The 'Dark Knight Rises' Oscar talk begins

Posted by · 11:51 pm · July 12th, 2012

You could hear the hype machine behind Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” humming to life the instant it was assured some form of existence. It’s building to a fever pitch this week as the film is on everyone’s lips down in Comic-Con and word out of uniquely selective screenings makes the rounds. And now, David Germain has gone and thrown out the Oscar talk, so strap in.

Discussing the film in semi-review language, Germain swears it “has the weight and scope – and then some – of 2008’s ‘The Dark Knight’…whose snub in the best-picture field helped prod the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to expand the category to more than five nominees.” He basically plants a flag for the film’s chances on the circuit and gets Nolan, Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway on the record to discuss the franchise’s awards legacy.

Nolan is charmingly humble (measured, even) in his response to questions about that legacy:

“Look, the idea, the fact that people have talked about `The Dark Knight’ as being a key reason why the academy changed their rules and expanded the field is just a huge honor for the film, in a weird way…The academy’s been incredibly good to me and my films, and it would be churlish of me to complain…they owe Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock a lot more than me…It’s kind of like, get in line.”

Hathaway, meanwhile, promises she’s speaking not as a cast member but rather an Academy member when she says:

“So far, it’s the best film I’ve seen all year…He’s transcended the genre now. I think he’s shown that a comic-book movie can actually be epic, extraordinary cinema.”

I have no opinion yet. But there are those who do and who would certainly see the Oscar landscape differently than Germain. Regardless, I think it’s a terrible Albatross to throw around the neck of a film facing the footsteps of an award-winning blockbuster that broke records and had a hand in changing the Oscar status quo.

Further to Hathaway’s point, though, by most accounts, the film earns its 165-minute running time and moves along at a clip. Just tonight, for instance, David Letterman — who had Hathaway on as a guest — had this to say:

“I”ll tell you, in all honesty, I went to the movie, and it”s two hours and forty-five minutes. So two hours and forty-five minutes, that says bring survival gear, and I went in there, and the thing flies by. I was amazed at how quickly it goes by, and that”s the sign of a great movie.”

That will be crucial, considering the vast majority of the Academy sees comic book adaptations as things lesser than, certainly not worthy of epic considerations.

Yet that’s precisely what these stories (whether they work as movies or not) are: epics. “Noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style.” Sounds like a comic book to me.

The legacy of Nolan’s Batman films will not be their critical and awards appeal, though that’s certainly part of it. Their legacy will be shifting perceptions, even if slightly, of an art form’s place in the conversation. There’s a whole mass of people down in San Diego right now celebrating this very concept.

With the heaviest of studio slates, it might be a minor miracle if Warner Bros. can keep everything afloat, because there is promise throughout the stable. So “The Dark Knight Rises” may or may not be an awards contender at the end of the day. But it doesn’t need to be. Perhaps, indeed, it would be churlish to complain that the mold wasn’t completely demolished. Just broken will do.

More on all of this very soon.

“The Dark Knight Rises” opens everywhere July 20.

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