Friday July 18, 2008
Manohla Dargis gets it on with Batman, gives Superman the cold shoulder
Yep, The Dark Knight opens today. I've got some things to say about it (I saw it last Monday with my friend Tim at the Pacific Science Center's IMAX Theater) but it'll have to wait until MSN posts my piece on why the film is the smartest superhero movie ever made. Hint: It has something to do with this. Piece won't be up until Tuesday.
In the meantime I sit on the sidelines and read other comments. Manohla Dargis manages to write quite a bit without saying much about where the film goes, just how it goes, but she gets off some nice lines. She calls Christian Bale , “a reluctant smiler whose sharply planed face looks as if it had been carved with a chisel,” and who “slid into Bruce Wayneís insouciance as easily as he did Batmanís suit.” She's also right on Heath Ledger, whose “death might have cast a paralyzing pall over the film if the performance were not so alive. But his Joker is a creature of such ghastly life, and the performance is so visceral, creepy and insistently present that the characterization pulls you in almost at once.”
She also calls the film “a postheroic superhero movie,” which isn't bad, but which I don't quite buy. A friend commented that the film has echoes of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, but for me a better comparision might be Angels with Dirty Faces. I.e., I show myself more heroic (to the movie audience) by being less heroic (to the movie characters). Does this mean postheroic? Could lead to a good discussion.
The Dargis lines that I truly disagree with are these: “Apparently, truth, justice and the American way donít cut it anymore. That may not fully explain why the last Superman took a nose dive (Superman Returns, if not for long), but I think it helps get at why, like other recent ambiguous American heroes, both supermen and super-spies, the new Batman soared.”
Took a nose dive? At the box office? In 2006, Superman Returns made $200 million in the U.S., $391 million worldwide. A year earlier, Batman Begins, which she touts, made $205 million in the U.S., $371 worldwide. Not sure where the nose dive is. Sure, it didn't do as well as Warner Bros. hoped (i.e., it didn't do as well as Spider-Man), but it was hardly a disaster. Besides, for some people, including maybe me, the problem wasn't that this Superman wasn't dark enough but too dark. With Superman, I'd go for a PG rating to get the kids in. They went PG-13 and kept the 3-7 year-olds outside looking in. That's Supes' demographic.