Thursday, July 24, 2008

I left my heart in Gotham City

I've been calling this the summer of superheroes. Hollywood is not messing around -- Iron Man, Hulk, Hancock, Hellboy, and the list goes on. Even with Spidey and the X-Men taking the summer off it's enough to make any superhero fan swoon. But without a doubt the movie I was most looking forward to was The Dark Knight. I feel like I've been waiting for two years for the movie and I have been flirting with geeking out over it.

I loved the 90s Batman cartoon as a kid. The episodes were so well-drawn and the storylines were great. Last fall I bought the series on DVD and my roommate and I spent more than a few fall and winter nights watching the episodes. I'm sure my love of deco architecture stems in part from the style of the show and maybe my love of New York City is reinforced by the image of Gotham as the city you can never abandon. The thing I most dig about Batman isn't that he doesn't have any super powers. He's just really, really determined; rich enough to buy the technology; and always resourceful.

The admiration has lasted. Living in New York City leading up to the release of the movie has been an experience. Last fall I was shopping on Broadway when we saw an interesting viral marketing effort. It was an old-fashioned campaign car, the kind I remember seeing in Back to the Future, complete with speakers on top and large signs on either side saying "I Believe in Harvey Dent," and pictures of Aaron Eckhart slapped on. My friends didn't get it but I think I did a triple-take. I'm not gonna lie, it was kind of exciting in a very fanboy-ish way. I was kind of hoping that meant they were filming in the city but I learned that the movie was actually shot in Chicago. Later on I consulted my friend D who is an expert in all things marketing and he told me it was part of some kind of alternate reality game for the movie. Over the next couple of weeks some of my friends saw other efforts around the city -- 'Gotham City Police Officers' handing out warning cards about the Joker (they handed out joker cards, of course) and copies of the Gotham Times at newstands by Bryant Park.

Skip forward to this month. My friend P calls to let me know that the Bat Signal is on...the bat signal is on?? What?? Sure enough it was true. Not in the sky unfortunately (how cool would that have been?) but projected onto the Woolworth Building downtown.

The bat signal on the Woolworth Building --
probably not visible from the Bat Plane.

Well that about sent me into a frenzy. It was taking too damn long for this movie to just open already so I could see if it came even a little close to living up to the hype. They even had a large version of the movie poster as the huge building billboard at 23rd and Park. So every night it was like a countdown on my home...20 days until Batman, 19 days, etc. Last week a couple of my friends went to Lincoln Center to check out the red carpet premiere. They marveled at the Batmobile (Bat tank?) and the Bat Pod (Bat cycle??) outside the theater.

The movie billboard
at 23rd and Park.

When my friends wanted to buy tickets three weeks before opening day, I thought they were nuts. But it was a good move on their part because the movie was pretty much sold out all over NYC on opening weekend. The Gotham connection I'd think. Unfortunately I was stuck at work on opening day so I missed out. Luckily for me, my friends accompanied me to a 12:10 AM showing that Sunday (thanks guys!). As everyone has said, Heath Ledger was amazing and I really think the entire cast was pretty awesome.

It's been interesting reading the professional take on the movie. It's a movie about terrorism! It's post-heroic! It takes itself too seriously! But most interesting to me was that Batman was really a secondary character in his own flick. Yeah, the villain always rules these movies. But you could argue for 3 or 4 characters who seemed to have deeper plot lines this time around then either Bruce Wayne or Batman. I went in expecting Batman to save the day but that isn't really what happened. I left the movie both satisfied and unsatisfied. And I left the theater thinking about mob mentality, the danger public servants put themselves in, and what would happen if NYC really had a superhero. Would a super villain also be born of that? Why so serious indeed.

A week later, shows are still selling out and this is probably going to be the biggest movie of the summer. Meanwhile even though I've seen it I can't shut up about it. I'm so interested in other people's takes on the movie. This is worse than after the season finale of Lost. At my work we have a Thursday afternoon drinking party each week during the summer, and this week TDK was the theme. We all came in to find Joker-esque pictures of ourselves on our desks and spent the afternoon chatting about the movie. Just about everyone has seen it.

A photo of our office dog, Joker-ized.

The worst part is that I can't wait for the next one now. And they can't possibly be releasing it before 2011, right? I mean, they have to write a script...and shoot it...and edit it...and...yeah. It's gonna be awhile. I can only hope it's better than the recent 3rd movies in trilogies. Spider-Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and X-Men 3, I'm looking at you. And who will the villan be? I guess I have plenty of time to speculate.

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