July 19th, 2008

Batman Displeased

An Affection for and an Appeal to the Soul

Sometimes I'm kind of amazed by how many problems most of my friends have. Almost all of those problems are medical, compounded by an inability to purchase pills or treatments. I thought to-day about what a real, tangible effect free universal healthcare would have in my social circles. It'd be like a new world. I guess the trade-off would be one or two of my luckier friends complaining about a tax increase.

I think this is probably the real reason I've been trying to eat so much healthier lately; plain oatmeal for breakfast, cous cous or tofu for the other meals, sometimes quinoa, apples for snacks, and I've been getting Subway sandwiches when I'm out; I only get veggies and mayonnaise on white bread, and I'm considering cutting out the mayonnaise.

My sister and I did get to see The Dark Knight yesterday. It's the best comic book movie I've ever seen, and I'm including Ghost World in that equation. It owes a massive debt to Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke", but it has more than enough of its own material to stand on its own feet.

Would someone please stitch Christopher Nolan to his brother? Don't you ever let David Goyer write your screenplays again, sir. There are a lot of reasons The Dark Knight works better than its predecessor, Batman Begins, but the biggest reason is that The Dark Knight was written by Jonathon Nolan and Batman Begins was written by David Goyer. What Goyer, like so many writers of Batman stories, treated as an inherent weakness in the Batman concept, the brothers Nolan very shrewdly treated as a strength. Namely, Batman's refusal to kill people.

More than a few people pointed to the fuzzy logic in Batman's "But I don't have to save you" line in the climactic fight with Liam Neeson in the first movie. The Dark Knight is a movie about why it's important to keep decisions of life or death out of the hands of an emotionally motivated few. It even takes time to say a bit about domestic spying. A lot of people have been saying this is a 9/11 movie, and it definitely is. It's perhaps the best movie possible about how to react to terrorism; it's a great story in a wildly popular movie that demonstrates why principles oughtn't to be compromised. The public's been led off moral ledges by this president's administration for so long by fear, it's about time something appealed to humanity's more graceful sentiments. Gods, it gives me hope like no movie ever has.

Heath Ledger's performance is as excellent as everyone says it is, but on the acting front, I was mainly pleased that such a solid supporting cast was connected to a truly great movie; Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Maggie Gyllenhaal. Usually when this many good actors are brought together, it's something completely insubstantial.

Decidedly less impressive was the trailer for the Watchmen movie. As it ended, I leaned over to my sister and said, "I can already see myself trying to convince people it's actually a great comic." My sister nodded--she doesn't read comics, but she's an intelligent girl and she thought the trailer looked pretty lame. So that might be an indicator of how this thing works on people who aren't excited by seeing the nostalgic images in motion. And there's no beefy homophobic white guys beating up on bisexual minorities to bring in the 300 crowd. Yes, I think this movie's going to be a complete disaster*, which I think I almost prefer over something like V for Vendetta, which had its positive qualities. It almost seems like Alan Moore's the victim of a conspiracy. The Dark Knight, actually, with its notes from "The Killing Joke", is probably the best Alan Moore adaptation ever.

*I can't believe I haven't taken a moment to point out that I was right about The Incredible Hulk not doing better than Hulk. So; I was right about The Incredible Hulk not doing better than Hulk!
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