Oh, WOW. This is going to make me a popular guy. Or a Cool Guy. Whichever comes first.
All right, let me make a few things clear. First of all, I’m not making this post to hate on Batman, Christopher Nolan (and pals), the trilogy, and all of the particulars -- gritty reboots well among them. I’m making it because I’ve been thinking about some of the more popular fare in this day and age. The Hunger Games was one of them, if you saw that post. But I want to keep doing more of them, and check how other people feel about them. You know, get some fresh opinions, gain some perspective, et cetera. So right now, we’ll chat a little about the trilogy, and sometime in the future I’ll do a thing for Harry Potter.
Okay, so…Batman. Let’s talk about Batman.
I should probably use this space to say that, like a lot of people, I like The Dark Knight. Setting aside the fact that it was a movie that tried to lend “legitimacy” to a comic book character/movie -- more on that later -- it really brought a lot to the table. Batman left a mark on me, Commissioner Gordon was THE BEST CHARACTER (as it should be), and that was the first time I ever considered the Joker to be a legitimate threat…if not outright terrifying. As for Batman Begins? Admittedly, I’ve only seen bits and pieces of it on TV -- and at that time, I was seriously exhausted. But for the parts I was actually conscious for, I enjoyed them. Watching the movie in full is on my to-do list, to be sure.
And then there’s The Dark Knight Rises. I…don’t think I’m going to say anything about that.
If we’re talking about averages, I’d say the trilogy is in the green with me, even if I don’t care for the third installment. It brought Batman to the forefront of people’s minds, repaired the damage done by Batman and Robin, and offered a possible alternative to making a superhero besides the trappings of the original Spider-Man trilogy. The Nolan films had a style all their own -- and while I wouldn’t say that style or anything involving the movies is perfect, it does have its merit. There’s a reason why it exists, there’s a reason why the fans love it, and there’s a reason why it’s seen the success that it has.
The problems, I think, have more to do with the legacy of the trilogy instead of the movies itself. I’ve hinted at how I feel plenty of times, but I didn’t want to do any mud-slinging until it was absolutely necessary. It…still isn’t, technically, but whatever. The important thing is that, whether you take my
grudges opinions seriously or not, the Nolan trilogy is a
trendsetter. Sometimes that’s a good
thing. Other times? Not so much.
(To be fair, Nolan alone wasn't responsible; Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer had a hand in it, IIRC. But Nolan's attachment didn't exactly help matters 100%, so it still counts. Sort of.)
Thinking back to The Dark Knight, it did its best to fulfill its purpose -- the concept of “dark done right”. Rather than superficially add in all these gritty elements just to get some appeal and prove that the story is so totally super serious, you guys, it felt natural. Because it WAS natural. That was the style that suited the movie, and allowed it to explore some ideas while also keeping the plot -- the battle to beat the Joker -- in full swing. (It’s worth noting, of course, that there was actually some humor and charisma in the trilogy -- again, proof that the style was owned by the Nolan cadre.) That’s what set it apart, even before the imitators started popping up.
And there are imitators. That’s not just me reaching here.
Damon Lindelof of Lost, Prometheus, and Star Trek fame mentioned Nolan and his impact in an interview about a year ago when asked about the “Hollywood process”. And not to vindicate myself here, but he mentions the term “Nolanization” -- making properties more grounded, more real, more…grittified. It is an approach that can work, but even years after The Dark Knight made ALL THE MONEY, people are still Nolanizing properties in the hopes of finding legitimacy. And you don’t need to be dark or gritty to be legitimate. Nolan earned his success by making good-ass movies. Trying to make a property better just by aping his conventions strikes me as something like covering a house with polka dots just because the clown next door did the same.
Movies, video games, TV, the works. It feels like too many of them are trying to be something that they aren’t. (My guess is that the Marvel movies are going to start reversing the trend, though that could just open up a whole new set of problems.) While it’s true that going gritty isn’t automatically a death sentence, I can’t help but think about the message that it’s sending, and ultimately doing a disservice to Nolan instead of honoring his efforts. Nolanizing isn’t the only way to find success, let alone tell a story. We NEED multiple styles, multiple tones, and multiple voices, just as we need multiple stories. The Dark Knight Trilogy did its job, and that’s worth appreciating. But we don’t need EVERYONE to do the same.
But like I said, it’s doing a disservice to Nolan. Twenty years from now, how are people going to remember The Dark Knight? Are they going to give it a fair, critical analysis, the sort of treatment it deserves? Or is it going to become too sacrosanct to even be touched -- a movie that everyone just assumes was “good because it was dark”? What kind of lesson is that to take away from a piece of fiction? And beyond that, what does it mean for Nolan in the short-term? Are people just going to call on him on the assumption that he’ll sap the fun and color out of a movie? Are they going to box in a man with real talent? Are we going to oversimplify him to a fault?
Tough questions, to be sure. But I’m going to step back and leave the big question to you readers: how good is the Dark Knight Trilogy, really? Is it worth the praise and hype? Is it going to be a glowing part of the cinematic canon, or washed away in the tides of time? Has it affected the current climate of fiction THAT much? Is it a good thing? Am I going to get gored for even suggesting that the trilogy isn’t the greatest thing ever?
Tighten those utility belts, people. You know what time it is. Ready? Set…comment!
And that’s all you’ll be getting out of me. I’ve got some…interesting things I’ve been pecking away at in the background. So maybe you’ll be seeing them soon enough -- that is to say, a shocking development. It may very well be something that can get you hyped. Or it could just make your eyes bug out and --
Whoops, someone threw a brick through my window. Looks like that’ll teach me not to insinuate that Batman’s not the best.
…Now why is there a pike lodged in my ear?