Thursday, July 19, 2012

a newspaper column questioning the greatness of Batman

Editor's note: I want to emphasize something before you read this week's column for the St. Clair Times: My criticism of "The Dark Knight" is NOT that I dislike the movie. I'm simply somewhat confused by the number of people who made it into the Greatest Movie of All-Time. It's a fun movie — maybe a great superhero movie — but some of the folks (like, say, Will Leitch) need a note from Nick Saban.
As always, you can argue with me here or on Twitter. Thanks in advance for indulging me.
The greatest movie ever that isn't all that great

Growing up, one of the easiest ways to spot a movie I knew I would enjoy was this one: Wait until the movie critics started lining up to run it down.

Here’s the thing about movie critics: They are invariably very intelligent people who watch movies for a living. Occasionally, they may even enjoy one of them. But that doesn’t happen often, and if anything, it often seems they seek the popular opinion, then go the other way.

Of course, that’s also what has made the buildup for “The Dark Knight Rises” sort of disorienting for me. “The Dark Knight” turned me into one of those haughty movie critics.

Here’s the thing: I’m not someone who disliked the movie. I enjoyed the movie. I still watch it every time it appears on one of the Turner networks (which is almost every week at this point).

My problem, then, is this: way too many people reacted to the movie as though it were “Citizen Kane.” And … um, I don’t think it quite reached those heights, necessarily.

Here, then, in ascending order, are my problems.

• The movie is too long. I don’t know if such a thing exists as “the right length” for a movie. It’s a little bit like asking my dad what’s the right amount of ingredients for his barbecue sauce — you can ask, but the only response you’ll get is, “Enough.”

Some movies are good at 90 minutes. Some, like “The Godfather,” are OK at over 3 hours. And some, like Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight,” ramble on forever until people like me are wondering things like, “Why wouldn’t someone just shoot the dude in the head and end it all?”

• Other than Heath Ledger’s remarkable turn as Joker, the acting is abominable. What Ledger — who died before the movie ever reached the big screen — did with that character is something I still cannot believe. It’s not so much the dialogue or the maniacal laughter as the subtleties (licking his lips, changing his origin story, angrily demanding people look at him) that made the character an incredible triumph.

Ledger, however, was essentially Michael Jordan carrying the 1989 Chicago Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals. Normally quality actors like Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Christian Bale seem like they’re auditioning for “Star Wars” in this movie … and that’s not a compliment. Bale, inparticular, unveiled a voice that makes Batman sound like the patient of a really cheap ENT doctor. Was I supposed to take him seriously?

Actually, I was. Which is my final complaint.

• The movie takes itself way too seriously. Please hear me out: It’s a movie about Batman. Batman. A fictional vigilante who dresses up as a bat. Batman.

I know Batman is probably the darkest of the comic book superheroes, but … I mean, he’s a guy who dresses up as a bat! Do we really need metaphors about the Bush administration and super-serious lectures about the morality of man in a movie about a dude dressed up as a bat? Don’t we deal with these issues enough in real life? Should a “Batman” movie allow us to escape from all that for a few minutes?

Arguing about this, obviously, is about as pointless as shouting in the middle of a hurricane. Entertainment, after all, isn’t like sports; there’s no final score to tell us who was right or wrong. Some people even like Rascal Flatts.

And anyway, I’m already planning to spend my $10 to see “Dark Knight Rises” at the first opportunity, anyway. So I guess I have no point.

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