Seriously: calm down.
Listen, guys, I get it. I really do. I saw Spider-Man 3. I remember when Peter Parker went from skewering the Green Goblin and stopping a speeding El train with his bare webs to jive-walking down the street to a ridiculous jazz soundtrack.
With early reviews starting to leak in, we’ve found that not every critic is willing to recognize The Dark Knight Rises as the masterpiece that we, the fans who haven’t seen the movie, know it is.
It’s hard to deny that on the journey from Part Two to Part Three, movies can turn into something their fans don’t recognize. But I’m not worried, and you’re talking to a guy who literally gave the screen a great big hug after his first of seven times seeing Batman Begins in theaters.
Good news, team Batman: We have every reason to believe that The Dark Knight Rises will be that rare exception to the rule of threes. Let me tell you why the odds are better that this movie will be more like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade or Rocky 3 and less like Alien 3 or The Matrix: Revolutions.
THERE’S ONLY ONE VILLAIN
When Joel Schumacher took the reins of the Batman movies from Tim Burton, he looked around and saw few things he liked. Besides the lack of neon in the background and nipples on the Batsuit, Batman Returns really only had 1 ½ villains. So when he threw Two-Face and The Riddler into Batman Forever, more villains could only mean more quality.
Somehow his miracle formula didn’t work the first time, so he tried it again with Batman and Robin. I actually hold this movie in pretty high regard since Mr. Schumacher was clearly making a comedy when the world expected action (No, really! Watch it again, it’s pretty brilliant!) but it too was crammed full of villainy that kept the audience from being able to focus. For all the reasons the movies didn’t work, the villains are an easy scapegoat. In fact, if memory serves, Scapegoat was the only DC villain not in Batman and Robin.
Who do we get in The Dark Knight Rises? Bane. Who else do we need in The Dark Knight Rises? Nobody, and we have a director and screenwriters smart enough to know it.
THE DIRECTOR HASN’T CHANGED
Who else remembers the end of X-Men 2? Spoiler alert for a nine year old movie and all, but after Jean Grey sacrifices herself to save her fellow X-Men at the end of the film we see the distinct silhouette of a phoenix in the watery remains of Stryker’s research facility. I remember the chills I felt, and the hushed whispering in the theater as people realized what was to come. They were going to make the Dark Phoenix storyline into the third movie!
And then we found out that Brett Ratner would direct it.
Nobody thought that the guy who directed Rush Hour would be the best choice for one of the most revered storylines in Marvel comic’s files. It was garbage. I saw it twice in the theater just to make sure it was as bad as I thought it was. (Again: It damn well was.)
Despite some rumors of a breakdown in negotiations after Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan is seeing this particular trilogy through to the end. True, Sam Raimi and George Lucas have dropped the ball with their respective stories throughout the years, but well…we’re not talking about them, are we?
IN NOLAN WE TRUST
He writes every movie he directs, and produces every one since his landmark debut. He works with the biggest names and his name is instantly recognizable to audiences as a mark of…well, these days, garbage.
We speak, of course, of M. Night Shyamalan.
Christopher Nolan is the anti-Shyamalan. You can say all you like that Inception was overrated, but just try to legitimately say that films like Memento, The Prestige, Following, Insomnia, and, yes, The Dark Knight aren’t made at a level of quality that makes most working directors weep.
This is a man who, working on a multi-million dollar budget for a blockbuster film, never employs a second unit director. Every second, every shot, is overseen by Nolan. He is the screenwriter, along with his brother, of each film he directs. He produces them as well to make sure there is no decision that can be made over his head to impact the quality of his movies.
He has a flawless track record. And since his method isn’t broken, why should he fix it?
THE GANG’S ALL HERE
The first day of principal photography on The Dark Knight Rises must have felt a little like a ten year reunion to its cast. Sure, Christian Bale and Morgan Freeman were probably happy to see Michael Caine again, but Christopher Nolan isn’t just reuniting the cast of the previous Batman films. He decided to bring along Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard after their fine work in Inception.
This is a hallmark of Christopher Nolan’s work: That he works with quality actors, and quality actors want to work with him. How else to explain the number of times actors find themselves in multiple Nolan works? The man takes the six degrees of separation game and boils it down to just one degree for each of his favored actors. Check out this list:
Batman Begins: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, and Cillian Murphy.
The Prestige: Christian Bale and Michael Caine.
Inception: Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Marion Cotillard
The Dark Knight Rises: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Marion Cotillard.
He collects actors like a kid collects baseball cards.The one glaring exception is a certain actress who, between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, decided she would rather make a movie with Queen Latifah and Diane Keaton than reprise her role as Bruce Wayne’s love interest.
And when Katie Holmes says she doesn’t want to work with you again, you know you’re doing something right.
WHAT’S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN?
Yeah, I said it. I said it out loud. I said it while standing under a ladder, smashing a mirror to pieces with a black cat in my hand. And let’s make it perfectly clear: What could possibly go wrong?
We all need to relax here. We probably won’t get The Dark Knight again. But guys? We don’t need The Dark Knight again. If this new movie isn’t quite as good as the last one, that doesn’t diminish how much we loved The Dark Knight.
And when you purchase your tickets for the midnight showing (or, if you’re serious, for the triple feature of all the movies on Thursday followed by the first available showing on Friday like myself) keep this, the most important thing, in mind: The worst case scenario is that we get another Batman movie written and directed by Christopher Nolan.
First world problems, guys. First world problems.
I’ll see you in line.