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At the stroke of midnight tonight, regular schmucks like you and me finally get to see The Dark Knight Rises. There’s a strong likelihood that this is the most-anticipated film to come out over the past decade. I haven’t been this excited for a movie’s release since, well, the one on my TV right now.

I’m currently writing this article with Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending The Dark Knight playing in the background on beautifully glorious HD Bluray. You might remember that one with its brilliant Heath Ledger Joker performance (“here is my card“) and one of the best viral marketing campaigns ever.

I, like many, many others, have seen The Dark Knight more times than I care to count. I have also adored its predecessor, Batman Begins, as often as humanly possible, which is something I don’t really do very often anymore. You know, the whole watch the same movie over and over thing? College is in the past, and re-watching movies just isn’t my cup o’ tea these days.

Unless, of course, it’s a Batman movie…*

*…that doesn’t involve George Clooney and Val Kilmer. And that one with Frank Reynolds doesn’t really hold up so well these days, either. Of course, if Bat Shark Repellent is involved, I’m all-in!

You see, I have a Tablet, and on this Tablet is ACV (A Comic Viewer), and also on this Tablet are old Batman comic books – some I’ve read before and recently enjoyed again, like the topical Knightfall series (oh hi, Bane), and some I haven’t gotten to yet – because there’s just so damn many. I have a Bat-obsession, and thankfully it’s going to be fed to the max over the coming weekend. I’ve done my best to avoid any previews; I know what Bane did to Batman in the comic books, and I’ll wait to see how Nolan interprets / alters that for his film. I’ve avoided spoilers, footage, and even what I have ascertained is a meltdown-level slip from David Letterman while he had Anne Hathaway on the program last week. No link for you there, because that means I’d have to find it, which means I’d have to read it, which means I’d know more than I want to heading into Nolan’s Batman Prestige.

I am ready for Batman. I am ready for Bane. I guess I am sorta ready for Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. I’m intrigued at just what role Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play, because I have a hunch it’s going to be of the caped-variety at some point.

This obligatory The Dark Knight Rises post is my ‘Ode to Batman’.

It’s a love affair that I know I am not unique in having with the Caped Crusader. I’ll skip the 50 years Batman spent beating the Joker to a pulp in comic books prior to my birth, because that’s history I don’t need to know about beyond the fact that Bob Kane was a genius and he could draw Batman in like 1 minute - watch that video. (Quick Aside: YouTube is amazing. That is literally ‘Family Channel’ Footage that I obssesed over as a kid that I randomly typed into the search hoping to find. Unbelievable. I haven’t seen that footage in 20 years.) This is a love affair that began when I was 4 years old way back in 1987.

It begins with these idiots:

Batman & Robin 1960's

Completely believable crime fighters.

People just loved to get high in the 1960′s; and they must have adored getting stoned and watching this tv series. My loving parents introduced me to Batman with old reruns of one of their favorite shows, and I ate up ever poorly-acted, front-kicked episode of Batman (1966-68) as an impressionable youth. When I flip through the guide these days, I’ll see the word “Batman” and fail to resist clicking, and can definitely tell you it’s a fun-bad, terrible show. However, as a child, a seed was planted that would grow into this awesome kid:

Batwing Present

Holy 80′s, Batman!

Batman – 1989

Then it happened. Bat-Mania took over the entire country with Tim Burton’s truly exceptional Batman (1989). I mean, Jack fucking Nicholson played the Joker. WOW THEY WILL SO NEVER HAVE A BETTER JOKER PERFORMANCE EVER is what I bet people were saying in 1989. That would wind up being an almost-true statement, too. This was an awesome, awesome movie that still holds up today. And I was forbidden to see it because I was a stupid 6-year old kid in 1989 whose parents thought was ok to watch the poster-show for drug abuse in that 1960′s Batman, but not ok to watch a couple things blow up and Joker splatter on the ground.

Whatever. I saw the aforementioned ‘Family Channel’ video of Bob Kane waxing poetic on his genius and drawing Batman about 80 times until the VHS Tape wore out, because it had footage from the new film. I bided my time and struck when the opportunity presented itself.

That’s what sleepovers are for – and I reckon sometime in 1990 was when I first saw Batman at a friend’s house whose parents were totally irresponsible. AND THEN I MADE HIM PUT IT ON AGAIN. BOOM! I sure showed those silly parents of mine; I viewed the forbidden film twice in a row! PG-13 restrictions be damned, I was watching an adult Batman movie! And was it ever adult… there was smoochin’, there was fightin’, there was swearin’, there was even some awesome dancin’ to Prince songs! Honestly, the movie blew my mind. It changed everything, and I could never go back. To this day I believe Michael Keaton portrayed a damn-good Bruce Wayne, and some of the scenes early on in Batman really capture the Bruce Wayne dilemma. Then you add prime Kim Basinger in as Vicki Vale (hiyo) and  Jack Nicholson around a script pre-”Tim Burton’s full of himself and obsessed with Johnny Depp” Tim Burton, and it turned into a really solid film that holds up to this day.

