

  3. Very well written article! You managed to articulate the thought process I go through whenever I meet someone who didn’t like Lord of the Rings. I find it nearly impossible to play "objective film critic" with them because I get so much pure enjoyment out of watching them. Same goes for the recent Batman films. In the end, I just conclude that that person has completely different taste than me and try to move on. But yeah, it can be hard not to get upset when folks downplay your absolute favorite movies, bands, novels, etc

  4. Remember, there are people out there that don’t like The Beatles.  That’s how I feel about this movie.  In my opinion every other superhero movie was a popcorn film (yes even Iron Man), but this felt like a film.  This felt like it could hold up to The Departed, Heat, maybe even The Godfather.  I mean,how many comic book movies have a discussion about RICO statutes and pencils used as deadly weapons.

  5. See, this is where the "fanatic" part of "fan" rears up and snaps someone’s head off.  I’d say that in addition to everything you mentioned there’s this film that has been lauded by extremely non geek critics as being a great film.  All that acclaim whispers into our fan ears the vindication that every inmate of the sanatorium wants to hear, "You’re not crazy.  It’s the other people who’re crazy."  Even more than Iron Man, The Dark Knight says  millions of people like what we like.  We are not odd because of our hobby.  Those millions just haven’t found their way into a comic shop yet.

    A criticism of the movie suggests  all that acclaim was just a prank, a trick pulled off by the cool kids to lure you into exposing our weirdness even more. 

     Or maybe you should just lay off the caffeine.

     

  6. @Paradiddle: Sorry, I’m one of those horrible people that made fun of the LOTR movies. I’ve never had such a visceral attachment to a film, but now that I know how it feels I’m going to be more considerate of my friends who loved LOTR.

    @Kory: I’m with you, in terms of quality this film can be judged on it’s merits as a film, not a comic-film. I’ve never seen that before, it’s refreshing.

    @Tad: I don’t drink caffeine, it makes me tense. Can you imagine what I used to be like when I did? Was somewhat scary at times.

  7. Most people see this film only because it’s touted with such high regard. They’re not seeing it because they’re action fans or appreciate the character. Beyond that, however, the story is so captivating – with the distinction of good and evil being blurred the way it is, like Apocalypse Now in a sense. So while it does provide more than explosions and car chases, most people just can’t get past the bat suit.

    @Jurassicalien – Wall-E?! Maybe it would have been better left unsaid. 🙂

  8. Finally! Someone clearly articulated what it is like to be a Batman fan! Is that what we’re talking about – or are we just talking about this iteration? Except for a few flaws, I liked the Keatons films too. I was nuts about the animated series – but that was a television series. To this day, I have a nostalgic fondness for the ’60’s series I grew up with. The Dark Knight is much different.  

    I’d like to think that my interest in comics, and specific characters is similar to being a sports fan. I might not be as crazy as you are about the Packers, being a Bears or a Vikings fan, but still, I’ll let you live.

  9. I’m with you on this one Sonia.  When my fiance saw the movie, her reply was, "Eh, it was good."  Good?  That’s crazy talk.  TDK is the embodiment of Batman brought to life in an intense film that rivals anything featuring people not in an armored costume.  I thought, then and there, I was going to kill her.  But my better judgement won out, and I accepted her thoughts on the movie.

    For me, this movie just nails everything about the character and the place, and it’s also a real "film."  This is not mindless popcorn fun, but a serious movie with serious tones and themes.  Of course, this only enhances just how excellent it was.  When people were criticizing it, I felt like they were just trying to find things wrong with it.  You know, kind of how Titanic was when it was so huge.  It annoyed me that people couldn’t admit that it was a great movie because even if you took the man out of the costume, it’s still fucking brilliant. 

    Oh well, different strokes, different folks.

  10. This movie was so good I would feel fine if they decided not to make anymore.  And I’m saying that as a bat-fan.

  11. I the day after I saw the TDK I went with my parents. I told them it was the best movie I had ever seen. After the movie I was dissapointed by how little my parents reacted. Dad:"That was good action" Mom: "Why is it so hard to kill the Joker?"

    In a way I wanted my parents to really appreciate the film. I knew they wouldn’t like it as much as me but they thought it was just another action movie. I guess I was hoping that if they loved the TDK they would understand my love for comics and maybe understand me a little more.  

