WARNING: DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.
Given the open ending and overwhelming critical and financial success of its predecessor, there may not be a movie in the history of cinema that was more certain to be made than The Dark Knight Rises. And, short, perhaps, of George Lucas’s second Star Wars trilogy, it may be that no previous movie has ever been the subject of such high expectations from its producers and its audience alike. On July 19th, a day before the movie opened, the possibility for both a Best Picture nomination and the title of highest-grossing film of all time were legitimately in play. And why not? Batman Begins, released in 2005, was by itself one of the best superhero movies that we’d seen to that point. The Dark Knight, three years later, redefined the model of what a superhero movie could be, and even led directly to a change in the structure of the Academy Awards. Meanwhile, director Christopher Nolan, in his breaks between movies, had directed a well-received Victorian magician drama in The Prestige and a Best Picture-nominated blockbuster in Inception. Reasons for optimism, in other words, were everywhere.
Last weekend, being wholly uninspired by the selection of new movies available to me (how excited did you really expect me to get about Dark Shadows, A Tim Burton Film?), I was pleased to discover that the ArcLight Hollywood was doing a set of screenings of classic movies. I found out about it too late to go to Doctor Zhivago, which would have been my first choice, but was happy enough to make it to a 5pm screening of Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam drama Full Metal Jacket. It was my sixth of Kubrick’s movies, but only the first that I’d seen on the big screen.
It wouldn’t be accurate or fair to say that, having seen it on the big screen, I now can’t imagine seeing it any other way; great movies are great wherever and however you see them, be it in the theater or, now, perhaps even on the screen of your iPhone, whatever David Lynch has to say about it. Nonetheless, it was a distinct pleasure and privilege to experience it that way, and it’s hard to imagine, for instance, the vividness and clarity of its final set piece, when Private Joker’s squad is trying to track down a sniper in the hell of a bombed-out Vietnamese town, coming across nearly so powerfully from my television set.