(This is an extended preview of the PopRox column that appears in the Pocono Record every Sunday. And since it’s a Dark Knight Rises-themed column, you should know that I’m giving away tickets to the midnight premiere of DRK on July 19 at the Pocono Community Theater in East Stroudsburg. Go check out how you can enter and win.)
Has there ever been a harder movie to follow up with a sequel than The Dark Knight?
Godfather, maybe? Star Wars, perhaps? Problem Child, not so much.
Dark Knight changed action movies — for the better — probably forever. It set the bar so high that anything less than brilliance is no longer acceptable to those lovely fanboys, who are in desperate need of a name change because “fanboys” kinda sucks anymore.
Now the comic book movie that topped all other comic book movies has to top itself in Dark Knight Rises when it hits theaters July 20.
We have no idea what to expect because Dark Knight blew us away. But we sure can have a list of things we hope to see:
A distinguishable difference between new villain Bane and old villain Joker.
You can’t blame the marketing department for how it made the trailers for DKR. Heath Ledger’s version of The Joker in The Dark Knight rivals Darth Vader for movie villain popularity. So when you’re trying to get fans interested in a sequel, of course you want to make new baddie as hardcore as old baddie. There is a limit though. The trailers paint the picture of Bane that makes it look like he came right out of the Joker playbook — crazy but brilliant, maniacal but cavalier, destructive but organized. The Joker is gone, friends. Let’s hope the movie version of Bane isn’t just some carbon copy.
Sweet new gadgets.
One of the hallmarks of Christopher Nolan’s version of Batman has been his attention to science and technology. Picture it as Batman being James Bond and Lucius Fox being Q. We got the shot of the Batmobile turning in to some kind of flying contraption, and we want more of that.
An Oscar-level movie.
The Avengers was fantastic, but let’s not delude ourselves into thinking it’s nailing down a best picture nomination. But DKR has got a shot. The Oscar rules were changed because Dark Knight got hosed out of the nomination it deserved, and now we can have as many as 10 nominees instead of the five in 2008. The Oscars were basically reserving a spot for DKR. Now all it has to do is deliver the goods.
Dark Knight’s running time was 153 minutes — and man, did it ever feel like all of those 2 hours and 33 minutes. At least it did for me watching it in the theater that first weekend. If you had a problem with that kind of time, buckle up — DKR will be 164 minutes. That’s just about 2 hours and 45 minutes, not counting trailers and the obligatory Stop being an inconsiderate twit and turn off your gosh dang cell phone ads. The last time I’ve sat in one place for that long and didn’t move was … umm, probably when I saw Dark Knight. Maybe we should break this puppy up for five minutes or so? Just to let people stretch their legs or see something other than the darkness of Nolan’s vision of Gotham City.
All we heard for the last couple years was how this was the end. We heard it from the studio, we heard it from the producers, we heard it from the actors. One of the taglines in the trailer even says, the end of the trilogy. Cool. As fans, we can handle that because we’ve now got enough notice. But what we can’t handle is Christian Bale backtracking and saying he would do another one if everyone got back together, if the script was right, blah blah blah. For the love of God, stop it! We’ve spent the last two years or so accepting this would be the end, now there is a slight sliver of hope there could be another with this team together. So now we get to be disappointed all over again when in two more years Warner Bros. goes all Spider-Man on us and announces a new (cheaper) cast, new (cheaper) director and a new (cheaper) vision to continue the franchise. We can end all that kind of talk with a definitive conclusion so that we can effectively call it a trilogy and be done with it.