As you may well know, Kat and I, like everyone else in the world, recently went to see Dark Knight Rises. I’d have written this earlier, but couldn’t, as I only saw it Thursday last due to my longstanding policy of waiting to see movies with Batman in them until I could see them in IMAX.
Totally worth it, by the way. But that’s not what I want to talk to you about.
You see, the couple sitting behind Kat and I talked the whole way through the first part of the film, and for a good long while that was unbearably irritating. The one who’d clearly not been in charge of choosing the film, a woman in her late thirties, maybe early forties, kept asking inane questions about what was going on in the movie. Things she should have known, and for a while it took me completely out of the moment. Kat, also, was annoyed by this, because this is annoying in an objective way. You don’t just talk the whole way through a movie, especially a movie where tickets are $19 due to the IMAX nature of the theater, and ESPECIALLY when the movie features Batman. It’s natural we’d be bothered by it.
However, I never got around to politely but firmly requesting her silence that I might enjoy a movie I’d waited years to see, because soon something happened that changed my view of the situation entirely.
During one of the early scenes with Alfred, the woman behind us turned to her date and asked “Is that his father?”
And that’s the moment I realized: This woman had never experienced Batman until that moment.
It wasn’t a simple case of her coming to the film franchise late, she’d literally never had a Batman experience of any kind before that moment. She’d missed the cartoon, she knew nothing of the comics, she’d somehow managed not to see seven major blockbuster Hollywood films of varying qualities. She was too young for the ‘60s television series, no doubt, but it still plays in reruns now and again. And yet, somehow, she’d managed to navigate somewhere near four decades of life without ever having been exposed to Batman in any meaningful way.
Perhaps this isn’t the case, but if you can think of a better explanation for the fact that she honestly didn’t know that Bruce Wayne was an orphan, I’d love to hear it.
And with that, my annoyance dissipated, replaced by a cauldron of more complex emotions. I did still want to enjoy the film, of course, but also I was fascinated by what was happening one row back. I was bearing witness to a fully-grown human being, being exposed to Batman for the first time in her life. I was jealous, in a way, of the sense of wonder now available to her, wonder that she’d never known to that point and which I, obsessed with the character as I am, can only distantly recall. I was deeply, deeply glad for her, obviously, because she was finding, late or not, something amazing about our culture, and I wondered if, coming to it later in life than anyone I’d ever met, she’d be able to take the same kind of joy in Batman that I’d spent a lifetime cultivating.
For the record: She absolutely was able. By halfway through the film she’d stopped asking questions regarding what was going on and was simply letting the experience wash over her, drinking in as much as she could of it while it was happening and trusting that she could fill in the gaps in her knowledge at some later date. Which is correct, I think, as far as approaching a movie like that goes. And at that point I was glad that she’d done this at one of the Nolan Batman films, rather than at one of the Schumacher ones. She’d never heard of Batman, only to stumble into one of the most perfect examples of the form available for public consumption.
A point with which she seemed to agree, as I overheard her asking the gentleman who’d brought her to watch the DVD’s of the other two films in the trilogy with her at some point as they were leaving the theater.
My point? Merely this: I saw Dark Knight Rises on Thursday, and it was awesome, but more importantly, I learned what kind of geek I am, because no matter how irritating the chatter behind me got, I was overcome with joy to hear it. Joy at witnessing somebody coming with fresh eyes, untainted by prior knowledge of the franchise, to experience something I care very deeply about and, having seen it, coming to understand what it is I love about Batman. And that made the annoyance I felt completely worthwhile, in my opinion, because I am, it turns out, the kind of geek that wants to share his love of culture with the world, and who believes that sharing Batman is the REAL joy of loving him in the first place.
Dark Knight Rises was, in short, awesome. A breathtaking piece of filmmaking that I want to see again at least once before it leaves the big screen. An immensely satisfying conclusion to a trilogy that only grows in importance in my mind with the passage of time. But the real show I saw Thursday last was taking place right behind me.