AN OPEN LETTER TO THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
By Jonathan Alexandratos
Dear THE DARK KNIGHT RISES:
It has come to my attention that, as of today, literally everyone has seen you. Every single man, woman, and child across the world has seen you. There are tribes hanging out in the trees of New Zealand that have never seen a roll of Charmin, but have seen you. There are diamond miners in the Congo that can’t remember what the sun looks like, but can sculpt a 1:1 model of the Tumbler out of fufu. Japanese water children, that do not even know, fully, this plane of existence, know the number of pores on Bane’s bald head. Yes, everyone has seen you. Everyone, that is, except me.
And you don’t know how deeply this affects me! I remember being, like, six and seeing Michael Keaton, at a daunting 4’7”, play Batman on a rented VHS tape my parents somehow mistook for a copy of A GOOFY MOVIE. Then! When said Keaton returned, and said parents made same mistake again, I was there again. I immortalized this Batman in plastic – over, and over, and over again. I had him in arctic gear (for that one time in Stalingrad), scuba gear (for that one time in the Pacific), and sonar gear (for that one time at…SeaWorld?). I treasured the little clip-on cloth capes they all came with – except for Scuba Batman, who, disappointingly, didn’t come with one, forcing Arctic Batman to share. I *still* lust after the Batmobile from BATMAN RETURNS that split apart to become the Batmissile at the push of a button – the Batmobile I never once saw in stores, and has since become as elusive to me as intelligence on TLC. And before you ask: no, I was not absent that day in third grade when they told everybody not to start sentences with conjunctions or always use “I.” But I’m in the throes of emotions, here. Emotions that I haven’t felt in some time – perhaps ever. Emotions that, yes, betray proper syntax. I teach English, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, and I’m junking proper syntax for you as though it were a two-pack of BATMAN RETURNS Penguin Commandos. (What was up with those? They were the stupidest action figures ever.)
Let us not lose sight of my chronology, here, though, dear DARK KNIGHT RISES, as that is necessary to my ultimate point, which will illuminate soon; I promise. I sat, jaw hanging in the diamond of my Indian-style legs as I watched Kevin Conroy’s Batman on BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. When my grandmother, a woman who survived both Nazis and the Greek civil war, asked me what she could buy me for Christmas, I said, “The BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES Batmobile.” I was sure, in that moment, this old lady who barely spoke English was more confused than she had ever been before – more confused than she was when her neighbors raided her house for Communists. Yes, I created discomfort for the elderly for you. Why? Because she bought it. The Batmobile. Come that December 25th, it was in my hands, and remains so to this day (along with Two Face, from said series, which is still near mint, though is sans that cool gold-looking metallic chain he initially came with). My action figure demands continued through THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN AND ROBIN, BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM, BATMAN BEYOND, and any other Batman-related sketch some animator could scrawl on a bar napkin and then air on FOX after school. My grandmother still suffers PTSD from those days, and I’m not sorry. It was BATMAN. (This is where I pause to remind you, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, that my grandmother was bombed. Like, from the sky. Not in a bar, with sake.)
One Saturday, when I decided decent TV might continue past noon, and Pokemon was immediately followed by Adam West in some sort of Spandex, killing a shark with Bat Shark Repellent, I still stuck around to ask, “Is this Batman?” I decided it wasn’t. Sorry. My bad.
As I grew, I took to the Knoxville, Tennessee dollar theatre for BATMAN FOREVER with my dear friend, who had a penchant for jamming his toys in his space heater. In hindsight, I took my life in my hands (probably) for BATMAN FOREVER. There are parents and now-grown children that I deafened in the Toys R Us with my tantrum in order to get the Batwing from that movie. And let me assure you, I was way, way older than appropriate tantrum-throwing age. I went full retard for you, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Cut to a few years later: my drama teacher in 9th grade had to sit me down to tell me that nipples aren’t supposed to be on the Batsuit. I had to be told because, in the moment, I was so into you that it didn’t matter. Coat the fucker in nipples. Call the suit the Batnipple, for all I care. I went, I watched, and I suspended the rules of physics for you, as Batman and Robin coasted to safety on doors that they fashioned into air-surfboards. Even now, as I know there’s no better way to explain that scene, I’m still kinda into it.
When the first of the Nolans came out, BATMAN BEGINS, I had just started making disposable income of my own. My viewing experience would no longer be based on parental availability. Finally, was 18 and my job as an editorial assistant seemed to exist solely to ensure I could purchase (a) a ticket, (b) some action figures, and (c) an electronic version of the new Batmobile, the Tumbler, which, yes, I initially questioned the legitimacy of, being a fan of the sleeker models, but I was soon schooled at the movies. I was thrilled. THE DARK KNIGHT? Same deal – I went the day that came out. The variant Batman action figure from THE DARK KNIGHT where Batman’s cowl is pulled back? Yeah, I got one. I keep it in an undisclosed location. It’s the other time an American can say that. Do you know the first? It’s when the President has to be moved because the country is under attack. To establish perspective.
Therefore, after all this, I hope I’ve established a credit line, here. A track record. I don’t know what happened with THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Really, I don’t. I had a show in the NY International Fringe Festival, but so what? So did many people. They went. I was left to marinate in my loneliness. I spent nights making my own soundtrack of BWWOOOOMM, BWOOOOOOMM, BWOOOOOOOMM – imagining I was in a theatre showing THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Or INCEPTION. Or some other Nolan film. I tried to take pleasure in the narrative that I’ve pieced together based on the spoilers and free associations of other viewers that have approached me and said things like, “OMG Not to spoil it, but here’s the whole fucking plot!” I guess Bane has, like, five Tumblers? He seems to do the whole back-breaking thing to Batman, but it doesn’t kill him? There’s a cop that gets his own action figure that I don’t recognize? Catwoman, like, borrows the Batpod? There’s some sort of social consciousness going on here, but it’s classier than it was in the last SAW film? (The last SAW film being the last film I saw where people claimed a socially-conscious side was presented. Sorry. Applebee’s was also the last meal I ate that people claimed was partly made up of food.) Alfred is in it? Ra’s A’Ghul (or however you spell that) is in it, but Liam Neeson isn’t? He’s, like, a shadowy figure, or something? Like Deep Throat? Stuff explodes? The last scene is really cool? I’m not sure what happens in it, but I hear it’s awesome. I hear a lot of you is awesome. People have told me this, usually while hyperventilating.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES: I don’t have health insurance. I can’t drive. I rent. I own no real furniture. There are people that I pray to God never realize I still have their stuff. I can’t go into the library for fear that the fines I’ve accumulated will cause paramilitaries to rappel from the Reference Section and behead me and post clips on YouTube. I can’t dance. I haven’t understood a song on any Top 40 list in a long time. What I’m saying is: I’m not a man with a whole lot of extravagance to offer. So, as you can see, missing you is something I can’t really afford to add to a list of, well, growing shortcomings. With that, I plea: Forgive me?
I’ll do better. I’ll get the DVD. The Blu-Ray! The 3D Blu-Ray! The 4D Blu-Ray! I’ll watch this film in another dimension! If there’s a JUSTICE LEAGUE movie, I’ll go see that and complain, pretty much non-stop, about the fact that that Batman could never be half the Batman you developed. I won’t try to pretend I’ve seen you before I actually have, which, truth be told, I’ve done with other films. (Hi, everyone who thinks I’ve seen THE PRINCESS BRIDE!) I’ll be on my best behavior. Really. I will. I’m worth it. So let’s talk reconciliation?
As Eternal as the Presence of a Bassline in a Nolan Film,