Listen Jena, when he was young, poor, and hungry in Paris, Hemingway used to go to museums. He said his hunger brightened the colors of every painting he saw. With critics giving The Dark Knight Rises a standing ovation at an advanced screening, the wait for this movie is killing me. So, rather than sit and listen to my stomach rumble, I thought it best to let the hunger brighten some other good pop. Here are three ways to prepare for The Dark Knight Rises, and one way not to.
Batman is to comic books what Charlie Chaplin is to silent movies. Even if you are not a fan of the medium, this you can enjoy.
In the 1980s, when DC Comics decided to modernize the origin stories of their main heroes (Superman, Wonder Woman, and so on) only Batman’s stayed the same. His origin is the stuff of Greek myth and tragedy, as solid now as it was in the eighties and forties. Batman: Year One is a gritty telling of Bruce Wayne’s first year as Batman, and much of what is great about Batman Begins was taken from these pages. More than anything, this graphic novel depicted Jim Gordon the way we see him in Nolan’s movies.
The partnership between Jim Gordon, Harvey Dent and Batman that we see in The Dark Knight happened first in my favorite Batman book, The Long Halloween. Every great villain makes an appearance, and we see Batman working through a basic mafia murder mystery, much the way he does in The Dark Knight. Read either of these to see the kind of literature (yes, I said it) Nolan drew on to create the world in which his Batman films take place.
You can read them both in an evening.
In the hour-long interview, Brooker makes the case that if Batman hadn’t been through so many incarnations (from the noir detective to the super friend, from the sixties camp to the Dark Knight) he would never have endured. He is a clear character, but he is also all things to all people.
Brooker argues that even if DC stopped producing Batman comics, movies, and games, “Batman would survive as a folk hero.” Listen to this podcast to see The Dark Knight Rises in light of Batman’s seventy-five-year history.
Of course, the most obvious and important preparation for The Dark Knight Rises is watching Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Rather than trying to plant seeds for more sequels, Christopher Nolan has chosen to close his trilogy in a way that draws on his first two Batman films and concludes one full story.
Nolan is not one to lean on his earlier work for style and structure, though. He instead has reached far into the past, citing A Tale of Two Cities as a key inspiration.
We know that the Dark Knight Rises opens eight years after the Dark Knight, with Gotham enjoying a peace that depends on lies told about Batman and Harvey Dent’s murder. The rich are getting comfortable, and the poor are getting angry.
Remember your Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
It might be too late to read A Tale of Two Cities before July 20, but the 1935 film adaptation is excellent, and watching it can only deepen our enjoyment of Nolan’s Catwoman (who breathes the same stormy rhetoric as Dickens’ Madame ...) and of Bane’s revolution.
4. No Googling
Charles M. Schultz once said that if Lucy ever let Charlie Brown kick that football, Peanuts would have to end. Like Peanuts, most superhero franchises end every entry with a return to the status quo, making sure the next installment can start at square one.
But Nolan is finishing a story. This means anything could happen. Bruce Wayne could be decapitated, Gotham could be eviscerated, Alfred could take over as Batman. Never before has a comic book movie had the capacity to really surprise us. So don’t Google the Dark Knight Rises until you’ve seen it, Jena.
We’re near enough now to the release that spoilers are everywhere. Read, listen and watch to prepare, but no Googling. It’s summertime, and for a little while longer Nolan’s movie has secrets. If you know the secrets, it’s humidity and tarmac all the way home. But if you’re in the dark, even for a little while, you get a cool breeze.