Batman noir

Just got back from an afternoon IMAX showing of The Dark Knight.

I have very, very mixed feelings about the experience as a whole, not to mention about the movie in particular. Warning: here be spoilers.

First, IMAX is awesome, but you’ve got to sit toward the back of the theater or it’s just too big. I mean, huge. Ginormous. I saw The Matrix: Reloaded in IMAX, and I think it’s one of the reasons I enjoyed it on first viewing.

Second, what is it with long-ass sequels? Seriously, first movie performs well and suddenly people think it justifies three frickin’ hours? It’s like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Spider-Man 3; you cram too much shit into them and they just bloat. I saw Pirates 2 at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood and was restless for at least the final third of the movie.

This movie was at least better in that regard, but it was still a solid twenty minutes too damned long, while during the final ten or so I felt completely bludgeoned over the head by the “message” it was trying to send me home with: blahblahblah hero blahblahblah survivor blahblahblah what we need more than what we want blahblah.

The tone was sporadic: at times dark and intense, at times tedious to the point of boring. I mean, come on, Batman wears a giant layer of body armor he modifies, in the first ten minutes of the movie, to be both faster and lighter, and then, when it comes down to it, when he finally fights the two characters who become the major villains of the movie,

he fuckin’ talks at them!

(and that’s not even mentioning that apparently the Batsuit gives Bruce Wayne a tracheotomy every damned time he puts it on. Batman speaks in some weirdo gravelly mumble like he’s both smoked too many cigarettes and is just about to hurl)

And let’s talk about those villains.

About midway through (so: at the seven-hour mark), Aaron Eckhardt’s Harvey Dent gets half-blowed up and becomes Two-Face. Who has a gruesome make-up job (that comes off on his hospital pillow, by the way), as well as a big ole’ eyeball he can’t lube because he no longer has eyelids, but which never actually seems to bother him. Dent may well be the best character in the movie and certainly has more dimensions (which isn’t difficult, considering most of the others seem to have one); Eckhardt plays him at first heroically and then later tragically.

The other villain is the Joker, as played by Heath Ledger in borrowed vaudeville clothes and make-up he stole from James O’Barr; somewhere, Brandon Lee spins in his grave. Except: Lee actually has motivation in the story, and while Alfred has a nice speech that some guys just like to watch the world burn… well, meh. I’ve heard some talk of posthumous Oscars. I ended that sentence because I didn’t want to mention Ledger in the same one. It’s not a bad performance, exactly; in fact, it’s fun, in parts, and creepy in a few, but overall it’s not even nearly as good as Depp’s in the first Pirates movie.

And I mention that role for a specific reason: two vaguely trickster-y characters in two summer blockbusters lauded for the roles. But Depp’s Jack Sparrow is not just more nuanced but even more consistent than Ledger’s Joker. There’s quite ado that the Joker is just chaos and has no rules, which is all well and good, but ultimately, there’s no motivation for him, so ultimately he doesn’t really want anything Batman can stop him from getting, besides chaos, and that’s just boring.

Ultimately, it’s a bit sad, because Batman, more than most superheroes, is defined by his villains. The Joker is his ultimate nemesis, and I give Nolan kudos for not killing him in the end. I think that was one of the major flaws of Burton’s Batman movies; it should be a rule that you’re not allowed to kill the villain in a superhero movie, because the point of villains in comic books is that they always come back. The Spider-Man movies keep killing characters that have been around in the comics for half a century; the Joker’s been around since even before then, I think.

It’s the one thing Superman Returns got right; you don’t kill Lex Luthor. Superman’s allowed to beat him (that’s why he’s the titular character), but you can’t kill him.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I like the tone Nolan went for, for the most part. It’s like superhero noir–Batman noir–which was cool. And suitably dark, in places. And the characters seem to wrestle with their roles even if it’s not exactly clear what they’re really wrestling with. Wayne seems vexed–very, very vexed–over his cowl, but yet keeps right on donning it. He seems to want to give up the cape racket altogether at some points, but yet he builds some weirdo sonar doohickey that makes for some half-assed special effects in the final act we all saw in the eighties and didn’t really work much better then.

Oh, and I don’t care how strong your body armor is: you don’t jump out of a penthouse apartment in Gotham City, catch a girl on the way down, plunge onto a car you dent, and survive with nary a scratch. Last time I saw somebody jump off anything of great height (in the rad In Bruges), Brendan Gleason literally lost his arm.

