Do you have your ticket for The Dark Knight Rises on Friday? If so, how many lunches did you skip to pay for it? The final installment in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is expected to shatter 2012 box office records when it opens this weekend, and when you look at the venues, it's no wonder. At my local IMAX theater you'll pay $2 in service fees on top of an $18 ticket for the 12:01 opening-day showing. $20 for a single movie! That's a full afternoon at the second-run theater, half a day's worth of cheap On Demand films, or three weeks of Redbox rentals. It's overpriced, it's obscene, and worst of all, it's sold out.
But, you know what? Big deal. One of the great things about this world of ours is that there's a lot of Batman in it -- enough to keep you occupied until the buzz movie of summer 2012 becomes a bargain bin DVD in fall 2014. Whether you're waiting for Netflix, staving off the impulse to shell out for a repeat viewing, or just looking for more ways to feed a bad case of bat-fever, you'll find something to like among these sub-$20 alternatives to TDKR.
If you're looking to explore something even nerdier than attending a midnight screening of a superhero movie, you can't go wrong with reading the actual comics they're based on. Discover the origins of Tom Hardy's Bane in Batman: Knightfall, Vol. 1, check out the seriously awesome solo adventures of Catwoman in Catwoman, Vol. 1: Trail of the Catwoman, and for a look at one of the most influential Batman stories of all time, pick up Batman: Year One, a 1987 retelling of the character's origins which features beautiful art by critically-acclaimed cartoonist David Mazzucchelli and a story by Sin City creator Frank Miller that's so good it almost absolves him for directing The Spirit.
So many elements of Christopher Nolan's Batman films are drawn directly from Year One that by the time you finally see The Dark Knight Rises, you might just find yourself nudging your date midway through to tell them you know how it's going to end. I can tell you from my youthful experience with spoiling the Spider-Man cartoon for my sixth-grade classmates that this will definitely make you well-liked and popular among your friends and peers. You may even find yourself left out of social gatherings and uninvited from birthday parties because people are intimidated by how cool you are!
If you've ever seen an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, you know that it's a fantastic show and a strong candidate for the best Batman adaptation ever created. If not, don't be put off by the fact that it's a kids' cartoon -- this is a beautifully-crafted series that handles its subject with the intelligence and maturity we've come to expect from stories about a grown man who dresses up as a giant bat to beat up criminals.
The smart writing and lush Art Deco-inspired visuals of the cartoon are a worthy match for any hyper-dramatic monologue or jaw-dropping shot from Nolan's Batman movies, and you can pick up a three-disc collection of fourteen classic episodes for $13.49 at Newegg.
3. Any Other Batman Movie
If you're determined to see that Batman movie this weekend, your options are admittedly limited, but if you'll settle for a Batman movie, a wealth of possibilities are open to you. Feeling nostalgic? Sounds like it's time to revisit Tim Burton's Batman films. Want to hype yourself up for The Dark Knight Rises? Throw a DIY Bat-marathon with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Did you nod your head like you were listening to the opening moments of "What's Going On" while reading that Batman: The Animated Series blurb? Mask of the Phantasm is as good as you remember it. Do you judge a movie's quality based primarily on whether or not it features a former United States governor making mass quantities of ice-related puns? Welcome home.
4. Any Other Christopher Nolan Movie
Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan's habit of regularly working with the same gang of actors is a real gift to thrifty film fans. With a mute button and a little imagination, a $0.99 rental of Inception becomes an advance screening of The Dark Knight Rises, while a 1 AM showing of The Prestige on Starz is revealed as the epic Batman/Wolverine/Scarlet Witch/Gollum/Jareth the Goblin King/Vicky from Vicky Cristina Barcelona crossover spectacular of every Comic-Con attendee's dreams.
Feel free to experiment further, but don't come crying to me when the actual dramatic climax of TDKR fails to compare to the harrowing Batman-Catwoman screaming match you cooked up with dueling Youtubes of Christian Bale's meltdown on the set of Terminator Salvation and Anne Hathaway's Oscar clip from Rachel Getting Married.
5. Prince's 1989 Hit Single 'Batdance'
It would be churlish to definitively state that Nolan, Bale, and co. won't be able to fill the nearly three-hour running time of The Dark Knight Rises with half the dramatic thrills crammed into Prince's seven-minute lead single from the soundtrack to 1989's Batman. But it's only realistic to figure that they'll have a hard time pulling it off. The single is available for a very reasonable $0.99 on iTunes, but really, you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't watch the video:
Now if anyone asks you why you haven't seen TDKR, you can honestly answer that you've already seen the face-off between Batman and The Joker and it's going to be tough for anything else to compare. When they say "yeah, it's too bad about Heath Ledger," make sure to respond with a derisive snort that is as loud as you can physically muster.
If you're determined to hit the theater on Friday, though, you might as well go all out. Assemble a Dark Knight costume of your own at Super Hero Stuff, which offers a truly ridiculous variety of Batman merchandise including t-shirts, belt buckles, bobble-heads, lunch tins, and more -- all of which is discounted by 12% and shipped with a free pin if you order with code 12SAVEPIN by 7/18. Some may look at showing up to a midnight screening of The Dark Knight in a Bat-hoodie as a faux pas on par with wearing a band's t-shirt to their concert, but to me it's like wearing a couture designer's clothing to their runway show. And make sure to buy your ticket from Fandango - not only are all tickets BOGO on Fridays when you shop with your Visa Signature card, all July purchases come with an Amazon MP3 credit for $2, or 2.02 Batdances.
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