Monday, August 11, 2008

Our Future Leaders

Today I was reminded why I stay away from message boards.

Now that I've seen "The Dark Knight" I wanted to go onto a couple of geek movie websites to see what other people thought of it. The first I went to was Ain't It Cool News. Big mistake. I wandered onto a thread where AICN head, Harry Knowles, was raving about some people complaining about the supposed portrayal of mentally disabled people in the upcoming Tropic Thunder. Wow. Except for a few reasoned individuals pointing out that the movie wasn't getting cut and that complaining about a portrayal of some group is not the same as censorship, it was all insane vicious screeds about the evils of liberals and political correctness that reeked of a bunch of spoiled punks who didn't know a damn thing about history or other people outside of their little stoner-movie geek world, parroting poison they had picked up from the likes of Rush Limbaugh. That's not counting the long tangent where they were calling Knowles a hypocrite because he had temporarily pulled a review of Star Wars: The Clone Wars at its studio's request.

Reading stuff like this I have to struggle to remember that these yahoos are actually a very small part of the population and that there are plenty of decent people in this world who don't scream bloody murder every time someone tells them that a bogus boogeyman is out there trying to take away some of their toys.

Eventually I got away from that madness and looked up a near 300-page Dark Knight thread at Comic Book Resources that started way back when with the posters being underwhelmed at the first announcement that Heath Ledger was going to play the Joker. What I read skimming through this thread was generally more civilized even from the people who found fault with the movie's tone or some of the plot devices, generally more civilized...except for the bright sparks who started calling Maggie Gyllenhall "ugly".

The internet...where common sense goes to die.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Shining Knights

Disappointment? I don't think so.

The Dark Knight lived up to all its hype. Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker is everything it's billed to be but the genius of the film is that it is far more than the normal superhero "popcorn" movie. It's like someone took an old Warner Brothers crime film and added superheroes and supervillains to it. You've got good DAs and cops and evil crime bosses with two costumed loonies added to take things to another level. The movie carries on the themes of Gotham's hope and redemption from Batman Begins but it adds so much through the character of Harvey Dent who is really the most tragic figure in the movie, an honest crime-fighting DA who succumbs to madness and becomes as evil as the people he's fighting.

The Joker comes off as a real "Super Villain", someone far beyond the normal crooks who just want to get rich. He seems to see himself as a freak whose mission in life is to spread anarchy and destroy all hope and dreams of normality. This is so much beyond the scope of the comics where all the villains, even Harvey "Two-Face" Dent", were glorified gang bosses out to mainly rob and maybe try to kill Batman if the opportunity presented itself. Joker even gets to indulge in a bit of psychological testing that comes off like a far less sadistic version of something from the "Saw" movies.

The pacing of the film is great with no dead or campy spots and you can't say enough about the acting. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman all carry on as well as they did the first time. Aaron Eckhart and Gary Oldman are terrific. Maggie Gyllenhall more than makes up for the dead zone of Katie Holmes from the first movie and Heath Ledger makes the most charismatic psychopath I've seen since James Cagney in White Heat. It's sadly ironic that the Joker is still alive at the end of the film but Heath Ledger isn't around anymore. If they decide to use the Joker in any future films the poor guy who plays him will have some big shoes to fill.

Then again where would a third film go? Most of the gimmicky villains from the comics would seem to have little place in this Batman's world. Catwoman would be the logical choice for a foe but I don't know if you could build a film around just her. Anyway how the hell do you follow an act like this anyway?

This was my first time at a multiplex in years and seeing an ongoing reel of TV promos and ads even before the trailers started reminded why I never go to mainstream theatres anymore. Still damned if I didn't see two movie trailers that might lure me back in upcoming months, Watchmen and the next James Bond film, Quantum Of Solace. They both looked far better than I expected. I didn't think Watchmen could be successfully adapted into a film (Of course I haven't read it since it was first published 20 years ago) and this version of James Bond seems to be without any of the camp and smugness that turned me off the series long ago. Looks like I need to check out Casino Royale now.