But no, Batman and the girl manage to quip between them.

There are nice touches here and there. And I mostly enjoyed the experience. It ain’t a bad movie, or anything.

Still, I had more fun at Ironman, and enjoyed it way more as a movie. There was a superhero movie that knew what it was doing.

This one?

Not so much.

5 thoughts on “Batman noir

  1. ALMA

    I saw Batman recently as well, and I was pretty much disgusted throughout the movie. First, what the Hell is wrong with people bringing little children to this flick? This is definitely not something for kids. It was completely too violent, and I’m sure little Billy with the mohawk will be having nightmares of scary eyeball man and his knife. I’m sorry…I wanted to scream at all these people for that reason alone.

    Second, people attending this movie seemed to have very little regard for their fellow patrons. Do superhero movies typically make people act like 5 year olds–because seriously? Some guy kept grabbing my leg every time it got a little scary.

    I was also nauseous the entire time because it was 90+ degrees in the theatre and my head was pounding from all the gunfire and some lady was doused in the most god-awful perfume imagineable.

    So, maybe, that colored my experience. But GODDAMN…

    What happened to the soul of this movie?

    Christian Bale’s last effort was much more nuanced…and believable…and charming. I love the Hell out of Bale, so it’s saying something when I actually despise his entering a scene. He wasn’t even all that pretty to look at.

    What I noticed most of all was how much the exterior of every character trumped all else. Makeup and special effects–okay, fun…maybe. But when your characters really don’t seem to have motivations? I didn’t give a damn about the Joker’s smile after his first “trick.” It didn’t connect to anything else. Had Heath Ledger’s makeup been removed for a second, that might’ve been different. I didn’t like or buy any of these characters. The Maggie-Aaron romance was weak at best. Eckhardt’s turn from noble “best of us” to “ooh-I’m psycho” was way too easy and convenient. And using the kid in the end was cheap and lazy. It was obvious to me that they were all in it for the big box office draw.

    I’ve never been a fan of the Batman franchise–although I used to watch it religiously as a kid. But Batman Begins won me over. Why? Because it was an actual story with characters to hold onto. This is just summer blockbuster garbage.

  2. GREY WALKER

    I gotta agree with you about killing the villians. Just…. no. If you want to kill the villians, write your own story and don’t use our comics!!!

  3. CHARTROOSE

    “…the Batsuit gives Bruce Wayne a tracheotomy every damned time he puts it on. Batman speaks in some weirdo gravelly mumble like he’s both smoked too many cigarettes and is just about to hurl…”

    Har, Will! I noticed that in the trailers. I think Christian Bale needed to work a bit harder on his American accent.

    Also, maybe Heath Ledger (may he RIP) is/was not as talented as Depp. Now I hope he doesn’t receive a posthumous Oscar simply because he died.

    I’m really glad I decided not to go to this one. I’m tired of superhero movies anyway.

  4. Pingback: AMERICAN PSYCHO « BLOODY HELL, IT’S A BOOK BARRAGE!

  5. GOTHAMGIRL

    I’m gonna ask you to do something which you may feel is against your better judgement. I would like to ask that you watch it again. Not nessesarily in IMAX, any theater will do.Now I’m not gonna make you because my army of small gnomes will only go so far to the west. (damn unions) I think perhaps if you saw it again you might see things you missed before or maybe your just pickier then me… then again the new James Bond movies appeal to you so I may have to rule that out. πŸ˜›

    The Joker likes to talk. This was Batman’s first encounter with him and he didn’t know not to listen. Asuming the Joker is only recently the Joker then he’s acting pretty much the way he should. He wanted too show that it dosn’t take much for people to snap. Later he does other shit that goes beyond that but, and as much as I hate to point this out, HE’S INSANE! Two-Face was making a hostage cituation and so short of killing him with a bullet you HAVE to talk to him.

    It has been a hard pill to swallow but I realise now that Hollywood has some kinda Achilles Heel that prevents them from doing “perfect” comic book movies. As much as I would love to go into that, my soap box isn’t for here (like my comments aren’t long enough in your blogs already). Watch it again and maybe you will feel differently or don’t and save your money for a book. πŸ˜› πŸ˜‰ πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€


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