Weekend viewing: DARK KNIGHT and HELLBOY II

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200807210153 Weekend viewing: DARK KNIGHT and HELLBOY II
Well we survived Hell Week and got about 87% of what we had to get done, done, which is a good percentage. We even managed to sneak in the movies we had to see before Nerd Fest and everything got spoiled.

Our enjoyment of THE DARK KNIGHT on Saturday was somewhat hampered by a few elements:

1) We arrived late and had to sit in the 3rd row. Not the most relaxing place to sit.

2) For some unknown reason, the woman sitting next to us decided to bring an entire box full of stinky Chinese food to eat during the film. Stinky Chinese food full of stinky cabbage. And every once in a while, as the movie unfolded, she would open up the box and have a taste, sending new waves of stinky cabbage — now old and cold — into the theater. She also sat with it on her LAP the whole time instead of at least lowering it to the ground where the potential for damage was less.

Now don’t get us wrong, we’ve snuck food into the theater — we especially favor one of the sublime tuna salad sandwiches from Todaro Brothers, and, sure, that doesn’t smell like a bed of jasmine, but we eat the whole thing and it’s soon finished. Ultimately, if the Joker really were to come to Gotham, he could do worse than to demoralize the populace and ruin people’s joy by sneaking stinky Chinese food into theaters across the city.

3) — and this is the one that will get us into trouble — we didn’t think BATMAN BEGINS was the Dostoyevsky-level masterpiece most fellows think it was. It was perfectly fine and well done and well cast, but it was, in the end, a fine action movie.

THE DARK KNIGHT is more, to that we would agree, and, yes, almost surely the greatest superhero movie ever made, but it was too choppily edited to be a truly great film, no matter how strong the story and the performances. Anyway, that’s our story and we’re sticking to it, at least until we see it in IMAX in a week or so. It didn’t complete us, or send us into orbit, or make us want to rate it the #1 film of all time or anything like that. We kind of get why The Dark Knight generation feels that way, but maybe this is just not as much our thing.

That said, we do think this, from New Yorker reviewer David Denby is one of the dumbest things ever written:

In brief, Warner Bros. has continued to drain the poetry, fantasy, and comedy out of Tim Burton’s original conception for “Batman” (1989), completing the job of coarsening the material into hyperviolent summer action spectacle.


This from someone who thought the wretched HANCOCK was the best movie of the summer? What is in Denby’s water? What is in his Chinese food, even?

***********
HELLBOY II was a lot of fun, and the best demo reel for THE HOBBIT we could imagine. Even down to how [SPOILER]the crown MELTED at the end. It was a visual treat, a feast of imagination, and just a great time at the movies. Not much more to say than that.

***********

In other news, we’re going to TRY to slog through the last of the booth listings for the big show, and try to finish the laundry.

Comments

  1. jimmy palmiotti says:

    lets see…you came late to the movie [ which i would never do, i would go another day] , sat in a uncomfortable place and then had a distraction of a person eating chinese food [ sorry, i would have asked them to take it outside] and then rate the film?

    we always talk about this. low expectations and high ones. proper ways to see a movie and not proper ways.

    had the same happen to me [ minus the lateness/food and bad seats] with wanted. everyone said it was great and …well…it was just good at best.

    I bet you will like it more the second time when the conditions are better.

    I saw blood simple on a cruise ship in a storm…it wasn’t so great. liked it better at home when i rented it a few years later.

    as far as tim burtons batman, i never liked it.

  2. timothycat says:

    David Denby’s reviews of movies based on comic books are almost universally negative. It’s become pretty much a running joke to me. Superhero movie out this week? Open my New Yorker betting that it’s a negative review. Has to be some traumatic experience with comics in his past. On a serious note it’s really time for The New Yorker to find a new film reviewer. Denby is a snob who’d rather crack wise than write an informative and interesting review. As for his Hancock comments, just plain weird.

