It’s worth asking a friend this question just to see the look on their face. As if they’ve just been shown the holy grail of hard choices. In the world of pop-culture, this question may be akin to picking between the Beatles and the Stones, Star Trek and Star Wars, Arnold and Sylvester, Speilberg and Scorsese or DC and Marvel. (Marvel FTW)
It’s also a really difficult call. Consider the merits of both upcoming movies. Christopher Nolan reinvented the character of Bruce Wayne and the defined the ultra-realistic take on the superhero with Batman Begins. Which makes his next feat even more impressive. 2008′s The Dark Knight was less superhero saga and more “crime drama” along the lines of Heat and LA Confidential. Every main character shared equal screen time in a story that was really about Gotham city and the debate about whether people are inherently good or bad.
Although the late Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor, posthumously for his unforgettable turn as the Joker, the fact that The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, caused an outrage. 90% of all professional film critics placed The Dark Knight in the top three of their top ten movies for 2008. It’s failure to garner a Best Picture or Best Director nod for Chris Nolan, is largely considered the reason that the Academy expanded the best picture nominees from 5 to 10 and nominated Avatar among those films in the following year.
The Dark Knight also gave us “Why So Serious?” and the “He’s the Hero Gotham Deserves But Not The One It’s Needs” speech, to accent it’s cliffhanger ending. Christopher Nolan (Memento, Inception) hasn’t made a bad movie, and the upcoming “The Dark Knight Rises” will unite a cast that features Academy Award nominees and winners like Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, with Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt among others. Add to that, the fact that this film features a villain who, in comic book lore, literally broke Batman, and you have plenty of reason to mark the next Batman film as your must see for 2012.
Then there’s The Avengers.
In the same summer that saw the release of The Dark Knight, Marvel Comics made it’s biggest mark on Hollywood with the debut of Iron Man. The film marked a major comeback for actor Robert Downey Jr. It also surprised audiences and critics alike with it’s focus on character and storytelling. But Iron Man’s real clincher was it’s post-credit coda. A cliffhanger that would kickstart an entire franchise, not just of Iron Man movies, but of Marvel movies.
And while not each film has been a home run, they’ve all largely stuck to the same winning formula; that of placing character and story as priority and quality over anything else. Credit Marvel and it’s parent company Disney with assembling top tier writers and actors to get the job done.
The Avengers will be the culmination of all that work. Literally. Every star from the previous Marvel movies will make a major appearance in this film. An ensemble cast that will include Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner. And the director in charge of the whole shebang? The great Joss Whedon, who’s’ creations include the TV shows “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, “Firefly” and “Dollhouse”. His space western TV series, Firefly, aired only 15 episodes, but had a passionate enough cult following that he was able to turn the story into a fantastic sci-fi movie. He’s a director so versatile that in between his work on Dollhouse and on the “Avengers” movie, he managed to create a fantastic modern day musical on a shoestring budget, starring A-list actors and distribute it over the internet… for free.
And “Avengers” isn’t even Whedon’s first turn at comic book material. Aside from spinning comics out of all his television series, Whedon wrote a two year run on Astonishing X-Men, which included some of the best X-Men story arcs in recent years. He’s also made contributions to the X-Men movies, proving he’s familiar and adept at handling such material. Never have comic book aficionados felt more at ease with a movie adaptation.
So we’re getting in front of the conversation now, that will dominate discussions about next year’s expected blockbusters, for months. Of course we know you’re gonna see both. But it’s time to draw a line in the sand and pick a side to stand on.
If you had enough money for one movie ticket, enough time to see one film at a theater that was only showing these two, which movie would you go see: The Dark Knight Rises or The Avengers? Vote in the poll below, and defend your decision in the comments section.
And here are the teasers:
The Dark Knight Rises