The only thing they screwed up was killing the Joker in the first movie. Come on, the dude’s terrorized Batman for 60 years in the comic books at that point, but they decide to kill him immediately? They could have at least kept him alive so he could do what he does and kill Robin in the later films. Ugh.

Batman Returns – 1992

Burton came back and delivered a pretty decent follow-up to Batman with a star-filled Batman Returns. He brought in post-Twins Danny DeVito as the Penguin, a super-hot Michelle Pfeiffer with a stitched-up, skin-tight Catwoman outfit, and one Christopher Walken, playing some dude who totally never existed in any Batman story ever before named Max Schreck. These bozos made things rough for a returning Michael Keaton’s Batman.

There’s some truly PG-13 scenes in this movie – Penguin creeps all over Catwoman, he bites someone’s nose off (spraying blood everywhere) and he’s always eating nasty unprepared fish – so guess what? 1992 me was STILL not allowed to go see it in the theater! DAMN YOU OVER PROTECTIVE PARENTS AND YOUR CONSTANT FREE ROOM AND BOARD AND LOVE! I again snuck this one at a friend’s sleepover (seriously, kids these days with their torrents and their Facebooks and their awkwardness and their bath salts are missing out). Batman, unsurprisingly, wins again, and the Keaton / Burton era unceremoniously comes to an end.

Batman: The Animated Series (1992 – 1995)

FOX! I love you! Added behind epic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon episodes was born Batman: The Animated Series. This was a serious, legit cartoon that incorporated the entire Batman Universe into Saturday morning greatness. Honestly, this show was great. I won’t go nuts on it for five paragraphs, but just know that this show took kids seriously, and Luke Skywalker voiced the Joker. ‘Nuff said.

Joel Schumacher bastardizes Batman in 2 flicks (1995 – 1997)

I’ll admit, at the tender age of 12, I thought Batman Forever was awesome mostly due to the word “Batman”. I was finally allowed to see a Batman movie in the theater, and I had fallen hard in love with Jim Carrey thanks to years of sneaking In Living Color episodes and two incredible movies you may have heard of – Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb & Dumber. Schumacher brilliantly cast Carrey as the Riddler, a classic Batman villain.

Jim Carrey as The Riddler

I’m here to find Gotham’s dolphin mascot!

The timing was right, the movie was cool and bright and filled with action and neon and actually had Robin in it! The only problem is – it was actually pretty terrible. Any adult immediately recognized it as a movie made for kids. Apparently that’s where the Batman franchise was headed under Schumacher, who followed up Batman Forever with Batman & Robin.

What a fucking travesty that movie was (epic 3.4 rating on IMDB). They brought in Arnold Schwarzenegger and Uma Thurman to play Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy, respectively. A hot-off-of Clueless Alicia Silverstone played the unnecessary Batgirl and oh my God you don’t care. AWFUL AWFUL MOVIE. They had Batman and Robin play ice hockey against Freeze’s minions for crying out loud. This movie needs to be burned.

Batman and Robin play ice hockey.

Remember: Joel Schumacher is rich and famous.

I, like many Bat-fanatics returned to the comic books and remembered a Bruce Wayne that wasn’t played by Clooney. It was all I could do to continue enjoying my favorite comic book character. Thankfully, Batman & Robin was the end Schumacher’s reign of terror.

Chris Nolan Makes a Legit Comic Book Movie

Batman Begins was pretty amazing as a comic book movie, because it was a real movie, too. It transcended the genre. Sure, Spider-Man had taken the world by storm three years earlier, but it still felt like a dopey, barely-not-a-kids movie version of a superhero film. Then Nolan decided to bring his expertise to a world that was short on realism and delivered a Batman movie that this writer considers to be the best of all-time.

Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman… Gary Oldman as the most perfectly portrayed Commissioner Gordon of all-time – this movie was freaking perfection.

Nolan changed the game. He followed up Batman Begins with the aforementioned The Dark Knight, convinced the world that Heath Ledger was the right choice, and then Heath Ledger convinced the world that “no shit, I’m the right choice”. And we’ve waited for the epic conclusion since.

Now, we’re going to get it. As tweeted by Flapship.com yesterday, some early reviews aren’t exactly raving to Nolan’s finish to his Bat-Masterpiece – causing RottenTomatoes.com to shut down user comments (my props to the Internet!). I’m here to act as someone who would totally post there without having seen the movie and tell those critics negatively reviewing this movie that they are idiots. The Dark Knight Rises is going to be the best movie of 2012. Book It. I know this, because I believe in Christopher Nolan, much like I believed in Harvey Dent.

Feast your eyes, yo.

Let the comments section below serve as a personal sounding board for your Batman-history, your Batman movie reviews, and your reviews of The Dark Knight Rises over the weekend.

 

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