The Dark Knight


Another midnight show, a completely different crowd. Our small band of local writers went to the six-plex (yes, we only have one) at midnight July 17 (July 18, official opening day) to discover the movie was sold out. (Fortunately we had our tickets from earlier in the week, when we saw Hellboy 2.)

Now, you have to understand that in our little coastal town, we often have private screenings in the winter. We’re a tourist town of less than 7000 full-time residents and the idea of a sold-out film is laughable. The night the six-plex held its private grand opening for the people with “special invitations,” the entire town showed up and there were still seats to spare in the theaters.

But it’s the middle of the summer and we’ve been invaded by the tourists who keep our little town alive and well by giving it so much money during three months, we make it through the remaining nine. A lot of those tourists were at the movie. A lot.

So was half of the local high school. I told Dan Duval when he arrived that we couldn’t stay because we didn’t have a Taft Tigers letter jacket. I never had a letter jacket–they didn’t give them to the debate team and the forensics team and the drama team in my day and had only just started giving them to girls a few years before (she writes, sounding like a cranky old fart)–but if I did, it would have said Superior Spartan. (I went to Superior Senior High. I kid you not.) And instead of being orange and black like those Taft Tigers, it would have been Columbia blue and white (don’t know why it was Columbia blue as opposed to blue, but there you go).

The letter jackets were the only costumes in the theater. Apparently, our little town is too small or too conservative for the locals–or even the tourists–to don Batman togs and go to the opening. I’m geeky enough to miss that.

We had the usual problems–too many talkers nearby (until Dan scared them off; Steve York [our usual enforcer] was leaving for Comic Con and couldn’t join us), a crying baby (!), and cell phones ringing off the hook. All of which ended when the movie started.

The movie: Let’s see if I can do this with no spoilers (although the media is dedicated to spoilers, those supervillains). I think it’s the movie of the summer. It’s dark–too dark for young children (seriously)–and disturbing and thought-provoking. Heath Ledger is actually better than the hype, which was a pleasant (if terrifying) surprise.

The movie is too long by about a half an hour, but I wonder if that’s not due to Ledger’s death. Nolan’s films are usually tight; I wonder if he didn’t put Ledger’s entire performance into the film instead of leaving any of it on the cutting room floor. That would have been my inclination.

Still, it was riveting enough to keep me in my seat–and I’m the person who sits at the end of the row because I usually get up twice in a two hour movie. (I have never been able to sit still for long.)

Dean and I actually debated about whether this was the movie of the summer. I declared it as we stood up at 2:45 a.m., when the credits had finally finished rolling, and he loudly disagreed with me. Dean (my husband Dean Wesley Smith, for those of you who don’t know; writer [who has done a number of novels based on comic books characters, including Spider-Man], former comic store owner, comic collector) thinks Hancock was the movie of the summer.

I actually forgot that it had even come out this year–two weeks after going to the film. Not that I thought it was bad–I liked it when I watched it; loved Will Smith and Charlize Theron–but apparently, it made no lasting impression on me.

I’ve been twisting the Dark Knight around and around in my brain since I saw the film. I plan to see it again, maybe even back to back with Batman Begins.

Maybe I just like dark. But more than that, I like stories with stakes. By stakes I mean the idea that when the world is threatened, it is truly threatened. Good people can (and do) die, the bad people could triumph. The hero succeeds, but often at great cost. That story often doesn’t find its way into films made from comic books (it was there in the first Spider-Man) even though the comics themselves usually have stakes.

Yes, I go for the ride–I was there for the first show of last summer’s Die Hard movie–but I prefer something in which I can have an emotional investment.

Batman gave that to me, along with a discussion of what heroism really is. (A lot of critics didn’t like that; I did.) I thought the movie was brilliant, if flawed, and that made it stand out from all this summer’s noise for me.

The tourists and teenagers in the audience liked the movie as well. When it ended, the entire theater burst into applause. That’s my favorite part of opening night. The audience lets its opinion be known, even though there’s no representative of the studio there.

Applause. Yep. And I joined in.