Stark black and white images. Solemn voiceovers detailing the nature of man, the importance of heroes. English actors undertaking interesting accents. A lurking, unspeakable evil. It’s the end of a story — and the potential end of countless lives.
If you think we’re referring to the newly released teaser trailer for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises: congratulations! You’re right! Give yourself a gold star. (Heck, give yourself a Golden Globe!) But we could just as easily be talking about another somber blockbuster from the early nineties. No, not Batman Returns. We’re talking about Schindler’s List.
Look, it would be unfair to blame the creeping seriousness of super-hero films solely on Nolan. After all, he isn’t the one who transformed Peter Parker into the fallen christ of the subway system or used
Jeff Buckley’s Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah” to score a sex scene set in an owl spaceship. But Nolan’s trademark flair for the grand guignol — not to mention his unquenchable thirst for building-related violence — has raised the bar for blockbuster solemnity, perhaps impossbly so. When even Tron: Legacy is pitched as a Joseph Campbell-ian struggle of good vs evil — as opposed to videogames vs reality or Jeff Bridges vs. the ravages of his actual face — it puts Nolan in an awfully difficult spot. And so next year’s most anticipated comic-book movie — in which gravelly-voiced Christian Bale goes up against a juiced-up Lucha Libre cosplayer — is announced with a trailer that ends up being actually more gravely serious than the trailer for the most gravely serious movie of all time.
Despite the frowns, we’re sure to be in line on opening day next summer with the rest of America. But we can’t be alone in wishing Nolan could find it in himself to crack a smile now and again. Or even, god forbid, a ker-sploosh.