The dark stink rises
The web-shooter outrage offered a model for one growing strain of hyper-fan mania: an obsession with faithfulness to the source material. The comments section of the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) swells with accusations of creative apostasy. The assumption is that any deviation from beloved source material is, in itself, something to be denounced and demonised. The suggestion that any alteration may actually improve the smooth running of the plot is greeted with utter bafflement. One seems to hear Annie Wilkes, the antagonist of Misery, furiously remembering an infelicity from an ancient movie serial. “He didn’t get out of the cockadoodie car!” she bellowed. Come to think of it, the entire internet seems, at times, to be populated by keyboardhammering versions of Ms Wilkes.
The release of Watchmen in 2009 triggered a particularly virulent attack from the Faithfulness Police. When critics suggested that Zack Snyder’s boring film suffered from sticking too closely to Alan Moore’s mighty comic book, one felt a million brains spinning into a state of advanced geek-shock. “How is that even possible?” one genuinely confused punter asked on IMDb. Watch the movie and learn, young fellow.
The Harry Potter films slip into narrative chaos as – apparently fearful of the online mob – they desperately strive to include every possible incident from JK Rowling’s often-enormous books. Yet the hyper-fans still bemoan the goblins and elves that have not quite made the final cut. Who would now dare meddle with a bestselling book the way the writers of Jaws mucked around with Peter Benchley’s pulp sensation? “Hooper dies in the cockadoodie end!” a time-traveller from 1975 writes. The folk with the burning torches have Hollywood’s new Frankensteins on the run.
Now to this week’s subject of discussion. The hyper-fans reached the height of their power with the release of The Dark Knight in 2008. Like 1970s rock’n’roll fans eager for their prog idols’ first collaboration with the London Symphony Orchestra, many comic- book enthusiasts (of which I am one) have long yearned for artistic respectability. Nolan’s second Batman film seemed to deliver that holy grail. A serious director offered up a beautifully made, obsessively gloomy entertainment that won rave reviews from the majority of critics. But that wasn’t enough. The Dark Knight had to be a masterpiece. Indeed, the militant wing would only be happy if it were recognised as the greatest film of all time.
Shortly after The Dark Knight was unveiled, it surged to number one on IMDb’s list of the best films of all time. Fair enough. The hyper-fans, all of whom breathe online air, are entitled to give the picture 10/10. But here’s the thing. It soon became clear that the same enthusiasts were simultaneously awarding The Godfather 1/10 to drag the gangster picture’s average beneath that of the Batman flick. An online campaign was afoot to make the dream a reality.