The Dark Knight opens today--perhaps you've heard? I'll see it, of course, and I may well like it, but...
Most of the reviews have been positive, sometimes ecstatic, but they tend to note how the movie goes to some very dark places, how it examines life in a post-9/11 world, how it confronts the use of violence as a rational response to an irrational world, blah blah blah, and all I can think is, yeah, but it's about a guy who dresses up in a bat suit and fights crime.
Really, I'm not trying to be patronizing here. I don't like people who use the term "comic book" as a pejorative term, who dismiss the medium outright. I can relate the storylines from any number of issues of Sgt. Rock, could tell you how Denny O'Neill's mid-seventies revival of The Shadow broadened my cultural horizons, will gladly wave a copy of The New Gods in your face as I prattle on all day about the awesomeness of Jack Kirby.
Still, my love for these things is firmly rooted in my childhood. Like other touchstones of my youth--particularly Warner Bros. cartoons--I still love them, and appreciate the artistry that went into their creation more than ever. They weren't necessarily created exclusively for kids, but they were accessible to them. If they engaged deeper subject matter than a child could grasp, they did so covertly.
So it's hard for me to get behind the notion of a Batman movie that many critics claim is too "dark" for kids. Obviously, comics and graphic novels have progressed considerably since my childhood, and I would rank Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns and Harvey Pekar, for instance, as among our finest contemporary authors. Their work is meant for adults, but that's the whole point--it is torn from real life, and never involve guys dressed as bats fighting evil clowns.
That concept is always going to seem faintly ridiculous--childish, if you will--and most of the "adult" treatments of Batman I've read in the comics (Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore's The Killing Joke) strike me as adolescent at best, the type of thing that can seem deep and meaningful to someone without much real world experience, but something you'd outgrow.
Then again, considering how many labored Star Wars analogies have appeared in this space, I probably have no business raining on anyone else's parade.