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In just two days, the final chapter in a movie trilogy that many critics and comic book connoisseurs have deemed as the gold standard in comic-based films will hit the big screen.
The Dark Knight will hit theaters across the country at midnight, July 20, and the expectations are so high that for many cinemas across the Upstate, just one dose of Batman won't cut it.
The Simpsonville 14 IMAX, Regal Cherrydale 16, Hollywood 20 and REI Cinemas in Easley are all showing the first two Batman movies in the Nolan trilogy - Batman Begins and The Dark Knight - before completing the trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises in a midnight showing. Those events begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and culminate in the midnight showing early Friday morning. Tickets for the events cost $25, except for the REI Cinemas showing, which costs $20.
The Dark Knight Rises will pit Bruce Wayne and his alter ego Batman against a diabolical, hulking menace by the name of Bane as he seeks to destroy Batman and Gotham City alike. If it's anything like its two predecessors (the first two films in the trilogy netted some $1.3 billion worldwide total at the box office), "Rises" will be a box office sensation.
It'a testament not only to Nolan's storytelling, comic book experts say, but to the but to the visceral power of comic books themselves, and their ability to translate onto the big screen. Three of the summer's most highly anticipated films - The Avengers, The Amazing Spiderman and The Dark Knight Rises - all come from comics.
It makes perfect sense, said Richard Morgan, who owns Richard's Comics and Collectibles in Greenville.
"The way comics are produced is almost an exact replica of the way movies are storyboarded before they go into production anyway," Morgan said. "It's literally a built-in script. Movies - it's not like writing a book - you have to think visually."
"Half the storytelling is done in the art or in the subtext of facial expressions, things like that," he added.
Graphic novel and serialized comic-based box office productions such as this summer's hits, as well as past ones like Sam Raimi's take on Spiderman, as well as The Road To Perdition, 300 and the Ironman franchise have created a new comic culture.
"It's cool because when you've been paying attention to something for os many years and not many people know what it is, or read it, or bother with it and it is kind of looked down upon, it's validating when you see random strangers, even teenagers - when I saw the first batman movie, a lot of the fans now weren't even born yet - and now they're wearing nerdy t-shirts and comic stuff," Morgan said.
"When you've been telling them for years it's not kids' stuff and it's a valid form of art and storytelling, it kind of comes full circle. Comics gave the ideas for movies, movies seen by millions of people who can then get into comics," Morgan said.
Scott Dunlap, who heads up the Upstate Comic Book Club, said comic book movies are a natural way to deliver the art's compelling narratives and unforgettable characters without being too cumbersome.
"Personally, I think the popularity of these movies relies heavily on the popularity of the characters. We live in a time where comic book merchandising has well exceeded previous generations and has broadened its scope beyond devoted comic fans," Dunlap said. "Superheroes specifically have permeated the global conscience for several decades. Financially speaking, movie studios focus on franchises because they can establish large sales on familiar characters and then continue to make films with these characters. Superhero comics are the easiest way for studios to launch a franchise with the ground work already laid out for them."
Dunlap said that straying from a sheer logistical interpretation of comic movies' success, the universally appreciated stories are in many ways what makes people love movies in the first place.
"Comic superheroes will always be popular because they are modern mythology," Dunlap said. "They are familiar characters and icons with origins and struggles that are relatable and easily grasped. Bruce Wayne's family is murdered by 'crime' and so he creates a hero to fight crime. Spiderman loses his uncle to 'crime' so he uses his super human abilities to fight crime. Superman is the survivor of a dead, alien world so he uses his super human abilities to protect his new home. These character arcs are the same ideas and traditions found in Greek mythology, Norse mythology, African folklore, Asian folklore, etc."
And while those comics' stories are compelling, the brevity offered and the power of the big screen does something sheer print cannot.
"Film is just a further reaching media than comics, so more people are buying into these stories that have existed for years," Dunlap said. "Also, it's a lot easier to watch a two and half hour movie than read 73 years of Batman."
And while Morgan believes Nolan's resurrection of the Batman franchise hinges on catering to an audience that has aged since it was simply a nascent paper product, Dunlap said its Nolan's devotion to the main character's genesis that has yielded the big results.
"The main thing Nolan tapped into was Batman's origin. The 90's films banked on the idea that the general public were largely familiar with Batman and created stories that emphasized style - whether dark, campy or vaguely homoerotic - over content," Dunlap said. "What Nolan did was return to the origin of Batman. Why is Batman a long lasting character? What makes people gravitate to such a dark protagonist? Nolan gave his audience a realistic and far more personal take on Batman as well as Bruce Wayne. Instead of starting his films with the icon of the Batman pre-established, Nolan explores what would drive a person to create such an image and the personal struggles along the way."
Tickets for The Dark Knight Rises can be purchased on the respective theaters' web site, as well as at Fandango.com.
Also, take a moment to let Patch know who was the best Batman in our poll.