how to study a word / the dark knight


An open letter to everyone who told me The Dark Knight was good:

I swore off superhero movies after Batman Begins. It was about the 4th superhero movie I had seen in succession that was preposterously stupid. I can suspend disbelief and enjoy a well-constructed fantasy as well as the next guy. I happen to think that time travel is absolutely impossible, yet I enjoyed Back To The Future and Peggy Sue Got Married and Time Bandits, because they had a believable interior logic. Modern superhero movies throw logic out the window. They fire it out of the window with a cannon, then they nail boards over the window to keep it at bay.

About the Dark Knight: The World's Greatest Cook rented it, and I watched it to see if Heath Ledger's performance was as brilliant as I have heard. Here's a big surprise - IT WAS! I am here to say that I happily agree. Heath Ledger did an awesome acting job! He was great!

The rest of the movie stunk. I don't have time to detail every silly thing (I have to dig out of the snow in time to be late for work) but here are just two things that stunk.

1. Batman's voice whenever he had the mask on. (Yes, I will admit that Nicholas Cage's voice was equally ridiculous in Peggy Sue.)

2. The love interest girl (whatever her name was) saying "Right now Bruce Wayne's apartment is the safest place in Gotham!" Riiiiiight... that apartment that the Joker and his goons strolled into the night before. That apartment where Joker caused Batman and Love Interest to fly off a balcony and crash into a taxi cab, leaving all of "Mr Wayne's" guests at the mercy of The Joker and his goons. How did all of that end? What happened next? Did the Joker just walk out and take a cab home? Who knows???

Argh. If not for Mr. Ledger's great performance, I'd say "Another 2 hours of my life down the toilet", but at least I could savor that. So thanks to all who said I should give The Dark Knight a chance. I am glad I saw Ledger do his thing.


Jed said...

I have to say I pretty much agree with you. Ledger was amazing, and really worth the mediocre film that came with the performance. That character was not written as interesting as Ledger performed him. This guy was 28! 28! What would he have been like in 10 years if he kept being as good as this? Alas.

Also the new batman bronchitis voice established by Michael Keaton and perfected by Christian Bale, just sounds goofy. It totally takes me out of it. I can't see anyone being genuinely intimidated by someone who talked like that. Why doesn't someone offer him a cough drop?

I DID like the whole old school James Bond style abduction of the Hong Kong exec in the beginning. That was fun.

Anyway, the problem here isn't lack of realism, it's this strange contradictory realism/fakism hybrid aesthetic that all new superhero movies seem to have. It's superheroes for christ's sake. Superheroes have more in common with the Oz books in their conception than they do with your typical modern action movie.

I liked Sin City's approach. Nothing in that movie was or was supposed to be realistic. The whole world was a fantasy world, and content to be fake. Whether you like the movie or not--and I'm not even much of a fan of the comics--they got the look and feel right.

What I want is a Fantastic Four movie with a giant purple Galactus with a big G on his chest. I want superheroes who wear bright colors, and dialogue that is not in any way attempting to be naturalistic.

Hey, aside from the actual movie itself, the art direction for Warren Beattys Dick Tracy was perfect! More of that.

Oddly enough, my wife, who has no particular attraction to or interest in superheroes aside from some fond memories of saturday morning cartoons, LOVES these movies. I have to admit that Iron Man was pretty entertaining. I mean, some of these aren't BAD movies. They just get superheroes totally wrong.

One last note: my wife and most girls who remember it seem to love this saturday morning live action show from the 70s called Isis. It was a no budget Filmation series with a female superhero in a mini skirt who still managed to have more dignity than Wonderwoman. It was of course, completely horrible, even sub par of your average Sid and Marty Kroft production, but the heroine was very different than anything you typically saw then or before. She was an archeology professor, her civilian sidekick was a guy who she often rescued, (and he wasn't even a romantic interest!), and she just generally kicked ass. This is why the kid's love Xena. I don't know why they don't run with this formula more often.

I've recently been trying to find books with adventurous female protagonists for my friend's 7 year old girl, and the best I've been able to come up with is Pipi Longstocking. You wouldn't think that such a thing was that rare, but apparently nobody's writing anything like this. Anyone have any insight on some independent minded girl stories? (And don't say Beverly Cleary). Seriously. Any suggestions at all are welcome.

