[Before proceeding, I would apparently be remiss to not mention that, since I’m touching on subject matter pertaining to a certain film which was released in theaters this weekend, what happened in Colorado was horrifying and despicable. As if the Denver area hasn’t suffered enough over the past fifteen years, or even the past few months, for that matter. Prayers go out for the families affected and for appropriate justice for the perpetrator. –b.]
The ads pimped it for months now, the posters, the web ads, everywhere, you couldn’t ignore it. Epilogomena at the box office. You undoubtedly saw it if you watch television, surf the interwebs or otherwise are in any way media savvy. They preyed upon your curiosity, and it will garner them millions of dollars in box office revenues and untold millions more in royalties, licensing and, finally, home video sales.
THE LEGEND ENDS.
I have not yet seen The Dark Knight Rises, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first two installments of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. Epilogomena could have, in fact, been telegraphed by the first film, indeed, the climactic third film plays off the inaugural title: why else Batman Begins? And I, like many others, look forward to seeing how the trilogy concludes, that is, when I have some liquid assets that can be burned at the box office and not in my gas tank. Still, the fact remains that the entire ad campaign predicates itself on the fact that our culture can be stoked and swayed on our anxieties over how a particular noun is going to end.
And we apparently will pay roughly ten bucks to find out. Endings make for big business.
A similar phenomenon happened earlier this blockbuster season with Joss Whedon’s The Avengers (forced in England to be rechristened as Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, to the confusion of most of us in America, but to my lasting appreciation for those like myself who don’t view pop culture as necessarily disposable) was released and crushed sales records, as it is in itself a form of epilogomena in that it took five major tentpole films–and post-credit Easter eggs, now de rigueur for Marvel, for the patient–to form a supergroup of a movie. (I haven’t seen that yet, either.)
[Those Easter eggs are an exercise in e, too, now that I think about it.]
So, epilogomena is big business, as The Truman Show tacitly informed us. We will pre-order tickets for it, abandon our lives and apparently truck our small children to a midnight showing to satisfy our morbid fetish with what happens to Batman. This morning, scores of adherents went to church and were told that the end of the world was imminent, or were, under bowed head and closed eye, asked to raise their hand if they didn’t know where they would go if they died tonight. Batman becomes a salvific figure–one reviewer of the film mentioned a potentially-deliberate allusion of the protagonist to the Messiah–in the same way that many view the Christ event as substitutionary atonement. The only difference is the color of the cape.
And all of this is entirely consistent with American culture throughout history; an unnamed Unitarian minister, via cultural critic Neal Gabler: “We have seen it out here in the West, where beside our rivers and lakes our towns expand; the first petal it puts forth is the Church—the second is the theatre.”
To the question of whether all of this elevates the movie or debases the religious gathering, I answer, yes. Ultimate concern, friends. Ultimate concern. Why else the outrage over what happened on opening night? How is it any different from a madman shooting up a church on a Sunday morning, or an Islamic fundamentalist sect bombing an opposition mosque in the Middle East? To violate the sanctity of sacred space is unacceptable (just ask the Clan MacLeod.) All acts which are fundamentally un-human and morally deficient, but nonetheless telling. Nolan’s statement, though overall an appropriate extension of condolences, included the following: “The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.“
And the faithful will undoubtedly be back next weekend, and perhaps throughout the week. Anytime the doors are open, it used to be said of the faithful religious. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if it’s a disposable rom-com, an epic conclusion to a well-executed trilogy of films or a film to which everyone already knows the ending (and has already seen it, no less!) If it has an ending, we want to know what it is. And we will order our lives in a way which allows for us to make it happen.
Epilogomena has risen, epilogomena has risen, indeed.