11:37 am Jul. 18, 2012
Welcome to Assessment: an occasional tour through the fights, critical squabbles, and obsessions of the Internet culture machine.
The embargo on reviews of The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final installment of director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, was finally lifted on Sunday.
And though the film doesn't open until Friday, a flood of impassioned commentary—much of it by people who haven't seen the film—has been surging across every corner of the Web, studded with spoiler alerts, arcane Batman trivia, conspiracy theories, and some hopeful speculation as to whether this may be the greatest superhero movie ever made.
Until Sunday, fans were forced to subsist on news items like the revelation that Nolan was partly inspired by Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities.
But by Monday, a pair of negative reviews—one by Christy Lemire of The Associated Press, who called it “overloaded” and “sadly lacking the spark” of 2008’s The Dark Knight, and another by blogger and critic Marshall Fine, who found it the “weakest” of the three most recent Batman films—triggered death threats on the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. The site temporarily suspended user comments.
It also banned critic and blogger Eric D. Snider for posting a negative review without having watched the movie. "The Dark Knight Rises is easily the most disappointing Batman film so far,” he wrote.
On Monday, Matt Atchity, editor-in-chief of Rotten Tomatoes, posted a candid letter politely imploring commenters to not be “a dick.”
“Even if you think someone else is being a dick," he added. "Just take a deep breath, step away from the computer, and maybe go for a walk.”
The Tomatometer currently lists the Dark Knight Rises at 86 percent (positive), qualifying it as "Fresh." Big-name critics seem to agree.
Richard Corliss, chief film critic for Time, described the film as "maybe the best … of all the superhero movies” and a “modern equivalent to Greek myths or a Jonathan Swift satire.”
Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy called it “massively accomplished.”
In a rave review, Todd Gilchrist of IndieWire gave it an "A,' calling it nothing less than “critically important for America itself.” In a bold move, he rated Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman higher than Michelle Pfeiffer’s slinky 1992 Batman Returns version.
Some critics have touched on the film's potential political undertones. Noting that Christopher Nolan spent time shooting footage of Occupy Wall Street protesters last year, Newsweek wondered whether Batman has turned elistist, or if he remains part of the 99 percent.
Rush Limbaugh took Nolan to task for his choice of villain names (in that "Bane" sounds like "Bain"), charging that The Dark Knight Rises is in fact an anti-Mitt Romney conspiracy.
"Do you think that it is accidental that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bane?" he asked. Many outlets were quick to point out that the villain first appeared in comic books in 1993, under President Clinton.
At The Atlantic, Andy Isaacson told the story of Michael Uslan, the man who almost single-handedly restored Batman’s image from its seeming resting-place of Adam West-and-Warhol camp to the “shadowy creature that stalked criminals under darkness,” as DC Comics' Bob Kane and Bill Finger had first imagined him back in 1939.
It’s worth mentioning, in this time of cape-saturation, that Uslan’s pitch for what became the 1989 blockbuster Batman was rejected by every Hollywood studio. These rejections, as Uslan wrote in his memoir The Boy Who Loved Batman, “were more along the line of 'This is the worst idea we've ever heard.’”
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