"The Dark Knight" - Bat-Spoiler Free
Note: This piece was written before the horrific Colorado murders, an event that makes anything else in comparison insignificant.
Can we please ask for mercy from some of the negligently reckless film critics who put up online or print reviews for The Dark Knight Rises days before the film opened, giving away or hinting at critical plot twists? In at least one professionally irresponsible example, key parts of the film’s ending!
I’m specifically calling out Time’s longtime film critic Richard Corliss, who prefaced his lengthy, detailed, intellectual and otherwise admirable 2,000+ word piece of professional film criticism with these auspicious words: “Warning: mild spoilers throughout — though the film has enough big surprises that you need not worry.”
That was a Big Fat Lie.
By the time you reach the fifth paragraph, there’s already a significant plot point revealed, and from that point on, Corliss can’t control himself. He dissects the film, taking it apart to show us how it works in a masterful display of his craft that completely ruins the picture for anyone who hasn’t see it yet.
Certainly, Corliss was far from the only spoiler-sport among critics, but he was the worst, giving away more than anyone else I read (or read
about), after I was lucky enough to see the film last Tuesday. If I’d read any of those reviews before seeing it, I would have felt furious and betrayed.
Once, film reviews were largely embargoed until the day a film opened --though even in the pre-Internet days, Time and other weeklies would sometimes break the embargo. But now, the digital flood has made it every man (and most film critics are still men) for himself, in the race to be first. Not best or right, just first. Or at least early, to drive page views.
But just as bad as a reporter getting it first but wrong, is ruining an eagerly anticipated movie (or any film for that matter) for your readers as a critic. Effective film criticism can illuminate art, or at least still provide valid escapist entertainment advice in the face of the hive and multimillion dollar marketing campaigns to convince you to lay down up to $20 a ticket.
But there is no need to distinctly
review key events from a film in detail in order to help people decide whether to see it. Surely, there are places for serious 2,000-word critical analysis of an important film, but these
publications should not be posting these detailed and intricate reviews five days before anyone else can see it.
It’s particularly frustrating when the creative ambition to bring a uniquely iconic American hero to narrative vitality and relevancy is realized for the masses, yet that thrill of discovery is undermined by critics. There’s something wonderful about “The Dark Knight Rises,” that, despite its punishing darkness, is a mass-market blockbuster-budget Hollywood picture.
The movie does not condescend or go for the lowest common denominator; instead, it respects its audience enough to set ambitions high and ask filmgoers to follow along. It’s too bad too many film critics don’t show moviegoers the same respect.