Friday, July 20, 2012

Dark Knight's Rise Interrupted by Real-Life Bane

Last night one of the most anticipated sequels in film history opened. Along with millions of other Batfans, I attended a midnight premier screening of The Dark Knight Rises in a packed theater. It was a night filled with anticipation, excitement and optimism for the final chapter in the most critically acclaimed comic book movie trilogy of all time.

At 12:39 AM in Aurora, Colorado, a PhD neuroscience student burst into theater 9 of the Century 16 movie complex with two canisters of smoking explosives and a hailstorm of bullets followed. By the time he was in police custody, ten innocent people were dead on the scene, two more died at hospitals and fifty (or more) others were wounded. In a scene that could have been pulled from the script, a lone wolf's inhumane act of terrorism will forever be linked to the film being watched at the time of his attack. All screenings at the theater have been cancelled through August 1.

My thoughts are with the victims and their families, but also with comic fans who are likely to suffer a sort of guilt by association. This morning on my way to work, I heard talk radio pundits call for the banning of cosplay at movie premieres. It's been less than 12 hours since the terrible event took place, so not much is known about the gunman Aurora police identified as 24 year old James Holmes –except that he was dressed in "full ballistic gear," including a vest, a helmet, a gas mask, and other body armor, and as such probably looked like an enthusiastic comic book fan. How he made it through the parking lot with a shotgun, an assault rifle and a handgun will likely become apparent in the days that follow as security camera footage surfaces. Holmes was taken alive (relatively rare for a spree shooter), so his own testimony may prove illuminating as the case against him proceeds. Inevitably, his mode of dress and modus operandi will be compared to Bane,  the villain of The Dark Knight Rises. Which is all well and fine as long as he doesn't become the poster child for "crazy comic fans."

To me, his appearance and actions bear much more in common with the Guy Fawkes inspired anarchist from V for Vendetta, but thus far without the political rage.

It's probably not so much an incident of coincidence as a mere question of opportunity that this attack happened one week after ComiCon, but I'm sure mainstream media will pick up on that, too, when they realize the shooter is from San Diego.

There can be no greater shame than the loss of innocent lives, but it is a shame nonetheless that Christopher Nolan has made such an incredible film with as intricate a plot as has ever been conceived for the live action counterparts of characters with sequential art origins, and it will be overshadowed by the malicious actions of a lone nut. The Dark Knight Rises is an undeniable masterpiece that combines elements of its first two predecessors to close out the best three movies about a costumed crime fighter that will likely ever be made in succession. Tom Hardy might get an Oscar nomination. An incredible feat when considering that he performs beneath a mask for the entire film. Anyone worried about the Catwoman screen treatment in Nolan's hyper realistic Gotham can relax; the costume works. Anne Hathaway's performance is nuanced, layered and believable. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who has been so good in so many films, finally gives a star-making performance. The high notes in this film are very high, and while there is nothing on par with Heath Ledger's Joker, the threat is bigger, the journey is longer, and the outcome more satisfying.

Do yourself a favor and get to the theater this weekend before you read or hear something that will hamper your enjoyment. I'm going to wait a couple weeks before I dig into the plot, so you needn't worry about spoilers from me until then. As the smoke clears in Colorado, we'd all do well to remember that it's always darkest before the light. And The Dark Knight Rises is a film that has plenty of both. In many ways, viewing this film could be a crucial first step in overcoming the tragedy that befell its debut.

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