Why are people like Rush Limbaugh losing it over the Dark Knight Rises before it opens?
Film reviewers getting death threats. Rush Limbaugh alleging a liberal conspiracy. And fans worried their most hallowed movie series might end with a near-three-hour dud.
This is the hysteria bubbling up through pop culture days before the Friday release of the final Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises -- a sprawling conclusion to what is so far the best superhero movie series ever created, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight franchise.
I popped up on CNN for a few minutes this morning to talk through the madness, which included the editors at the Rotten Tomatoes site suspending comments on movie reviews of the film after some users threatened the harsher critics.
"The job of policing the comments became more than my staff could handle for that film, so we stopped the comments altogether," the site's editor-in-chief, Matt Atchity, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It just got to be too much hate based on reactions to reviews of movies that people hadn't even seen."
I told CNN that comic book fanboys like me have a lot riding on this movie, passion-wise. Besides being a hugely profitable film franchise, Nolan's movies are also the highest-quality superhero films in history -- the ones most likely to prove that pictures starring a guy beating up criminals in a cape and mask can actually win the film world's highest acclaim.
More than anything, fanboys want the Dark Knight Rises to kick ass -- a sentiment only heightened by the success of Joss Whedon's The Avengers movie earlier this year. So any implications that it isn't well done will be met with serious fanboy ire.
I think superhero movies are among the most subjective big-budget films, anyway. One of the most lambasted negative reviewers of The Dark Knight Rises, Hollywood and Fine's Marshall Fine, doesn't seem to know or care much about superhero/comic book culture, which I think makes it harder to like these films. I mean, would you send someone who doesn't particularly care for westerns to review Unforgiven?
Perhaps the oddest Dark Knight backlash so far has come from conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh, who suggested to his listeners that the villain in the movie was named Bane as a way to demonize the venture capital firm GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney led and owned, Bain Capital.
"The release date's been known, summer 2012, for a long time," he told listeners Tuesday. "Do you think that it is accidental that the name of the really vicious fire breathing four eyed whatever it is villain in this movie is named Bane?"
Tom Hardy, the charismatic British actor, was rumored to be playing Bane back in October 2010; the announcement of his casting was made in January 2011. Which means Nolan and his team were likely planning to make Bane -- a character created in 1993! -- their lead villain even longer ago. Most people outside politics and business had little idea who Romney was back then, let alone foreseeing that Bain Capital would be a controversial talking point when the movie hit theaters.
Liberal MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow called BS on Limbaugh's assertion today that he was merely pointing out how Obama's advocates would use the coincidence of Bane's name, noting "I think you're just lying about what you said in order to avoid the embarrassment of having been so wrong."
Even Limbaugh himself admitted at the end of his diatribe Tuesday that the hero of the Batman movies is a wealthy owner of a successful corporation, billionaire heir Bruce Wayne. So if there's any subtle message to the Dark Knight movies, wouldn't it be that even rich people who seem like empty pleasure seekers can be secret, heroic guardians of their community?
Okay. Now maybe I'm thinking too much about a movie I haven't seen.
Although, to be honest, that's the most fun part of being a fanboy.