Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Oh the times, they are a-changing, eh? Big weekend for DC comics. BIG big weekend. I played around with the idea of writing about something other than The Dark Knight for this week’s column…but really, why bother? Is there really that much else to talk about right now? If you haven’t seen the movie yet, it means one of three things: 1.You have some other pressing priority that doesn’t warrant stopping your life to see the movie, say, winning a Nobel-peace prize. 2. You belong to some sort of cultural sect that shuns the modern world and technology or 3. You are a hateful, spiteful, strange person who has withdrawn from society and your peers. A Batman movie, especially a Batman movie starring the Joker, was going to make money, no matter what. In fact, you might even say the hardcore Batman fans were going to love it no matter what. Hell, some of them even love the old-school Adam West Batman movie. I mean, it’s kind of hard to make a bad Batman movie- you have to be trying pretty hard to screw up and make a work of art like Batman and Robin starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (among others). As Joss Whedon once commented, Batman stories “write themselves”. The characters are iconic, and what they represent is already primed in the American psyche. But the movie isn’t a bad Batman movie, as you’ve probably heard by now. In fact, it’s damn likely to go down in the history books as one of the best adaptations of a comic book created to date. The word I kept hearing used is “haunting”, and I’d say that’s accurate. The Dark Knight has more in common with movies like Se7en and Silence of the Lambs than Tim Burton’s larger than life portrayal of the caped crusader. And the cast’s performance is phenomenal. I mean, it’s got the action, it’s got a great soundtrack, everything you’d want out of a Hollywood blockbuster…but what film critics are probably going to rally behind and love is what the movie is about- human nature. A deep, disturbing psychological thriller, The Dark Knight essentially leaves you wondering about the extent to which the human race is inherently lawful and orderly. It’s like that age-old question- would anyone, when placed in the right circumstances, become a psychotic killer? Will anyone, when push come to shove, break the law? Does everyone have a breaking point, at some varying level of intensity? And, like a lot of classic, acclaimed films of our time, I don’t think the movie tries to force an answer down your throat. I mean, we’d all like to believe that at the end of the day that Batman and Gordon are representative of 99% of the population and will do the right thing even though it’s difficult no matter what. But I don’t think the film is aimed at making sure you, the viewer, MUST believe such an idea by the movie’s conclusion. It JUST poses the question- what do you believe, about human nature? And now, I’m left to pose the question: wouldn’t it be freaking awesome if EVERYTHING DC did was of the same quality and magnitude as the film we all just saw!? I mean, when I left the theater, my first thoughts were actually along the lines of: “Holy crap, how can they make a better Batman movie than what I just watched?” What I really want is some absolute assurance that the next film will be directed by Christopher Nolan and will be at least as good as the original in quality, thoughtfulness, and production values. But can it be done? Can they keep this going and not drop the ball? It’s not an easy act to follow, by any means. But yeah, Batman is certainly DC’s flagship (along with Superman)- but wouldn’t it be incredible if all of their characters got the same treatment? I mean, what if Michael Bay produced (PRODUCED, not directed) a Green Lantern movie? Or if James Cameron did the next Superman film? Or if Joss Whedon did Wonder Woman (God dammit!!)? What if everything you saw had the kind of stark realism that The Dark Knight did (to one extent or another)? You really begin to glimpse a little bit about what makes DC comics tick. I mean sure, they’ve got aliens, they’ve got magic, all that stuff…but while Marvel has this whole mythology and landscape that their characters live inside of, I always get this feeling that DC likes to stick to two elements: 1. Good action and 2. Philosophy. There’s a maturity to a lot of their writing- it’s a lot less epic-Star Wars Good vs. Evil, and a lot more “you just ingested a whole lot of pop-philosophy while you were reading this comic and it went down smooth because you didn’t even realize that that’s what you were doing” kind of thing. Personally, I’d love to see a Green Arrow movie. Terribly under-rated character and the story lends itself easily to the kind of format that Nolan has been working with. Of course, DC has already had some big hits with their imprint-titles. I know there are some die-hard purists who bitch about V for Vendetta, but, Jesus, don’t be that guy, you know? It was a great movie and what Alan Moore was writing about was clear. (Sidenote: the original story didn’t implicate V to be any one character described in it, but in fact alluded to the possibility that “he” might have been several. It didn’t even rule out the possibility that Evey herself, Natalie Portman’s character, WAS V and she was having a dissociated conversation with “herself” through the whole book. Creepy.) And I have to say, I have been very, very skeptical about the creation of a Watchmen movie. But the trailer blows me away. While hardly definitive proof that it’ll be a good movie, I’m taken a back at just how true-to-form the character’s costumes and casting are. I’m totally stoked. But still, DC has dragged its heels green-lighting other projects. I just hope nothing gets lost in the mix, like Marvel has with Daredevil, Fantastic Four and some others.