The Sean Ward Review - The Dark Knight Rises (part two)
The first time I saw The Dark Knight Rises was in a theatre full of industry folk, prize winners, and people who were dressed up to go to the gala after the movie. The next night, seeing it a second time, was with the true fans - the people who paid for their ticket, and will pay to see it several more times. I went to sleep thinking of the cheering, excitement, and sense of the audience losing themselves in the world of the movie.
But I woke up to news of the shooting at a packed screening of the movie in Aurora, Colorado. Movie-goers there aren’t too concerned today about whether or not this movie measured up to the previous one. These people didn’t have a chance to think about the acting or the cinematography. Dozens of lives were shattered after they’d come together to share an important cultural moment.
In 2008, when I reviewed The Dark Knight, I got to thinking about how the marketers of the movie got thousands of people to paint their faces and alter their Facebook profile pictures to look like the Joker. These were people who were nearly climbing all over each other to imitate The Joker the best, and I was wondering what kind of a push it would have taken to edge those people towards some extreme anti-social behaviour. And then on opening night of the next movie, a masked gunman identifying himself as The Joker opened fire on the audience.
While watching the movie a second time last night, I found the words to explain what I liked so much about The Dark Knight Rises: it’s a perfect snapshot of the culture we live in at this moment. It perfectly articulates our collective interests, obsessions, and fears. When something is this popular, and people invest as much emotion and spirit into it as the audience does, the phrase “it’s only a movie” is not relevant. It’s much more than a movie. It’s a spiritual experience. People literally live for this stuff. And now people literally die for this stuff. Christopher Nolan & co. have taken up the task of showing us some increasingly profound things about ourselves with each installment. With all of the talk about how superheroes and the stories of their adventures are our new mythology, I don’t believe that I’m the only one who has been wondering how the ideas and premises put forth in these stories would show up in our lives outside of the movies and comic books. It took me some time to come back down to earth after the movie was over because it felt so real that I initially thought that the world outside was different. And then this shooting happened in Colorado and the world outside really was different.
I am not a scientist so I can’t speak with any authority on the degree to which movies influence peoples’ actions. All I know is:
a) There have been plenty of times when I myself left a Jackie Chan movie jumping around, throwing kicks in the air, and thinking I might be able to backflip over cars.
b) You can’t count count on people generally to know where the line is between enthusiasm and taking something way too seriously.
I wanted to write a few paragraphs about the movie’s women in my Part Two review but I’m having a hard time thinking about that right now. Right now I’m obsessed with how Nolan’s vision for this character and his story was so effective that real lives has been affected by it in ways that the he not only couldn’t have planned for, but never would have dreamed possible. This is the ugly side of art triumphant.
The circle of madness is closing.