What I do want to touch briefly upon though is one’s capacity for awe and excitement as we age. There is a scene halfway through Knocked Up when Seth Rogen’s character is at the park with Pete (the fantasy-baseball-draft-sneaker husband) and Pete’s daughter. Pete is bemoaning the doldrums of aging, how life grows mundane and lacks joy. He tells Rogen, “I wish I liked anything as much as I like bubbles,” a defeated man who has watched all the promise and joy evaporate from his life. Bills, suits and responsibility ravage any enjoyment he may have. He lives in the real world equivalent of post-Mufasa Pride Rock. Promise and hope, joy and genuine excitement are such rare things. And I refuse to turn into Pete. The months of anticipation for The Dark Knight served as a nice reminder to me of what fun truly enjoying something can be – that even though the days of superhero lunch boxes and Trapper Keepers have long since been, we can still be childishly awed and impishly impatient. I found it relieving that I could be so excited by something so utterly inconsequential. As I made thank you notes out of pages from a Dark Knight coloring book for each of my friends who joined me for the movie or as I thought through the logistics of taking a three foot wide Batman balloon on the El to dinner and then to Navy Pier, it occurred to me how few of these moments there still are.
While the growing freedom we earn as we grow is appreciated, it takes some of the special/mysterious quality away from the outside world. We can go get a Happy Meal any time we want. R-rated movies aren’t all that special. Neither are most bars. The internet is flooded with top-heavy shirtless clownettes. Our capacity for amazement has been shrunk to a narrow, fleeting band and our desire for “amazement” is not always driven by the best of impulses. But having a few things that unmistakably remind us of our youth can be powerful in a way that escapes nostalgia and captures our dormant imagination. It is that much more special when the occurrences are beyond our purchase. That is, we can’t pay for a new Batman film anytime we want. We can’t demand with our Benjamin’s a new U2 album or book by Klosterman. It is almost entirely out of our control. And perhaps that is what is most subtly childlike about the experience.
Regardless of the reason, I was simply thrilled that I could enjoy both the anticipation of the film and the actual 152 minutes of footage on a 6 story high screen like I was – at least temporarily – a six-year old and know that the ability to be awed does not totally disappear as we leave a once seemingly endless Neverland.