  12. Some people just don’t get it. Their loss.

  13. Its not people not liking it that’s bothering me.  Its the people that claim it was only good because it was nothing like the comics. I actually read an article on some site the other day  that had a list of the top 10 reasons it was great.  I think 7 out of the 10 somehow dealt with how it was nothing like the comics.  I have a film buff freind that keeps claiming that Heath Ledger didn’t take any inspiration from the comics and won’t listen to me when I tell him what books he was said to have read and which ones he obviously drew inspiration from.  Its just infuriating. 

  14. Don’t forget about The Long Halloween. That story played a huge part in this movies general plot!

  15. not to mention killing joke.  the "multiple choice" origins are an obvious parallel to that.

  16. can we hear more about the sister please?

     

  17. Pssht.  If they didn’t like TDK than they aren’t a good person.

     (Right?  I’m correct aren’t i?!) 

  18. This reminds me of going to see X3 in a discount theater, when I’d already seen it several times. I’m not claiming it was even a good movie, much less Dark Knight level, but I kept going to see it anyway.  A guy in the lobby heard me mention to my friend that I’d already seen it, and he asked if it was any good.  He said he’d seen the first couple but it had been a while and he didn’t really know or remember much about the characters.  My mouth started moving and I started making noises that sounded vaguely like, "This take on the Dark Phoenix. . .and what they do to Cyclops. . .the way things end up with Magneto".  And then I had to say, "I’m sorry, I can’t have a conversation about this movie.  If you liked the first two, I’m sure you’ll like it fine."  Which I think was basically true of people who didn’t have any real investment in the source material.

    Sometimes it’s healthy to recognize, "I just shouldn’t be in this conversation." 

  19. @ohcaroline – know what’s funny? I didn’t realize X3 was such a bad film until I started hanging around comic forums and listening to podcasts. How silly I was to think those scenes with Dark Phoenix were some of the best translations of page to film I’d ever seen until then.  

  20. Let’s not mention X3 in the prescence of TDK.*

    *Sarcasm.

  21. I liked X3 too.  Seen it many times.

  22. I don’t think that X3 followed through very well on a pretty great first hour, but then, I feel that’s true about all the Xmen movies.

    I didn’t mean to restart that argument here, though, sorry.

  23. Crazy talk in here.

    CRAZY. 

  24. What’s next, are people going to say they actually liked Daredevil.

  25. I think you hit the nail on the head with the sister parralell.  There’s this certain feeling, whether it’s rational or not, that they don’t have the right to judge this film.  They aren’t coming from the same place we are.  They don’t know the material enough to realize how brilliant it is, to understand the nods and the nuances, so when they judge it flippantly the bloods starts to boil.  There’s different things I get this way about.  Amusingly enough I’ve felt the twitches start a little in discussions of this film, even though I’ve yet to hear anyone speak badly about it.  I’ve only heard people talk about it not quite exciteably enough, as Neb was saying.  "Just GOOD?!  JUST GOOD?!"  So yes.  We’re a little nuts, but we’re nuts together.

    I will say I did get into a fight with a friend about this movie even though he was over the moon about this movie.  Why?  Because my first watching was sitting next to him as he LAUGHED at every instance of the Joker in the entire film.  I was livid.   "The man is sick, he’s truly psychotic and depraved," I yell as I flail my arms about. "But it’s THE JOKER!  He’s funny!" he calmly laughs back with a smile on his face that makes my brain want to explode out the back of my skull.

  26. I think it’s possibly to appreciate Batman and still not be over the moon about the movie.  I mean, I liked it, but I know fans who are mainly interested in the Batman universe because of Nightwing or Birds of Prey, so they didn’t feel like it spoke to them.  Whereas, I mostly like Gotham Central, and Two-Face, so I was perfectly happy.  But there are different ways to come at it, even among Batverse fans. 

    Now on the other hand, if I knew people who were hating on ‘Iron Man,’ we might have to have words.  But I have yet to meet anybody who didn’t like it, so, not an issue. 

  27. @ Kory – I loved the Daredevil Director’s Cut.  Loved it. 