  3. After seeing the film, Denby’s comments seem perfectly apt.
    Nolan dismisses the films–but essentially rips off BATMAN FOREVER when he’s not plagiarizing Frank Miller.
    BATMAN RETURNS is the only good Batman film, since given free reign, Burton made art, whereas Nolan’s made something akin to TRANSFORMERS… Ledger aside.

  4. To me, Burton has made one very good film, and that was “Big Fish”. (Okay, I haven’t seen “Sweeny Todd”.)

    Could not disagree with Denby more.

  5. The Beat says:

    I really really like BATMAN RETURNS and caught it twice on cable recently, but THE DARK KNIGHT is about 33% better.

    Burton is a much better director than Nolan, however.

  6. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one, Heidi. Burton is wonderful with visuals, but I think his storytelling leaves something to be desired.

  7. Hancock is a great movie… for the first hour or so. Then, well, to avoid spoilers, something happens and (as a friend of mine put it) the movie becomes it’s own crappy sequel. It reminds me a lot of “I Am Legend” in its structural flaws.

  8. Tom Spurgeon says:

    It’s scary that we’ve reached a point where people might think David Denby isn’t suited to the New Yorker… for being too high-brow. Wow.

  9. Yeah, Batman creator Tim Burton must be spinning in his grave!

    Having snarked that – I’m in Heidi’s camp with regards to Batman Begins, and had much the same reaction to that as what Heidi had to the new one. It. The non-action moments in particular were too terse and choppy for me. Haven’t seen the new one yet, but with the general reaction, I hope to get to it.

    And to bring a good pot of kimchi.

  10. Tom S. says:

    I think was a good film. It bordered on being too dark. The end of the Joker plot saved it from being too dark. Sragow (Baltimore Sun) said it was an good, but predictable film. It may have been better if Two Face’s birth was part of the next film instead of him not coming back for the other. Two Face is the most tragic of DC villians and he gets the shaft for a second time in the movies.

  11. Steely Dan says:

    Wow. It’s good to finally see some love directed at “Batman Returns.” I love that film. I loved “The Dark Knight” too but for completely different reasons.

  12. Capper says:

    Not much of a fan of Batman Returns, saw it recently and really, really disliked it (I don’t remember hating it when it came out). I thought Batman Forever was better, and that it holds up better over time. Batman Begins and Dark Knight blows them all out of the water, in my opinion.

    With respect to Heath Ledger’s performance, if I didn’t know it was him, I’m not sure that I would have been able to tell who played the Joker. It seemed to me that he became the Joker so much that, with the scars and make up, I could not see any hint or trace of “Heath” on the screen — just the character. I suppose that is what makes it such a terrific performance: you don’t see the actor, you see the character.

    And Harvey Dent really needed some Bactine.

  13. I don’t think I’ve agreed with Denby much in the past, and I’ve had similar problems with reviewers who make the review all about their alleged wit than about the work reviewed, but I’m with Denby on DK. It’s a mess of a movie, and Denby points out one of the things that bothered me: if Joker thinks Batman “completes” him, whuffo does the bad man want the good bat to doff his cowl and get arrested? The comic book is much more elemental as to motivation: crazy clown wants uptight law-n-order dude to keep on chasing him endlessly. In the heat of battle Joker might frequently yield to the temptation to Squash That Bat, but the real Joker, the archetypal Joker, would never lower himself to ask Bats to surrender to the cops. What a dreary piece of psuedo-realism Nolan’s fed us.

    Denby’s probably-deserved rep for snobbery is here mitigated by his evident affection for the Burton Bats, with which I also concur. Burton got most or all of the appeal of the Bat-mythos. Nolan needs to go back to making muddled psychological dramas and leave superheroes alone.

  14. jimmy palmiotti says:

    harvey dent was jonah hex.

    anyone that thinks they could remake planet of the apes and willy wonka needs to take a break and do something else for a while.

    JIMMY

  15. Kevin says:

    I’m not much of a Tim Burton fan, but I do have to give it up for Ed Wood and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

  16. Rodney wall says:

    I thought The Dark Knight was OK.
    I enjoyed myself, but really didn’t get the hype.
    I’d say I liked both The Hulk, and Iron Man far more.

