Dark Knight overload

This weekend’s big opening of the Batman sequel “The Dark Knight” delivers a lot of hoopla and the requisite anticipation of a summer blockbuster, no doubt fueled all the more by people’s morbid desire to watch Heath Ledger’s final performance, but I can honestly say that I can’t recall when I have been less excited about a comic book themed movie.

Perhaps it’s because even though I thought Batman Begins was a serviceable film, I didn’t think it was the be all-end-all in the Batman film pantheon most fans found it to be.

Though I thought that Christian Bale’s performance was good, In hindsight, I have to admit that I thought his take on the titular character was mostly derivative of the template set forth buy previous film Batmen, most notably Michael Keaton’s performance on the 1989 Tim Burton flick and his reprisal of the role in the 1992 sequel Batman Returns, and even of Kevin Conroy  in some respects.

There’s also something positively unsettling about director Christopher Nolan’s Gotham city, though it’s not the usual unsettling elements associated with it in the comics. Nolan’s Gotham almost has a futuristic, dystoptic feel to it, which makes me feel it’s not quite the place where the Batman of Crime alley grew up in.

The setting aside, it’s almost easy to see why fans embraced the first film with such fervor. The franchise had reached a dead end with the horrific Batman and Robin in 1997, considered by many comic film historians as the worst comic book movie of all time. I can’t say I would disagree, although Elektra was also pretty bad, but when you feed people bread and butter for so long and then give them a hamburger meal, it’s only natural that some would see it as Filet Mignon.

Batman Begins got a lot of things right, The Scarecrow was a lot of fun, but I don’t think it was the best Batman movie that could have been made. Elements like the tank like Batmobile were cribbed from superior material like the excellent 1986 The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel by Frank Miller, cosidered by many to be the best graphic novel of all time and the pacing and dialogue, at times left me wishing for some of the whimsy and fun which Burton infused in some of his best films. These things are supposed to be enjoyable aren’t they? I realize Batman is a dark hero, but he can also be quite human if those qualities are played to with proper care.

So I will see this new Batman movie with a critical eye (though maybe not this weekend) hoping to enjoy it, but I can’t help but feel that I have already invested in the best Batman narratives ever devised and if you haven’t read “The Long Halloween,” “The Dark Knight Returns” or the 1988 masterpiece “The Killing Joke” then you haven’t really experienced the best Joker-Batman dynamics in the rich mythos of the character. Recently Hollywood has messed with at least two great comic based stories: Wanted and I am Legend. Will they also ruin Batman for good or is this series the panacea all the fans proclaim it to be??

8 Responses to Dark Knight overload

  1. kathy says:

    Why no posts about Dr. Horrible?

  2. hostile17 says:

    I can’t stand Neil Patrick Harris (aka Doogie Howser MD)
    Did you know he was an honorary member of the young Republican party at UCLA
    though I will probably check it out online.

    I’m not a fan of everything Joss does, although I do like most of his comic work. I wish he’d deliver on “Ripper” before Anthony Stewart Head gets too old.

  3. Disco Stu says:

    I am Legend is a novel by Richard Matheson. The movie was a clusterfuck, but it was hardly a movie based on a comic book.

    I’ve always felt that one of the strenghs of the Batman mythos is its ability to cater for different types of stories. Science Fiction, Action, Noir Detective, even comic (as in funny ha-ha). This is a version of the B atman universe, and what I think people are responding to is that fact that’s it’s an inctedible film in it’s own right. In one way it’s not even a Batman film- it’s a crime story with people who happen to dress up as Bats and Clowns.

    But it also manages to tap into the core of what makes individual characters work that many films just don’t or can’t do. Iron Man go it right earlier this year, and The Dark Knight definitely nails it. It’s not for everyone, but then that’s why there’s always a different version of the character out there.

  4. kathy says:

    Well I liked Dr. H and BDK. BDK was a little on the long side.

  5. hostile17 says:

    I liked it also, (BDK) thought I didn’t expect it to be as good.

  6. Spleengrrl says:

    I was looking forward to Batman, believe it or not. (Though I do belong to the “I Love Superman Better than Batman” group on facebook)

  7. hostile17 says:

    Diso Stu: Not sure if you know but there was a comic book based on the novel and a very fine one at that

  8. RV3 says:

    I saw a French movie called TELL NO ONE this weekend. It was terrific!!! (Shameless plug…)

    I will try to see the new BATMAN film later this week.

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