Neal Adams is a legendary name to comic-book collectors, but he holds an especially exalted place in the hearts of Batman fans — it was the vivid, muscular and irony-free art of Adams that tugged the character back toward the serious shadows and away from the campy 1966-1968 television series that made Gotham City a joke. With writer Denny O’Neil, Adams also introduced the evil mastermind Ra’s al Ghul and steered the Joker’s persona into a truly bizarre brand of lunacy — key contributions that would echo years later in the Batcave films of Christopher Nolan. Adams was one of the special guests at the New York premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” and he agreed to do a guest review of the film.
THIS REVIEW is 100% SPOILER-FREE
I listened to the vibes out there, and they said, “How can anybody beat the ‘Avengers’ movie? Even Batman?”
Well, “The Dark Knight Rises” does NOT beat “The Avengers. ” The reason? It is a totally different kind of movie — to compare them is an empty exercise.
“The Dark Knight Rises,” it turns out, is a classic Batman epic. How can I relate it to you? A Greek tragedy? “The Iliad”? “Macbeth”? It’s a giant movie. “Avengers” was a great comic-book movie. “The Dark Knight Rises” is a great epic.
OK, you’re getting the feeling that I had a good time Monday. Sure, it was over-long, but every minute on the screen had a great performance by a great actor. For those of us who followed Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s career from “3rd Rock From the Sun,” there’s no doubt that he has come into his own. Michael Caine brought tears to my eyes — and I don’t cry at anything. And Anne Hathaway: Why were they hiding her in the previews? Because she was an incredible surprise. What a great job she did. Gangly and wobbly? Not a bit. She was sleek and sexy. Christian Bale was powerful, and intense.Then there’s Gary Oldman — please stop me, somebody — we’ve all watched Gary Oldman rise to become one of our great actors. I didn’t even know he was a Brit. Could there have been a greater Commissioner Gordon? The answer is “No.” His role, alone, his adventure in the movie, was worth the price of the ticket. I would carve out his role and make a separate movie of it.
Did the story and writing team (Christopher and Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer) spend a year writing this? This is the movie that all serious comic-book-related filmmakers will strive to beat in the next decade. Perhaps they will beat it. I don’t know how. It’s trite to say, “It was a long movie, but it was worth it.” Pretend I just said it. I would have gladly watched two hours more. I can’t even imagine what was left on the cutting room floor.
But now let me tell you a story of why you should not trust this review.
I was working in my studio — this is back before “Batman Begins” came out in 2005 — and the phone rings. Someone named David Goyer would like to come up and say hello.
Marilyn, my wife, wrangler, and our studio’s producer, reminds me with withering gaze, “It’s the ‘Blade’ writer-director, and the ‘Batman Begins’ screenwriter.”
“A comic-book guy?”
“No …” (Then she makes that frustrated sound.) “David Goyer, who wrote/directed ‘Blade’ and who’s writing the Batman movie.”
“Okay cool,” I think out loud. I loved “Blade.”
It also turns out he’s a really nice guy. He’s a fan. David is a true fan … and he wondered if I would do a Batman vs. Ra’s al Ghul drawing that he could give to Chris Nolan … for his birthday.
Right then, did I think that they would do a great, right-on version of Batman? I did … and they did.
And so, we’ve seen the work of these comic-book fans, these Batman fans. And here is the third in the trilogy. Would they let us down?
This is why I say you shouldn’t trust me. Read all the reviews. I’m too close. There’s a grin pasted on my face a mile wide. I’ve seen an epic and masterful film, based soundly on all the good work of a handful of writers and artists … and mine as well. Oscar trophies for a comic-book movie? You bet!
– Neal Adams
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