Wednesday, December 15, 2010

For one last second, I was 12 years old again. The Dark Knight teaser debuted three years ago yesterday. A moment of reflection as life changes...

Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the theatrical release of I Am Legend. While the film was a surprisingly compelling science-fiction drama that worked primarily as a character-study, its release date is not by itself noteworthy. But the day also marked the debut of the first real teaser for The Dark Knight. As I've written elsewhere, we all knew about the bank-robbery prologue that was attached to IMAX prints of I Am Legend, but absolutely nobody knew about the traditional trailer that was premiering with the regular prints. In this age where everyone knows everything ahead of time, it was perhaps one last studio sneak attack. Warner shipped the trailer without anyone jotting down a description, and they kept the thing offline for the whole weekend. Except for a mediocre bootleg of course. I was home that day, tending to my three-month old daughter. By god, I must have watched that crummy bootleg two dozen times that day.

Sitting at home, tending to a newborn, I once again felt that shot of pure moviegoing pleasure that I so remembered from my youth. As I'm mentioned from time to time, the Batman series made me into a movie freak and box office junkie. And through the Burton/Schumacher movies and Batman: the Animated Series, I discovered the whole world of the Caped Crusader, eventually collecting the comics and becoming a one-man Batman encyclopedia. Sure, the Schumacher movies had their... um... issues, but they really were one-of-a-kind. In a way, they were the 1960s/1970s James Bond pictures of their day, delivering the kind of big-screen movie-going experience that was exclusive to the series. The Batman films offered the sort of 'your favorite comic book characters, up their on the screen in big-budget movie-star glory' thrills that you couldn't find anywhere else. You have no idea how exciting it was for a young teenage movie fan when the first teaser poster for each successive sequel would drop, and than that first look at the trailer, in an age where internet blogs hadn't given away most of the goods already.

I actually wasn't a big fan of the Batman Begins advertising campaign, as I've written elsewhere. But that first teaser of The Dark Knight... a genuinely scary, murderous Joker running rampant in a Gotham City straight out of Homicide: Life on the Street (or more accurately, Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka's Gotham Central), James Gordon in a key dramatic role, a Batman picture that played as a pure crime drama... For one more day, I was a fifteen year old kid putting my blank VHS tape into place in case Entertainment Tonight happened to drop the first trailer for Batman Forever. But it was just for one more day. It was ironically enough that contact high that fueled my desire to finally start writing about film on a regular basis, a desire that of course brought out this site just a few months later. But, three years to the day, I have yet to feel that level of excitement for any project since.

While I grew up on Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and the ilk, the Batman franchise 'that series' for me. Chris Nolan's Batman series will theoretically end in July 2012. After that, what's left? Harry Potter will be finished. Batman will be finished. The Marvel universe will likely be on its last legs, not that I've actively enjoyed any of the three Marvel studios releases thus far. Is the future of fandom supposed to rest with Green Lantern and The Hobbit? My two favorite directors of the last twenty years, Tim Burton (the 1990s) and M. Night Shyamalan (the 2000s), have turned into hollow shells of their former selves. While have been great genre movies over the last three years (Speed Racer, Avatar, Inception, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I), I genuinely miss the level of excitement that I felt for this kind of stuff that I had in my teens and college years.

I see other film bloggers, some much older than I, who still get 'nerd-boners' off of the Thor teaser or the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides trailer. They still go gaga for mediocrities like Iron Man 2 and successfully hold their nose during Tron: Legacy. They discuss Marc Webb's Spider-Man reboot with the same breathless anticipation that I felt for Sam Raimi's original back in 2002. I still remember the thrill I felt sitting in a theater on May 3rd, 2002, astounded to see the opening credits (and hear the Danny Elfman theme) for Spider-Man, a film that I honestly thought would never get made. The world of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World still speaks to these writers on a personal level, but all I see is an overgrown child who spends two hours to learn a token lesson about what should be a basic part of human relationships.

Yes, there is more to the movies than just geek-friendly properties. But our movie-fandom was always built on such genre fare. How I miss the excitement of my naive movie-going youth. My genuine movie fandom began with Batman back in 1989. Maybe that's as good a place as any for it to end in a couple years. Because there hasn't been a single movie in the last three years that excited me on a level even close to the pure anticipation that I felt for The Dark Knight. I find myself, over the last few years, becoming more interested about the business of the industry, the musical chairs of release dates, the marketing campaigns, the box office, than I do about the movies themselves. Even The Dark Knight Rises feels like less than a thrilling prospect, as the film has already been tainting by months of retarded and arbitrary speculation on every pointless detail. More than that, as Batman fan, I've already seen Nolan's Batman and Jim Gordon face off against The Joker, Scarecrow, Ra's Al Ghul, and Two-Face. Am I supposed to be equally thrilled over a series finale featuring um... Bane?

