SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS PLEASE DON’T READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE DARK KNIGHT RISES PLEASE DON’T I’M GOING TO TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT DON’T LET ME SPOIL IT FOR YOU PLEASE <3 <3 <3
Hi I’m Alex and culture makes me feel things, too! Between ages 4 and 10 I dressed up like Batman all day every day. And if Roberta said I couldn’t bring my cape to Olive Garden, the napkins sufficed. Still, wearing the cape and screaming I’M BATMAN at the waiters and waitresses felt appropriate. Since then, I’ve stopped frequenting Olive Garden (nothing against those breadsticks) and I only wear my cape when it seems ironic enough to be funny. But Batman hasn’t left me.
I was young and silly enough to buy all the Batman Forever and Batman and Robin action figures, placemats, and horribly uncomfortable bed linen, either because those movies and I shared a similar 8 year-old maturity level, or because batnipples caused irrevocable sexual confusion. Either way, our love affair sustained.
Then Batman Begins came out and it was as if Batman and I shared a sort of right of passage as boys to men. It was released in the same year as my Bar Mitzvah, after all. I wasn’t quite ready to understand what that movie meant to me until this past Friday when I saw The Dark Knight Rises and started to cry. No, I didn’t cry when Alfred cried, and no, I didn’t cry at Bruce Wayne’s faux-funeral. I cried at that last image of Batman’s face, the moment before the nuke goes off, the moment I knew would be, for the sake of the myth that has been oh so brilliantly sculpted by Nolan, the last time I see Batman, no matter if (and when) I watch that movie four hundred more times.
But how the hell did Christopher Nolan make me feel like that would be the last time I ever see Batman, my childhood idol, my constant friend, the only man who (as of yet) has been able to make me shiver and smile all at once? I think the answer is more than personal; it’s sort of logical. What Christopher Nolan has given us, the fans of Batman since we were old enough to read Robin’s holy exclamations, is a total and finished myth. He has established a real hero in an unreal world, stirred that hero to his core, destroyed that hero physically, and built him up again to save us from evil, sacrificed him for the sake of his own fulfillment, and somehow still managed to let him live, all while constantly asking us why and how. He’s given us genre fiction and literary fiction in one beautifully expensive package, the sort you can munch your tear-stained popcorn along to, and that’s a rare thing.
I really do respect other critics’ opinions of this movie; in fact, I think there are flaws, and perhaps it’s the most fitting homage to Heath Ledger that the third film suffers without him. But what is so inarguable to me, what is so excruciatingly clear, is that Christopher Nolan has given us, the fans of Batman, the most satisfying reasons how he exists and why he’ll never die.
Batman may always be the man who never leaves me, and I’m so happy with that. I welcome all coming incarnations of the dark knight because, whether we realize it yet or not, his stories are just as important as Hercules’. But what we may never see again is a story as satisfying and conclusive as Nolan’s, so I thank him for respecting my geekery, my childhood obsession, and my favorite modern myth.