Sunday, August 17, 2008

OK, OK, I finally saw it...

The Hub and I celebrated his return to town tonight with a long-delayed trip to the movies (our first in weeks, maybe months) to see The Dark Knight. Kinda wish I hadn't waited so long, because all the glowing reviews from press and friends alike had my expectations way up, and thus it came as a shock when I found it ...

*kinda slow, because it was
*really, really unnecessarily complicated, and thus
*WAY too long.

(Insert obligatory spoiler alert here, although I am keeping this all as vague as I possibly can, mainly because I couldn't follow 70% of it anyway.)

Throughout the film I kept getting seriously lost, thanks to jumps in time (wait a sec--I thought Character X was in Location A, but now he's on the other side of town and it's tomorrow, and now he's back where he was a second ago--I ... think), baffling plot turns (let's all go to Hong Kong for five minutes!), and--more than anything else--highly improbable, uh, coincidences. (Where exactly does Joker get the time and personnel, and money for that matter, to run all over town planting devices on boats, in skyscrapers, INSIDE PEOPLE, FER CHRISSAKES--devices whose single function is based on his flawless grasp of human nature? And let's not EVEN get into that whole hey-look-what-I-can-do-with-every-cellphone-in-Gotham-City business.)

I felt like it was a mix of a James Bond movie (the labyrinthine plot, the globetrotting, the gadgets, the discussion of the gadgets, the revelation of the new gadgets, the requisition forms for the new gadgets), a Die Hard movie (the endless sequences of people being held hostage in buildings or other public spaces that were about to be blown up), a Hannibal Lecter movie (does NO ONE ELSE feel a strong sense of deja vu during the Joker-in-a-cagelike-cell-conveniently-located-in-the-center-of-the-jail sequence?), and one of those police-corruption movies that Sidney Lumet specializes in. I have enjoyed each of these subgenres now and then, other than the police-corruption one, but they have little to do with what appeals to me about the Bat saga. I appreciate the fact that Nolan and company have taken that saga to previously unexplored places in their two films, and I am impressed by the way they've worked in things from the comics that haven't appeared in earlier movies or tv series, but those things only slightly interest me; they certainly don't excite me.

As for the much-ballyhooed Heath Ledger performance, I basically enjoyed it, but I'm not really sure I get what's so amazing about it. It is different from any previous interpretation, but that's not necessarily a plus in my book. I spent the first hour thinking: That voice he's using ... I recognize it from somewhere .... --but it wasn't until he became a more prominent player, oh, about FOUR HOURS IN, that it hit me: Dear lord, he's channelling Al Franken!

At various points I wondered: if this movie were my first exposure to the Batman character, would I have found his story anywhere near as significant as I do? I think I can pretty easily answer: no. I don't see any bat-blogs, bat-roleplay, bat-slash, or bat-anything else coming out of me if this were my sole, or primary, sense of the masked manhunter. It's a smart action film that hints at deeper moral issues in a post-9/11 world (though I'm not sure I get the point), and that's all nice, but no more so than, say, a Bourne movie. It's also, I'm tempted to say, the least erotic rendering of the Bat I've ever seen, and that's including SuperFriends and the current WB incarnation of Bruce Wayne as a 30something GQ subscriber.

On the bright side, I think it's a real testament to Bob Kane's creation that the character can assume so many radically different forms over so many years and still basically read as "the Batman." This version doesn't seem to fuck up anything too seriously. It's as much a product of--and representation of--the early 21st century as Kane's early comics were of the late 1930s, or the Adam West series was of the 1960s, or Denny O'Neill's comics were of the 1970s, or Burton's movies were of the late 1980s, and so on. There were plenty of little moments here and there that I enjoyed, and I'm very intrigued by the setup for the third film, which may well be the most radical rethinking of all.

Your thoughts, anyone?

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