One thing we know about "The Dark Knight Rises." That it is the last film of its kind makes it all the more imperative that people see it. And I expect the numbers to be very strong this coming weekend, as there was a predictable damper on last week's attendance, due to the Colorado tragedy.
Despite the fact that "The Dark Knight Rises" is the culmination of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy– the filmmaker will not return, nor will most of his cast–there will be a sequel. And Warner Bros. will not walk away from the Batman franchise. It pays for too many of their other mistakes. They have the luxury of not fretting too much when "Dark Shadows" or "Rock of Ages" fail to make their money back, thanks to franchises like "Harry Potter" and "Batman." Well, both are gone now. Which is why there is so much at stake with DC Comics reboot "Man of Steel," the return of the "Superman" franchise led by producer Nolan, writer David S. Goyer and director Zack Snyder.
So Warners isn't going to let momentum on "Batman" lag. They will find a way to keep this franchise going. SPOILER ALERT DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN "TDKR": plots surrounding two successfully relaunched characters, Anne Hathaway's Catwoman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Robin, are the most obvious ways to proceed.
The second thing we can expect, Colorado or not, is an Oscar campaign. It helps when critics such as Ken Turan of the LAT throw the Oscar gauntlet to the Academy. And Chris Nolan was close to landing a best director nomination for "Inception"–he worked it, and wanted it. But an original like that has a better shot at major non-technical Academy Awards than a comic book sequel. The Academy remains a group of high-minded folks who appreciate and enjoy these films without granting them the weight and gravitas they may actually deserve. Even if Nolan cites such laudable forebears as "Metropolis," "Dr. Zhivago" and "Blade Runner," "TDKR" lacks the kind of literary cred that fantasy epic "The Lord of the Rings" derived from J.R.R. Tolkien. I've heard Academy members rave about the latest James Bond film too. But they don't put it on their best picture ballot.
One thing "TDKR" might have in its favor is what Oscar campaigners call the Steak Eaters. The Academy is full of them–they're red-blooded males (not just American–Europeans and Aussies too), often directors, writers and craftspeople. They're the guys who voted for "The Silence of the Lambs," "Braveheart," "Gladiator," "Avatar" and yes, "Crash" over "Brokeback Mountain." "They vote for big movies that make big money," says one veteran Oscar campaigner, "good solid moviemaking with great actors and good storytelling."
This faction of the Academy is also likely to vote for "The Dark Knight Rises."