Idiot of the week is an occasional feature of my political blog, The Think 3 Institute. It's occasional rather than weekly because I feel no need to make a ritual out of it, and I want the idiocy recognized to stand out from the run-of-the-mill stupidity that's encountered all too often in political life. I've moved the feature to Mondo 70 for the first time as an unintended preface to a series of posts I've planned leading up to Friday's release of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Rises. As some readers may know, this film is a sequel to a 2008 Nolan movie called The Dark Knight and the conclusion of a trilogy the director began back in 2005, literally enough, with Batman Begins. As both of those films were successful, the second film more so than the first, the third film is rather highly anticipated in many quarters. Many people want Rises to be a good, even great film -- I wouldn't mind that myself. Some people, unfortunately, don't want to hear bad news, even though they strain to hear it amid a mounting volume of hosannas greeting Rises as if it were the Second, or rather Third Coming. Many professional reviewers have seen the film by now and have started to post their reviews on media websites. The Rotten Tomatoes website keeps a running tab of early critical opinion; as I write, it reports that 29 reviewers have rated it "fresh," while 2 have deemed it "rotten." Working with the reviewers' star-ratings, letter grades, and other appraisal systems, it gives Rises a 94% "fresh" rating so far. Impressive, no? No! -- as far as many people are concerned, for those two heretics, and for much of the day a lone heretic, Marshall Fine -- have ruined Rises's perfect score. As a result, numerous Nolan fans have flamed poor Fine, deeming his opinion, after seeing the picture, inferior to theirs, sight unseen.
Part of this results from presumptions of prejudice on Fine's part. He must hate superhero movies, or like Marvel movies better, etc., etc. Superhero-movie fans are perhaps especially defensive against any hint of prejudice against the genre. But so what? If you're a superhero-movie fan, or a Batman fan in particular, or a fan of Christopher Nolan's work in general, are you going to like Rises any less because Fine, whom I'd never heard of before today, disliked it? But perhaps these people are insecure in their anticipation and want no hint from anyone, no matter how prejudiced they assume the source to be, that the film might not live up to their eschatological expectations. My own expectations are pretty high despite my less than rapturous reception of Nolan's last picture, the heavy-handed dream fantasy Inception. My expectations probably differ from those of the people who would hear no criticism as well as those of the critics, since I liked different things about The Dark Knight than most people. Some of my expectations have less to do with Christopher Nolan than with my near-lifetime of Batman fandom. For me, there's a standard that Nolan has to meet, which I hope to elaborate on later this week; Nolan doesn't set the standard himself. That's why I can't accept this idiotic notion, from people who haven't seen the movie, that it's above criticism from people who have seen it, or that any criticism is automatically wrong in some way. It's still possible for Nolan to get Batman, and in this case Catwoman, wrong at the last moment. I don't mean that he might deviate from my ideal of either character. I do mean that he can still screw up as a moviemaker. I welcome any vision that's different but good, especially since The Dark Knight Rises may be the last mainstream superhero movie with license to be "different" -- but that's also a topic for later in the week. For now, let me say to anyone freaking out because they read a thumbs-down review that I hope you like the film better than Marshall Fine or Christy Lemire did, and that once you've seen it you can prove how they saw things wrong. Until then, you're idiots.