     You know what bugs me even more?  People who SHOULD love TDK, but because it’s now ‘trendy’ to do so, don’t.  Or, who have decided that it was ‘overhyped’.  Thank god no one has yet invented a device that transmits punches through email….

  28. Daredevil as a whole, not so much. But Colin Farrell’s Bullseye, AWESOME!

  29. PymSlap (@alaska_nebraska) says:

    cool column, sonia. it sorta felt like a therapy session. i’m still x-cited about dark knight, too. i think the sequel will feature the riddler, because during the dark knight’s intro when the dc logo flashed up on the screen, there was a picture of the riddler from the cover of jim lee’s last issue of hush.

  30. @PymSlap– Riddler was on the logo for Batman Begins, too.  I doubt that’s an indication he’ll be in III.

    @itsbecca– In all fairness, I thought this version of the Joker was good at making people laugh at very morbid things (ie: the pencil gag, the jerking around with the detonator, etc) more so than the others.  Nicholson and Hamil’s and Richardson’s versions more so did silly movements and said silly things for laughs and then did terribly morbid things but here Ledger made those moments of humor the times when he was being incredibly psychotic and murderous. 

    @Kory– If you throw out Affleck and Gardner, then Farrell, Faverau, Pantiliano, and Duncan made a really good Daredevil movie.  The problem is that Affleck and Gardner is about 2/3s of the movie.

    I went with my youth group on the second trip I took to see it and my youth pastor’s wife jokingly went "Rental!" as we were leaving and we ALL had a very visceral reaction to that (much more than even I did with some people) so it’s not like this movie is something only fanboys are fanatical about it.  If it’s the second or third highest selling movie in America EVER, then you can bet a lot of folks really like it a lot.

  31. i LOVE TDK i have seen it many times and never get sick of it!!

  32. PymSlap (@alaska_nebraska) says:

    @Tork . . . oops. yep. there he is on the batman begins opening.

  33. I’ve seen TDK 3 times in theaters, and about 6 times in bootleg….I just cant get enough of it. It just feels like a breath of fresh air whenever I see it. Although it causes the dilemma that any other great comic film I watch makes me think less of it now.

    X-2? Good, but nothing spectacular.

    Spider-Man 2? Almost a great but still has Tobey Maguire

    Batman Begins? Yes even the first film looks like a pre-school preformance unlike the sequel.

    I still love a lot of comic films….okay Ghost Rider. Daredevil, Batman Forever+Robin,  Blade Ser., Catwoman, Constantine, Fantastic Four ser, Elektra, From Hell, Hellboy 2, Hulk (Ang Lee), LXG, Punisher, Spider-Man 3, Superman III+IV and Returns can all be just distant memories from a coma…but everything else that I consider a good comic film is just miles behind this film.

    @Tork: Why didnt you like Colin Farrell as Bullseye? I mean Daredevil was awful as a whole, but he was actually the bright spot of the entire thing.

  34. I said Bullseye was good.  I also said Foggy, Ben Urich, and Kingpin were good.  It was Daredevil himself and Elektra that were the sad points of the movie.  Farrell did a real good job as Bullseye.

  35. sounds like you are one of those fans that i cant stand

  36. Seen it 4 times in theatres, once in IMAX… Better every time! It’s so dense that with every viewing I notice something new, some element I missed previously.

    I’d even go as far as to agree with Kory, I’m a huge Batfan but TDK was so good I’m not sure it can be topped, so part of me doesn’t them to try. However, at this point Chris Nolan has earned my complete and total trust with the character, and I don’t think he’d attempt a third outing unless he had something new to bring to it, so if he does then I’ll be happy.

  37. I think I’m the only one in the world who hasn’t seen it yet. But I’ve booked to see it on Tuesday in the IMAX cinema. At long LAST!

    I don’t think I understand the extreme reaction to people not liking it though, especially to go as far as having a serious argument with friends. I don’t think I’ve felt that way about anything since I was 12 and someone criticised Michael Jackson. 

  38. Saw it tonight in IMAX and was blown away all over again.  I couldn’t help but think that this was how the movie was truly meant to be seen and it made me sad that that particular experience will be impossible to recreate once it goes away from theaters.

