Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Death of the Superhero: A Lamentation

I know I am not going to endear myself to all the movie lovers out there with this one, but. But....MB and I finally saw "Dark Knight" and we were not, to put it mildly, impressed. We mostly thought it was too long and too violent. As MB said, that's 2 and a half hours of our lives we're never going to get back. It was hard not to think that for the price of "Dark Knight" one could make 8 or so independent films that aren't perfect, but still leave you with something. Something!
What did I not like about it? So many things. Too much pointless violence. I know, I know, "cartoon" violence, but the Joker didn't feel cartoony, he felt much too cynical and real, with his knives and crazy makeup.
The film didn't have a coherent narrative arc, it had about 3 sub-narratives, none of which were central and therefore none of which were satisfying.
The fight scenes? I have to agree with the Davids (Edelstein and Denby) that they were so confusing. I couldn't figure out what was going on half the time. And mostly I didn't care. I did like the one stunt with the semi that flipped over.
I know that Heath Ledger will probably get an Oscar, because he should have received one for "Brokeback," but I didn't find his performance that great. It was probably the best thing in the movie, but that's not saying much. I mostly kept thinking about the dark places he had to go to in order to play that kind of role, and how that led to his taking drugs in order to sleep and that led to his death. Pretty sad.
I forgot that I had taken a vow not to see any more violent movies, and now I will enforce that promise. Luckily, MB has taken it too.
Mostly, I'm sad that superhero movies are no longer for kids. All the superhero movies I've seen lately are not really pitched to kids ("Iron Man," "Hancock") in the way "Superman" was when we were kids. I know optimism and a belief in justice aren't really popular these days, but what's wrong with letting kids believe in Superman? That he could reverse time in order to save Lois Lane? It's cheesy, I know. It's beyond cheesy. But I, for one, am sad that we live in such a post-post modern era that the only superheroes we have are not suitable for children. Is it really so hard to make a movie in which the violence consists of a few punches to the jaw instead of a man with half a burned face threatening a child with a gun? I mean really.
Mostly I'm just bummed that the movie seemed so pointless. At the end, I was just glad it was over. And I was really, really tired.
(for the record, MB wants it noted that he also disliked the movie. Greatly.)


Condiment said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Condiment said...

Glad to hear it. I didn't like it either. I found it incoherent and overly long, there was no real character arc, the inclusion of Two-Face muddles the central Joker narrative, and there was no real rising action -- just an breathless onrush of numbing action.

I thought the film needed to slow down and breathe a little bit. Whatever happened to creating mood, suspense, etc...? It was as if Nolan was afraid of boring his audience with character development, or that he were just trying to cram as many scenes into the the 2:30 running time as possible. Maybe if the movie ended with the moment Harvey Dent became Two-Face they could have had a more manageable scope.

I did like the game theory in the opening bank robbery, however.

That said, I thought the LSD Scarecrow villain in Batman Begins was actually scarier than the Joker, and that the chraracters were far more well-rounded and interesting in that earlier movie.

ErinAlice said...

Okay mom said the same things about this film which is why I have never seen, or ever will....sorry about that 2 1/2 hours.

Lisa B. said...

I liked this movie quite a bit more than anyone here, evidently, but I won't argue with you. I will note that one of my sons watched it with another over the break--on dvd--and said it didn't hold up particularly well on a smaller screen. I know not everyone buys that, but I will say that there was a lot of beauty in the film on the big screen, where I saw it twice.

I thought all the performances were quite wonderful, really, with Aaron Eckhart giving a particularly moving one. But that's me. I saw it in the summer when the world didn't feel quite so dark.

Condiment said...

I will give you that, Lisa B. It works better on the big screen. Almost a third of the movie (all of the action sequences) was shot in IMAX's native format (not 35mm blown up to Imax as most IMAX releases are these days). I did not view the film in an IMAX theater but apparently it was incredible.

As one of my film friends said: "Man, that movie LOOKS expensive."

And what was up with Maggie Gyllenhall? A good casting idea gone awry.

theorris said...

The movie suffered the problem that the first one avoided: trying to appease the fankids by including multiple story lines. While I was watching it I started to think that they were just short on Joker material due to Ledger's death. That doesn't make much sense, however, given that you could eliminate all the other story lines and would have a passable movie.

Now as for the violence--it was over the top, but there was a moral to all that, I think. How much better is Batman than the Joker or Two Face?

Nik said...

Yeah. That about sums it up. I was bored and bored and kept thinking--when is something interesting going to happen. It didn't seem like Christian Bale was in it at all. The good thing about these series though--you know there will be another, hopefully better, one though I trust Lisa B.'s points about the big screen--something I thought they banned in 2005 when Z was born.
Word Verif: Epidiv=Epic Dive?

Limon de Campo said...

I agree that this is a movie to be seen on an IMAX screen. Then you dont notice all of the problems with the narrative.