  17. Heidi says: “almost surely the greatest superhero movie ever made…”

    How about: “almost surely a run of the mill cliche cop movie that also feature The Joker and a SWAT-team guy with a cape” ?

    RED TEAM! BLUE TEAM! SHOOT THE HOSTAGES! CUT TO CAMERA 12!

  18. Hmmm….”run of the mill cliche cop movie”?

    I think there were enough twists, and enough reflections on mob mentality and how society reacts to great threats to elevate it above the cliches.

  19. While I’m a bit squeamish about using the term “original conception” in relation to a 1989 film about a character originally conceived fifty years before that, I agree with Denby’s overall sentiment 100%.

  20. Just for the record, David Denby hated The Empire Strikes Back too.

  21. Also, while I agree with Andrew Wickliffe that ‘Returns’ is the best of the Batman films made in my lifetime, the Dozier/Semple/Martinson ‘Batman’ from 1966 is at least its equal in terms of achieving a certain kind of pinnacle of pop art.

    Though for those who can sit through animation targeted toward the slightly younger, Mask of the Phantasm is a great movie.

  22. “3) — and this is the one that will get us into trouble — we didn’t think BATMAN BEGINS was the Dostoyevsky-level masterpiece most fellows think it was. It was perfectly fine and well done and well cast, but it was, in the end, a fine action movie.”

    It was ok. I saw it last night (Sunday) with a friend, and we both agreed that we probably wouldn’t see it again. Ledger’s performance (as someone pointed out) it a bit reminiscent of Andy Robinson in DIRTY HARRY … except that movie had an excellent script and direction. Moments of humor, suspense, introspection, action … DARK KNIGHT, on the other hand, is like an opera singer trying to hold a C-note for two hours. It establishes a GRIM tone and never wavers, like a patient flat-lining in the hospital.

    And, like BATMAN BEGINS, I grew weary of how every character’s every line of dialogue was, in effect, a speech. Characters made speeches, then repeated lines throughout the movie to drive home a point.

    Harvey Dent: “You either be a hero, or live long enough to become the villain.” I know I’m misquoting from memory, but so what? It was a stupid line, and I can’t imagine why Harvey Dent would say such a thing, unless he read the script. “Hey, I’m gonna be scared and become Two-Face!” How convenient that all the cops and judges called him Two-Face in the past.

    I had to surpress a chuckle in the theate, as I was mentally rewriting the dialogue.

    DENT: What was that nickname everyone had for me, Jim?

    GORDON: Sissy Boy?

    DENT: No, not that one…

    GORDON: The Mayor’s butt buddy?

    DENT: *SIGHS* No, dammit! The other one!

    GORDON: Oh, you mean ‘Two Face’?

  23. I’m going to go see it again soon, and truthfully it broke towards “good” on the good/bad-o-meter, but if I never see another SWAT-team invasion or high-speed paddywagon chase in a movie, ANY movie, ever again I’ll be just fine.

    I realize that there is a reason why shows like Law & Order, NYPD Blue, CSI, The Sheild, etc. etc, are on TV (what else would our couch potato dads watch?) but that’s not the reason why I like comics. For me, the ultimate priority for any comicbook movie is to capture the unique tone of the source material, and I’ve got no time for cheap action-movie/cop-movie cliches bleeding into our precious little realm.

  24. John Dominguez says:

    Dark Knight was decent. It was about 30 mins too long though. The Joker was amazing, loved the Two Face set-up, but it was not the greatest Superhero movie ever. That title still remains with Unbreakable.

  25. “I thought The Dark Knight was OK.
    I enjoyed myself, but really didn’t get the hype.
    I’d say I liked both The Hulk, and Iron Man far more.”

    At last a ray of sanity!

  26. Gene:

    As opposed to those of us who liked “The Dark Knight” as being…insane?

    I love all the opinions here…people are passionate about their likes and dislikes. But, in the end, they are opinions–not an indicator of a person’s mental health.