  39. @conor – as good as the IMAX experience was, and I just had it Monday, having the ability to rewind and watch my favorite scenes over and over again just warms my heart.

  40. TDK was ok, but they screwed up Gotham City. Where was the Wayne Building, monorail, and the Narrows from Batman Begins? It was as if this were some alternate reality to Batman Begins, it made no sense to me. So for that reason alone, I just didn’t buy into TDK as much as I would have if they had used the same city as Batman Begins.

     

  41. That’s some grade-A fanboy nitpicking.

    Is that you Ron? 😉

  42. @Conor – I think it’ll be back in IMAX. Many times. Considering the publicity this film got IMAX, and that it’s essentially (in parts) an IMAX presentation, they’d be mad not to give it more runs in the future. After all, there’s only so many times they can show that underwater film.

  43. Makes me sad there’s not a decent IMAX close by to me.

  44. I don’t know if this is the place to say it, but has everybody heard the news that Superman Returns is’nt getting a sequel, it’s going to get an Incredible Hulk reboot, It was announced in the Wall Street Journal this past Friday.  Bryan Singer has been told he can stay on as long as he does’nt interfere.  No word on Brandon Routh, but it’s likely he is going back to doing soap operas.  Looks as though we’ll be getting Mark Millar’s version of Supes in 2011.  Oh, and WB announced they are taking the Marvel Studios approach and building towards a Justice League movie with a Dark Knight sequel, a Superman reboot and 2 more movies from the choices of Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and The Flash.  They hope to have the JL movie out by 2011 or 2012.

  45. I kinda have things run the opposite direction.  Whereas I have friends that have mocked me mercilessly many, many, times when I’ve tipped my geek card a bit too much. Suddenly though, when a T(he) D(ark) K(night), S(pider-Man)2 or X(-Men) hits the local multi-plex, I’m all the sudden Johnny on the Pop Culture Spot. Now normally, who wouldn’t enjoy their moment in the sun? All of the sudden the universe spins the other way round and suddenly, I’m cool. I am "ala mode," Johnny on the Spot with fingers firmly pressed on the throbbing pop culture pulse. They ask me things like ‘so, I thought Batman was a good guy, why is he scary?’ or ‘why don’t his gloves or booties prevent him from sticking to walls’ AND ‘why is Wolvrine’s hair so stupid.’ (A: to strike fear in the hearts of criminals, a superstitious and cowardly lot, his costume is a thin membrane of light weight material, and why is your hair so stupid?)   

     That angry young man of yesteryear inwardly sneers inside of me, ‘phony.’ But I put that lil’Holden Caulfield to bed, realizing it’s a moment to talk about something I love. 

  46. Holden is just waiting for you to go to bed yourself.  Then he’s going to sneak out and smoke cigarettes, while cursing all the no good phonies who wouldn’t know a good comic unless it came up and punched them in the mouth.

    Sigh.  I wish my little Holden would get drunk enough to pass out sometimes. 

  47. I Just read an interview where Robert Downey Jr. said "f**k DC Comics".  Aparrently he hated The Dark Knight, he says he must be dumb because he did’nt get it.  Jealous much?  I know this summer was supposed to be the "Battle of the Billionaires" but c’mon RDJ, just because Dark Knight made a crap load of money does’nt mean everyone all of a sudden hates Iron Man.  But, different strokes I guess.

  48. @Kory – I really think RDJ is joking, but if not, not a big deal.  I don’t even see how you can compare Iron Man and DK because they’re so tonally different.

  49. I think Robert Downey, Jr. is thoroughly enjoying his newfound power to get the geek community riled up.  That’s what I think is going on there.  Don’t take the bait.

  50. I enjoyed both movies.  And I was’nt riled up, I just found the article humorous.

  51. He took a lesson from Joe Quesada is what he did.

  52. Okay, next argument: Who thinks Jack Nicholson was better than Brokeback Joker?  I do.

  53. @robbydzwonar You are completely insane!

  54. Cesar Romero’s moustache was a better Joker than Jack Nicholson…

  55. @stew I’m with you. I love Jack, but not as the Joker. Maybe it was the trashy styling on that film, but I never bought it. Personality-wise I really should have loved him as the Joker, but it didn’t fly.