For the record, this is not an announcement of my retirement from writing. But it is a reevaluation of sorts. My life is about to get a lot busier in the near future, so I can't promise the kind of nearly daily output that I've wanted to provide. The good news is that I'm expecting a second child in the middle of June. The bad news is that means I'm having a second child smack-dab in the middle of the summer movie season. Yes, I didn't plan that one well at all. That means, right off the bat, a lot less early reviews, although you might see more reviews popping up on Monday after opening weekend (the Grove has a 'baby-friendly' movie thing on Monday mornings). I'll still try to do box office as early on Sunday as possible, as I'm pretty well known for that and I do enjoy those. I've had much success writing the article on Saturday morning using Nikki Finke's BS numbers and then just adjusting the math when the actual figures come out.

I'm also starting a new gimmick of sorts, that will basically be called 'yesterday's news today'. Rather than try to beat the other sites with AS IT HAPPENS news stories, I'm going to sit back, and actually provide analysis of whatever stories I feel like commenting, whenever I can get around to it. I doubt anyone ever came here for breaking news. So perhaps Mendelson's Memos will become more like a newspaper, providing thoughtful context after-the-fact. You can also consider this an open-call for guest writers, especially when it comes to commenting on news and reviewing movies that I don't have time to see. It's something that I've waffled on for years. This is my site and I always want it to be so. But if I want any hope of this place being more than just some random stop on Blogspot, I can't do it alone, especially not now. So if you think you can be of use periodically or regularly, drop me a line.

There is a silver lining in all of this. Allison has finally reached an age where she can go to the movies with me. Just this year, she's taking in 2D screenings of Toy Story 3, Cats and Dogs 2, Tangled, Megamind, Despicable Me, and a 'test-run' press screening of The Nutcracker 3D (no she didn't wear the glasses for long, so it's a good thing the 3D was lousy). Point being, maybe part of being a grown up movie fan is losing the love for just a little while, only to discover it through your child's eyes a few years down the road. So if you see me not only attending a matinée screening of Yogi Bear and/or Gulliver's Travels but happy to be doing so, you'll understand why. And several years down the road, if Allison and/or 'newbie' wants to go to a midnight screening of Twilight part 12: Sunrise (or the newfangled equivalent), I'll be happy to chaperon.

So here's to the future of Mendelson's Memos, whatever it may be as my family expands and my life changes over the next few years. And here's to the hope that there will be new genre product worth loving, to replace the Batmen and Harry Potters of my younger days. Because while it's great to get national attention for a brutal pan of something like Tron: Legacy, that's not why I write. I write to report on films that are so good that... well, I'll let one of my recent favorites finish this out.

"The audience knows the truth: the world is simple. It's miserable, solid all the way through. But if you could fool them, even for a second, then you can make them wonder, and then you... then you got to see something really special... you really don't know?... it was... it was the look on their faces..."

Scott Mendelson


Anonymous said...

And I for one am happy to be along for the ride that is your Memo's.

Matt Solberg
Phoenix, AZ

Rick said...

I don't think there's been a trailer i've watched more than that Dark Knight trailer after the actual movie came out, the tone of that trailer basically had me squirming in anticipation whenever i saw it. The fact the film itself was even better then what was promised doesn't hurt much either.

Congratulations on your wife expecting and being able to take your existing to movies as well; having mostly grown up in theaters i can say it's quite the expereince.

I've been a fan of yours since your stint at Film Threat, so here's to three more years of blogging

Anonymous said...

I have often said that "Life is the downtime between Batman movies".
I feel your pain, Scott. In a way the movie industry has pursued my interests to a tee, they just blew it. If you would have told me in my comic collecting hey day of 1992 that I would one day see big budget versions of most of the titles I loved, I wouldn't have believed it. The reality is I have enjoyed far more entertainment value from the discussion and anticipation of Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Constantine, Transformers, Wolverine and Watchmen then I ever derived from actually watching these movies.
I think the one thing we have developed from years of industry watching is the ability to sniff out a subpar product during production. My anticipation level for Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern and The Avnegers is very low dispite my affinity for the characters. It's a bummer.
I am still excited by the prospects of a new Batman and Star Trek, and despite it's flaws I am generally dissapointed there will be no Terminator: Salvation 2.
I am also expecting this summer, so I understand the pressure, but I look forward to your future output in whatever form it takes.



Related Posts with Thumbnails