July 20th, 2008

Strange Shame

Electric Blue Collars

Reading Devin Faraci's review of The Dark Knight on CHUD, I got to marvelling again at what a complete hack Faraci is. The review asks questions of the film's logic and plot that are so clearly answered within the movie itself that I would wonder if Faraci had even watched the whole movie if I didn't know it was entirely due to Faraci's own ego and misdirected pain.

Let me give you a few examples of Faraci's powers of observation;

As the film begins, not long after the ending of the first one, a group of concerned citizens have taken up the mantle of the Bat (and the pads of the Goalie) and begun fighting crime as faux-Batmen. There are a lot of intriguing thematic elements to this concept - Batman's main (mostly unbelievable) arc is about him coming to grips with the impact he's had on Gotham, and these guys (along with The Joker and the reactions of the city's crime bosses) personify that. But they appear at the beginning of the movie and never again; during the third act Gotham is being evacuated and I kept expecting to see these Batmen show up in some form, a bit of closure or at least follow-through on their story.

Er, we do see at least one of them again, rather memorably as a mechanism in one of the Joker's plots that also makes it obvious why we wouldn't see them again afterwards.

There's the same problem with the film's foray to Hong Kong. It presents Nolan the opportunity to do a cool action scene, but that's it, and that scene ends up costing ten to fifteen extra minutes of screentime just to set up.

A lot of people have been claiming this as a useless scene, and I couldn't disagree more. Here's what the Hong Kong segment does; it helps establish the scope of Batman's power, both with physicality and technology, as well as his usefulness as an entity outside of government law enforcement. That last part establishes one of the biggest themes of the movie, ties Batman to the Joker, and also, tangentially, helps establish the Joker's cred with the mob.

Another subplot, about a Wayne Industries employee who figures out his boss is the Batman, similarly dead ends itself with a cute resolution that would have been better served fleshed out into a real story in another movie.

Here, Faraci apparently missed the entire purpose behind one of the film's big action sequences as well as one of the ways it's established that the Joker uses fear to control people.

He asks a spoiler-related question of his readers that I'll answer without a spoiler; because Gordon can't be bought, you dolt.

And what's worse, the very nature of Two Face is once again misused; in Schumacher's take on the character he was just a lunatic all the time, and here he's just using his scarred coin to decide whether or not to kill people. There's no feeling that he's torn about it, and at one point when the coin doesn't allow him to kill someone, he flips again to get a chance to kill another character in an attempt to kill that first person after all. I wanted to see this Two Face be torn, to be a slave to that coin. Instead he feels like a villain with a gimmick.

The point was that Dent is free of the weight of ethical considerations. He's been hurt so bad that he can't see the world in terms of logic anymore; only in terms of chaos.

The movie needs to give Batman some kind of arc (a nicety the comics long since dispensed with), so Nolan makes Batman want to give up the cowl right from the start. I think this is standard second superhero movie bullshit at this point, and it really doesn't fit here. At one point Bruce Wayne fantasizes that Dent in office will be what's needed to allow him to retire, and I couldn't help but wonder whose vision of Batman this was. It takes a certain megalomania to put on a rubber suit and beat up criminals, and one dude getting elected doesn't seem like it could cure that megalomania.

Batman's more interested in doing good than feeding his own ego. That should be ridiculously obvious.

But that's just there to give Batman a story

Er, it's integral to the movie's themes about order and chaos and how far someone can go into the latter while still being good.

he uses that ability to spy on every citizen of Gotham. Or something, it's sort of dumb and vague. It's an obvious allusion to the whole wiretapping thing now going on this country, and Morgan Freeman's character, being wise and black, takes offense at it all.

The hell? The movie's filled with all kinds of black people. The fact that one of them happens to be wise somehow makes the filmmakers devoted to stereotype?

This seems like it's shaping up to a good moral conundrum for the Batman, and to be exploring his fairly fascist side, something no movie ever wants to do. But the movie demurs, having Batman self-destruct the system after using it just the once when he really, really, really had to.

Yeah. Because we're all arguing about whether its ethical to spy on a building where it's known armed terrorists are holding hostages. Faraci's missed the heart of the domestic spying issue. Batman would have been crossing a line if he'd used the device to spy on his political enemies or on other innocent people.

Faraci also gives credit to David Goyer as well as Jonathon Nolan for the screenplay. Actually, the credits say, "Story by Christopher Nolan and David Goyer, Written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathon Nolan." This could mean a couple of things. It could simply be a reference to Goyer creating this setup in Batman Begins. At best, I think it means Goyer shot one or two of the big ideas Christopher Nolan's way; oil drums in a warehouse, bank heists, etc. But given that Goyer doesn't seem to have written anything decent himself, I think it's far more likely that Goyer's simply the studio's comic book guy they saddled Nolan with in the first movie as some insurance, and he's credited for the second movie because Christopher Nolan had developed some affection for him. Because like Brett Ratner or Zack Snyder, Goyer's a player. He knows how to grease the "wheels", knows how to talk to brass at studio parties, knows how to be loveable, and knows just enough about the craft of filmmaking that good hearted people in Hollywood don't feel too awful about throwing him some bones. Politics do run Hollywood, but a lot of those politics are related to big ideas about what it means to have a heart. Somehow in the Hollywood logic, having a big house in Beverly Hills translates to "just getting by", and a lot of people figure guys like Goyer deserve at least that much. But as Ferris Bueller once said, you can't respect a guy who kisses your ass.

This goes back to what I think is the real reason Faraci's got his knickers in a twist; he got to sit down and actually meet Hellboy a couple weeks ago. And now The Dark Knight has so thoroughly overshadowed Hellboy 2 it's almost grotesque. Add to this that Faraci already didn't like Batman, and you get this decidedly less than objective, grudgingly positive review.

Anyway, I need to get to the grocery store now. I'm going to start doing two pages a day until Comic-Con. Also, for any of my Second Life friends reading, you probably won't see me in sl until next Monday. I'm not going to have much time for anything for about a week . . .
  • Current Music
    "The Locomotion" - Little Eva