Noah J Nelson on Wednesday, Jul. 18th
There’s been some huge blow-ups in the online film reviewer community this week over reactions to The Dark Knight Rises reviews this week. I’m feeling left out of the debate because I refuse to click on anything remotely related to TDKR now that we’re in the home stretch.
I’ve had some catastrophic experiences with Spoilers over the years. When I was a kid the ending of 1989′s Batman was ruined for me when a pack of trading cards showed Jack Nicholson as the Joker’s corpse. That came about because all of the kids in the neighborhood had gone crazy for collecting the cards. The instigator: me.
Then there was the time that I was standing in line at San Francisco’s historic Coronet movie theater (RIP) for Fight Club. I was late to the game and had gotten into multiple conversations with friends that went a little like this:
THEM: “Hey have you seen Fight Club yet? What did you think?”
ME: “Still need to catch it, I’ve been busy with this show.”
THEM: “Oh! Well find me when you do!”
I knew something was up, but had NO CLUE. Not until a jerk leaned out of the passenger side of an ancient Camaro and yelled “THEY’RE THE SAME GUY!” at my best friend and about two minutes before the theatre let us in the door. I was robbed of one of the great movie puzzles of that time. I’ll never know if I would have pieced together Tyler Durden’s true identity before the big reveal. That was taken from me.
I wish I could find that guy. Maybe we could reenact a few scenes from the movie.
The big trick is this: movies are just about the most democratic form of entertainment we have. Especially big studio pictures. They are released in a ubiquitous fashion. If you have somewhere between 7 and 16 dollars to your name you can escape into their alternate reality for a few hours pretty much no matter where you are in Western civilization. You don’t need cable, or know how to draw down a torrent feed. You just walk up to the box office and then take your seat.
I know that a lot of the issues that are coming up around TDKR this week have nothing to do with spoilers, although some seem to. Once again, I can’t know since I’ve quarantined myself. One thing I fear is that some of my colleagues in the film press pool may have forgotten their privileged status in the eyes of the rank and file fans. There is a natural resentment that bubbles up amongst those who don’t get early access to the films. A resentment that becomes a juvenile lashing out when the fans perceive that they are being told their anticipation is pointless, that their trust has been misplaced. Death threats are not a proper response to a negative review. However anyone who has spent time on comic book message boards knows this kind of reaction is pretty much inevitable. Doesn’t make it right, but I find it hard to take anyone seriously who acts surprised that it happens.
There’s a lot to unpack in this: film reviews as consumer advocacy vs. reviews as artistic criticism, the septic nature of Internet commenting culture, and maybe something about the level of privileged access that the film press– from bloggers to broadcast– has or is perceived to have.
I’m going to revisit all this on Friday afternoon. Even though I’m actually taking that day off. Because I’ve never missed an opening day for a Batman movie since 1989. Because I celebrate my love of the democratic nature of big movies by seeing them on opening day with a paying audience. Because I am a true fan, for better or worse, whose love of Batman was formed before I learned to read. When my older cousin who I idolized turned to me and said: “Hey, watch this TV show. You’ll like it.”
He was right.