The first — and I believe only — midnight movie premiere I ever attended was in 1989. The movie: “Batman.”
If you think the batmania surrounding the latest Batman movie is something, it’s nothing compared to what it was like in 1989. This was the first Batman movie. The first serious one, anyway. Sure, we all had reservations about Michael Keaton in the title role, but Jack Nicholson as The Joker? Genius.
Furthermore, superhero movies weren’t as commonplace then as they are today. And midnight screenings were unheard of, unless you were “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Especially in Springfield, Mo., a city not known for its night life.
This was special.
I was working the copy desk at the News-Leader at the time. My shift ended at 11:30 p.m. which gave me just enough time to hook up with The Wife and drive to Battlefield Mall. We were able to get good seats despite not camping out hours or days before the show. It was a simpler time. The movie opened two days before our first wedding anniversary. We went back for a matinée two days later.
But that night was the real celebration. There was a real sense of community waiting in line and sitting in the dark listening to that ominous score and watching that odd credits sequence that slowly pulls back to reveal the bat emblem… And then those poor tourists get lost in a bad part of town…And then the muggers show up…And then he does.
Don’t kill me, man!
I’m not going to kill you. I want you to do me a favor. I want you to tell all your friends about me.
What are you?
And just like that, all fears that Tim Burton would blow it were gone. All doubts about Michael Keaton were dismissed. And Jack hadn’t even shown up yet.
Two hours later as the camera swoops up tall buildings into the Gotham night to reveal one last shot of Batman standing in front of the batsignal I came to realize — and I really hate this tired cliché — that life doesn’t get any better than this.
There were many ways that I could’ve ended Batman Week. I was planning on doing a Read More About It segment, like I usually do. Then I thought about doing a Batman vs. Batman vs. Batman vs. Batman vs. Batman post comparing the various actors who’ve played the role (because my recent Spider-Man vs. Spider-Man post generated a lot of hits).
But then some idiot shot up a theater in Colorado.
Now all that foolishness seems, well, foolish. I don’t have anything profound to say about current events. I don’t have any clever analysis. There are plenty of blowhards out there who will take care of that.
Burton’s “Batman” has taken a backseat in recent years to Christopher Nolan’s more grim-and-gritty version of the story. Nolan’s trilogy is the better effort in many respects, but I’ll always have a soft spot for that late night with my young wife and the Dark Knight.