The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight ★★★★★

If you saw my rating and expected or - for some inexplicable reason - even wanted another gushing review about the magnificence of The Dark Knight, I have to disappoint you. There probably will be very little about the film itself, but a whole lot about going to the movies. Like the Joker, I almost never have a plan for where I am going with my thoughts before I start writing, usually I just hope that in the end my rambling resembles something somewhat coherent. So, if anyone wants to get off this ride, now is your chance.

Before I begin, let me acknowledge that I'm fully aware how lucky I am to have not have had to endure losing someone close to me during the ongoing pandemic, and furthermore that I live in a country (Germany) that has handled the crisis comparatively well so far, especially when looking at certain other countries in the northern hemisphere. What I'm trying to say is that I am not oblivious to the fact that people around the world have bigger problems right now than the future of movie theaters. I wouldn't post this on any other social media platform, on here I feel confident that it will not be perceived as callous.

I worry about the theatrical experience. A year from now, will there be any movie theaters left? I've read numerous articles and think pieces about how the pandemic will affect how we watch movies in the future. Will COVID-19 be the final nail that seals the coffin shut of what some have already viewed as a dying business for the past couple of years? Will it be the push that makes streaming the new normal once and for all? I don't know obviously, but I certainly hope not.

Look, I am a lazy fucker. Streaming is super convenient. I watch tons of films, hardly a day goes by where I don't watch at least one movie. While I have a nice little DVD/Blu-ray collection and I still rent physical media, most films I do watch on streaming services. Let me get back to the first sentence of this paragraph. I really am. I've watched movies on Netflix that I physically own, for the sole reason that I was too fucking lazy to get off my butt and walk the two meters to the shelf to get the Blu-ray and put it in the player. Having everything at my immediate disposal is clearly one of the perks of streaming and VOD.

Yet still I love going to the cinema, even if I somehow had taken it for granted and maybe even not appreciated it as much as it deserves in the months prior to the pandemic. Granted, not every theatrical experience is great. Maybe the projection is poor, maybe the impertinence of fellow moviegoers diludes my enjoyment, and maybe sometimes a film simply doesn't offer enough to justify the time, effort and money I invested in seeing it at the cinema. But when it does, it's really worth it. Seeing The Dark Knight on the big screen reminded me of that.

I've watched the movie about twenty times by now, most recently two month ago. I watched it on Netflix, not because I was to lazy to get the Blu-ray, but because the Netflix stream doesn't have the annoying aspect ratio changes, and I really enjoyed it, as always. It's an almost perfect film after all. So, when one of the local theaters announced a one-day-only screening, I was reluctant since I had seen it only recently. Then I remembered how fucking pissed off I was two years ago, when the movie had its 10th anniversary, and for whatever reason none of my local theaters were showing it. Although I had seen The Dark Knight during its initial theatrical run - it was the first Nolan movie I watched at the cinema - I always wanted to see it again on the big screen. And I'm so glad that I did put my hesitation aside, because it was a whole different experience. Not in the sense that it's a different film, just rather how it felt. The theater was basically empty, there were only three people (it was an afternoon screening), myself included. It was awesome. A packed screening is great, but there is something kind of magical about being (almost) alone in a movie theater, hence why I like going to early screenings whenever I get the chance. Once I sat all by myself in a theater that has about a thousand seats. I loved it.

That being said, even as someone who loves going to the movies, I found Christopher Nolan's championing of the theatrical experience occasionally a bit self-important in the past. Because it can come across as "a film can only be great on the big screen". But that's not true, is it? When Blade Runner came out in 1982, it was a huge flop with critics and audiences alike. It only became a classic and one of the most influential sci-fi films ever over the years, and it wasn't because cinemas around the world kept showing it until people finally got it. No, they watched it at home, on shitty 4:3 TVs on even shittier VHS tapes, and fell in love with it. If a film is great, it's always great. If not, no perfectly calibrated projector, no huge screen, and no intricate theater sound system will make up for weak storytelling, boring characters or dull cinematography. But they will add that extra bit of magic to a great film, that you only get when you're going to the movies.

Insofar Nolan's got a point, and I believe he made every movie of his with the intention of proving it. Which brings me to the question when or even if Tenet will get the chance to prove him right again. Right now Warner Bros. is considering to forgo the global day-and-date release that is custom for movies with a price tag this hefty, because it is dawning on them that it might be better to put the movie out now wherever it is possible, instead of waiting until every major market has reopened. That might not happen until next year. Another problem could be that by then that there simply aren't enough theaters around anymore for such an expensive movie to make back its cost. Because how long can those theaters, that are open right now, go on with no new movies that draw in larger crowds? I guess we'll know probably sooner than later.

To come to an end on a more personal note, I like to mention one important aspect for me that I only came to realize over the last couple of months. A theatrical release feels completely different to me than a streaming or home media release. With the latter two the release date comes and then the movie's just kinda there. It has nothing to do with its quality. I maybe even looking forward to it, but that's about it. A theatrical release on the other hand will get me excited on a whole nother level. I can't wait to book my ticket, and then I'm counting the days. I will watch most films on opening weekend, certain films like Tenet even "mandatory" on opening day, and if there are previews, I'll take advantage of them too, because I have absolutely no patience when it comes to eagerly awaited theatrical releases. I really miss that.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading and stay safe!

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