Sunday, July 20, 2008

this ain't the summer of love

saw the dark knight yesterday afternoon at the vista in silver lake. love that theater -- with its crazy neon-colored egyptian-deco decor, nice big seats and lots of leg room, and popcorn with real butter. not to mention, the manager was dressed up like batman and taking tickets at the door. "the batmanager!" i quipped, getting a big laff from coiledsoul and mimi.

anyway. the movie was really fab. a bit long, but mostly entertaining, with awesome bat-moments and some really crazy stunts that made me laugh with delight and disbelief (as in, "oh no they diiiidn't!!"). heath ledger made a very good joker (that's him up there, about to get whaled on by christian bale's batman), although the whole lip-licking thing was a little weird, but whatev. the opening sequence was fantabulous, and a nice way of conveying the new gotham criminal (loony costumed freak) overtaking the old gotham criminal (basically, mobsters). also, aaron eckhart made a good harvey dent (aka two-face) -- his makeup after he went supervillain was super-creepy (exactly like the comic art) and left me wondering how they did it.

although it had humor and moments of triumph and whatnot, the movie was not really a feel-good comic-book romp. which, neither was batman begins, christopher nolan's first batman movie. this isn't a criticism -- i don't think batman movies should be larks. christian bale isn't a chiseled hero like george clooney (whose batman chapter was unfortunately horrendous), but he's good-looking and suave enough to pull off the bruce wayne part, and he works pretty well in the suit (hey, at least he has a chin ... lookin' at you, keaton). he's attractive in a totally non-pretty way, and his look really fits this movie that is rather relentlessly intense. i mean -- the finest batman stories are like that; the caped crusader has never really been about lofty ideals like truth, justice, and the american way. well, maybe justice.

batman's heroism is born of damage and desperation ... it really comes from one moment of reaction that he forever after attempts to turn into action. it always goes back to little bruce wayne watching his parents die at the hands of a two-bit thug -- a trigger-happy, cowardly criminal. the batman spends the rest of his days trying to erase such scum from the city, even though it'll never bring his parents back. he can't right the wrong; he can only make them pay and pay and pay. and it's never enough. i mean, batman is my favorite superhero. but i do think it's especially interesting right now to consider the nature of vigilantism and waging an open-ended one-man war -- and the consequences and costs of same. (but that's too much like mixing politics into my fun -- which is nowhere near as delicious as getting your chocolate in my peanut butter.)

the whole thing was very, well, dark. it delved into the question of whether batman -- a new kind of crimefighter -- had actually brought into existence, along with himself, such creatures as the joker -- a new kind of villain. i'm dubious of this sort of reasoning, but it's a classic theme of the comic. still, there's a scene where alfred (the absolutely wonderful michael caine) is kind of schooling bruce about what he's up against with the joker, and it seems to me that alfred's story indicates that the joker isn't really anything new ... just a different flavor of psychotic evil. the joker wants to hang his whole deal on bats, but that's just the same old evil-talking-shit jive, man. it's always someone else's fault, right? whatevah.

it was totes bombtastic whenever bats jumped off buildings and went sailing into the night (and crashing through high-rise windows) with his hang-glider-esque wings. still, i could've done with a little more straight-up asskicking and a little less speeding around on the bat-bike (and all the transformers-esque trickery that went with it), but that's just me. the vehicle stunts were cool, but i prefer to see batman mixing it up with his fists, legs, knees, elbows, headbutts. he didn't get nearly beat to shit enough for my tastes, either. i never felt like batman was even close to being physically defeated in this film -- sure, he has to make hard choices, and there are ways in which he loses, big time, but, aside from one encounter with a dog early on and a fairly bone-crunching tangle with the joker toward the end, for the most part he scarcely seemed to get his costume dirty.

OTOH, there were some brutal scenes, and maybe not enough blood, considering. i'm not really a fan of gore, but this was a bit sanitary, all things considered. anyway, the dark knight was a nice big bowl of actiony eye candy -- a perfect summer movie for this bleak and broken age.

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