Thursday, August 7, 2008

Batman Blasphemy

I went to see Dark Knight with O last night, and at risk of getting my Nerd card revoked for good, I did not think it was the movie equivalent of the Messiah. Don't get me wrong, it was good. It was well shot, well acted (except for Bale's unintentionally hammy bat-rasp), well cast, well plotted, and fairly well written. It just wasn't *fun*. It was gritty, dark, and disturbing, taking it squarely from the "Fun summer movie" bucket and sticking it in the "Movies that are painful to watch that everyone should see just once so they can talk about it over cocktails." Movies like "A Clockwork Orange", except that A Clockwork Orange was more whimsical, more meaningful, and actually had a little literary merit.
I came out of it thinking two things.
a) That movie could have been an hour shorter. Did we really need THREE long, drawn out prisoner dillemma scenes? Did we really need all the stuff in Hong Kong? Did the Joker really need to do the whole "I'm going to slice your mouth open" dialog TWICE?
b) Christopher Nolan must have been watching him some Takashi Miike movies. Or at least "Saw".
In comic books, at least the ones I've read, and that includes some of the more horrific ones, there's always an element of the fantastical, because no matter how gritty they are, no matter how psychologically deep, the characters are still stylized caricatures on a piece of paper. They are squarely in their own reality.
The two new Batman films try to challenge that, and in doing so, I think they loose their soul. Take away the costumes and makeup, and you can rename the Dark Knight as "Silence of the Lambs 4" or "Saw XVI: Jigsaw Does Chicago". The Tim Burton Batmans were fun: Nicholson's Joker, while horrific, was squarely in the realm of fantasy, and a lot of fun. He couldn't be a serial killer in the real world, and the viewer doesn't want him to be a real serial killer. He's a squarely fictional villain. I could watch that movie as a kid and be pleasantly spooked.
If I'd watched Dark Knight as a child, I'd still be in therapy. WTF kind of ratings board gives this movie a PG-13? It's like Japanese Rape Porn getting published solely on the grounds that it doesn't show penises. It's horrific, but there's no penis, therefore, it's not obscene! Dark knight doesn't show a lot of blood, but for Chrissakes, some clueless schizophrenic (because all insane people gravitate towards the homicidal clown.) gets a bomb surgically implanted in his stomach and collapses on the floor moaning before blowing up and setting a jailhouse on fire.
For those of you who think I don't like serious movies, that's not true. I like getting what I'm expecting. I was expecting a fun summer movie, and didn't get it. What I got was a dark, grim serial killer flick where the good guys have some hot technology. I should have known beforehand, but one's impressions of the genre doesn't really lead readily to the above.
I also like serious movies with insight. If a movie is going to make me watch a guy put a pencil through another guy's head, it had better be either hilarious, or be rolling out the epiphanies about the human nature (or b as an effect of a). Batman pretends to be deep but ends up uttering the same boring platitudes that hollywood gives us in every damn movie. Humans are evil but sometimes their inner goodness will surprise you. Yawn.
The psychological babble uttered by the characters makes no sense outside of the movies, and as much as ledger tries to give his Joker some depth, the character is as flat as a comic book page. What's his background? Uhhhh. None. What's his motivation? He's a psychopath! He likes chaos! Who is he? A psychopath that likes chaos! Does he have any emotions? Glee at chaos. Glee at murder. The movie gives up trying to understand the character, explaining any insight into his past or behaviour with "He wants to watch the world burn."
Anyways, I'm sorry Heath's dead. I remember the days when my sister had a crush on him.
But that's not going to keep me from taking a shovel to this golden poop that everyone around me seems to think came from the very bum of God.

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