Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cranky At the Movies

This afternoon I saw THE DARK KNIGHT, which got very good reviews. I didn't like it.

The performances were fine, especially Heath Ledger's as The Joker. This performance is not getting attention only because Ledger died so young; he's compelling on screen. And Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhardt are also good. The film deals with some substantive questions: Is it possible to be decent in an indecent world, is it possible to fight corruption without becoming corrupt. But the script, for me, ruined the movie. The script and the editing.

I know this is a comic-book-hero movie and thus one can expect melodrama, frenetic pace, and implausible situations. We are not dealing with Tolstoy here. But this movie isn't faithful to its own characters and situations. How does The Joker deposit all those explosives in the hospital without being seen? We never know. How does he overpower the burly policeman, twice his size, who is guarding him and is prepared to kick the shit out of him? We don't see it. Why does losing his fiancee and being disfigured turn an alleged hero not only bitter (understandable) but into a man capable of killing a child and taunting the father about it? In less than 24 hours? These are only a few examples out of dozens.

Also, the movie is edited so that scenes flash by us at a dizzying pace, allowing time to neither convince us of a situation or to get a feel for the people involved in it. Especially in the first half, most scenes that are not car chases or explosions last a minute or less (I timed them). This is supposedly the kind of quick cuts the MTV generation likes, but I had a member of the MTV generation with me (she's 16) and she didn't like it either. "That was a really stupid movie," she said in deep disgust as we left the theater. It isn't actually stupid, but it's over-plotted, over-edited, and way too focused on things blowing up.

I was disappointed.

What did all those positive reviews see that I didn't?


The Pondering Tree's Alpha Site said...

If I had to guess, the positive reviews were focused on the tragedy of Ledger's method acting sacrifice in his role as The Joker.

You make legitimate points about the film. My mine grouse was that it was thirty minutes too long and I really didn't understand the nature of the fight in the skyscrapers where the hostages in clown outfits were nearly neutralized by SWAT. Especially the whole Morgan Freeman contribution with a wall of X-Ray screens and the visor that Batman was wearing. The scene was far too confusing, frenetic and schizoid for me to follow.

I liked the film, having said all of that, but it could have been better.

Agreed per Harvey Dent's transformation. That almost should have been put into a third movie with its own treatment.

S. F. Murphy

Mike Flynn said...

An unfavorable review:
Any time the movies try to represent evil, it must be as a grotesque caricature, deliberately exaggerated in order to make what would otherwise be something scary into something funny. Or something both scary and funny. In other words, evil has become post-modernized.

A favorable review:
The title of the Nolan’s latest Batman film calls to mind medieval chivalry in a postmodern key. The dark knight embraces extraordinary tasks and fights against enormous odds; his quest is to restore what has been corrupted and to recover what has been lost. In so doing, he takes upon himself a suffering and loneliness that isolate him from his fellow citizens and inevitably court their misunderstanding and scorn.

Luke said...

I like comic book films, which always require more suspension of disbelief than more realistic films. I mean, a multimillionaire dressing up in a super bat suit and going out to beat up bad guys every night, somehow managing to take them all on and survive? You HAVE to suspend your disbelief quite a bit.

I thought the movie was incredibly awesome. Most older people that saw it didn't like it as much. One guy said he "didn't get it" and much preferred the original Nicholson Joker. Some elderly people next to me kept deriding the film as "weird." Maybe you have to be able to take extremely dark and gritty realism with the comic book form.

You are right about the Harvey Dent transformation being much too fast and easy. We needed to spend more time with his character in order to come to grips with such a complete 180. Some seeds were laid but they were extremely insufficient.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

I think maybe guys can identify with comic book heroes and villians more than gals can. Little fellas admire badasses. And we don't change too much.

Mike Flynn said...

I read somewhere that every generation gets the Batman of its dreams. This the cool and hyper-scientific Batman of the 1950s comics; the campy "Caped Crusader" of the 1960/70s TV show. Now the dark and motiveless evil of the naughty oughts.

Daniel said...

Is it just me, or were they taking the "it's like x but darker" approach that seems to be a cop-out for better material? I don't know... maybe it's just me. I can't wait until Marvel and DC run out of interesting stock, and start down either the "part zero, before x was x" path or the "like the last one but darker" path. When Marvel hit the nerve with Spiderman, I think they decided to run with it and see how many old school characters they could put on the big screen. Personally, I liked watching the first Spiderman movie, but I liked the comics better. You could go at your own pace, and study a panel if you wanted. Maybe I'm just getting old.

The first Batman was great. It seemed original. But that was it for me.

Nancy, on a slightly-related topic, what did you think of Ironman? I felt like it was more light-hearted and entertaining. Not too sweet, not to salty. No real moral or anything (I know, they tried to put one in, but I ignored it), just entertaining.

Nancy Kress said...

I didn't see IRONMAN, but people I know liked it quite a lot.