HemlockMan said...

The Dark Knight movie wasn't all that good. What made it fun was Heath Ledger's performance. I've never enjoyed a crazy villain so much.

Yeah, I don't mind comic book logic. The only thing that I ask is that there be some continuity within that twisted logic.

Recently, my son got me to watch a movie he'd seen and liked: TWENTY EIGHT WEEKS LATER. It was okay, but I had problems with some of the logic--which I won't get into--but too much of the second half of the movie concerned itself with amazing coincidence. No thanks.

Jed said...

I too am a fan of continuity, and 28 Days Later was a continuity mess, and just why didn't the people infected with this "rage" virus attack and eat eachother? Just for starters...

But the movie had it's good points. An unusual amount of naturalism for a horror movie. Good performances all around. Plausible dialogue. Though of course the ending is a disaster.

The sequel is much more internally consistent, also with great performances by all, and the ending, though tedious, is at least plausible. In fact the whole final third of the movie is pretty unbearable to watch. But, you know, in some ways an improvement.

My point about the superhero movies and modern superhero comics, though, is that adding this big dose of "realism" to the mix is just asking for continuity and plausibility inconsistencies.

You can ACCEPT in the Oz books that somehow there's a magical urban place in the world so geographically isolated that no one comes across it. You can accept witches that melt.

If I'm reading 1960 era Fantastic Four, I accept that cosmic rays give people super powers. It all kind of works. There ARE continuity issues occasionally, but as long as things are reasonably internally consistent you can suspend your disbelief because that's the nature of the thing.

Trying to justify all this superhero stuff as a rightful and plausible part of the real world is just bonkers. As a novelty--Watchmen for instance--ok. It was a fun experiment. But now it's the default.

One of the reasons for this is that the readership of these comics and the fan base for these movies are older. They grew up on the stuff, but they're grown-ups now, grown-ups who have less of an ability to handle abstractions than kids and intellectually mature adults do. They don't want to let go of the fantasy, but they can't accept the fantasy on its own and they need grown-up reasons for things that match their grown-up understanding of the world.

Mark Martin said...

It's really not that complicated. Even in OZ, or Pee Wee's Big Adventure, or Insert Favorite Fantasy Movie Here, it's just going to be ludicrous to say "Right now Penthouse X is the safest place in City X" if that penthouse just got invaded by the bad guys, right under the hero's nose. Unless it's an obviously idiotic comment made by an idiot.

There are tons of other stupid things in Dark Knight. I'm just harping on the "safest place" comment because it is the example I gave.

Jed said...

No no, I'm not saying that a big dumb continuity error has it's place in any well-plotted story, fantastical or not, just that a guy in a bat suit who drive around the city in a tank fighting crime is not realistic and I'd prefer it not be treated as such. Sensible and logical plotting, at least logic consistent with the invented logic of the story is more often than not, a good thing. The Wayne's apartment thing is a total screw-up.

HemlockMan said...

I think the "safest place" remark could be explained away. Since the Joker had already hit the place once, it would now be swarming with security. Thus, much safer than most other locations.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mark! This is Kathy, Chuck's sister. I don't blog much but I saw your comments on the Dark Knight. I didn't like the movie either, but I loved Peggy Sue Got Married (maybe that's because Kathy got married) and Back to the Future. I could follow the logic. Anyway, it's great to see that you are doing well as a cartoonist. I still remember the days of you drawing on the bulletins at Cedar Grove BC! Robin said she once had a crush on your brother Pat (how is he?). She and her fiance are visiting tonight (the day after Christmas). They are headed back to Mobile where they live...Jeff, our children and grandchildren are on MySpace. Take care!

Mark Martin said...

Hi Kathy. Grandchildren! Oh my! From Cedar Grove church bulletins to post-middle age. Say hi to Jeff if you see this. Facebook and other social networking blogs frustrate and confuse me. I'm glad to hear you hated The Dark Knight! HOORAY FOR COMMON SENSE! (Pat is fine!)