    For the record, I very much enjoyed “Iron Man” as well.

  27. The Dark Knight was a very good action/suspense flick with very great performances. Saying more than that just isn’t justified in my opinion, and I think some people are in some kind of trance state when they do.

    There were some gaping holes that were almost made up for by the things that were good, but not completely–it’s a problem when you set a movie ground deeply in reality (as opposed to the suspension of disbelief afforded by the actual DCU, or even in the Iron Man movie universe), and then you have the Joker get away with rolling 200 drums of explosive-rigged oil onto two public ferry boats without anyone noticing.

    Do wish I had seen it in IMAX, though, might have to do that anyway.

  28. Yeah, it probably better than people don’t bring anything. As you mentioned about the Chinese food, I’m sure that you’re not familiar with the flavors of different ethnic food. It is just best to not bring any food that is hot and cooked food give off any aroma. Hey, in talking about good tasting and smelling Chinese food, I wanted to share a site with you on Chinese cooking. They have a great video how to, tutorials, and instructions on how to prepare great tasting Chinese food. You can get some or their free recipes to try out. If you have problems with proper cooking your food with the recipes, they have instructional videos that take you from start to finish, too. If have a spare moment to take a look at this, visit http://www.youtube.com/wokfusion, or go to them directly at http://www.wokfusion.com.

  29. Marcus says:

    I noticed the choppy edits, too… But that didn’t keep me from really loving this film, and recognizing it’s potential impact on future superhero movies.

    “The Dark Knight” proves superhero movies can be mature dramas, and needn’t be dumbed-down/softened for PG-13 audiences. It’ll be interesting to see if anything good comes out of it. I’d love to see a Swamp Thing or Miracleman movie treated as maturely as this film.

    …Oh yeah, and Watchmen will be heaven

  30. If you perceive anything that is not “more realistic”, or to use the babyman term “realer”, to be dumbed-down or softened then you don’t understand comics and what makes them great.

    If anything “The Dark Knight” sets a horrible precedent for the future of this budding film genre.

  31. Peter K said:

    “Gene:

    As opposed to those of us who liked “The Dark Knight” as being…insane?

    I love all the opinions here…people are passionate about their likes and dislikes. But, in the end, they are opinions–not an indicator of a person’s mental health.

    For the record, I very much enjoyed “Iron Man” as well.”

    I was mainly being hyperbolic for effect (kind of a lot of the dialogue in DARK KNIGHT, hee hee)

  32. Gene:

    Nicely played.

  33. Ian said:

    “If anything “The Dark Knight” sets a horrible precedent for the future of this budding film genre.”

    I’m hoping IRON MAN and HULK will help keep the majority of films on a more fantasy-oriented basis. It could be a real problem if more superhero films tried too hard to shoehorn such fantasies into a “realistic” setup.

  34. Mark Coale says:

    havent’ seen DK yet, but we did see HELLBOY last night.

    Disappointed. It was like a sitcom. Lots of awkward comedy, most of which wasn’t really that funny.

    I guess my biggest problem is that it didnt feel like Mignola’s Hellboy, as the first picture did. With all the fairie folk and gears gone wild, it was totally Del Toro’s movie. And the big plant elemental seemed straight out of Princess Mononoke.

  35. I liked both films (Dark Knight and Hellboy II). I would have preferred to see Two Face stick around (though in a film series, there’s less room for recurring villains than there is in a TV series) — or better yet, be set up in this film to become the villain in the next one — but I was glad to see the character actually done right this time. He really does work better if you’ve had a chance to see him as Harvey Dent first, and you get to play the duality in his psyche, not just in his costume scheme.

    The one problem I had while watching it was the Joker explaining that he didn’t make plans, he just did things…when everything he did clearly required a lot of prep time.

    Also: must agree with Jason. Mask of the Phantasm is an excellent Bat-film.

  36. I had a worse experience than Heidi. I went with a group of three other people to see the Dark Knight at the Imax theater in the Palisades Mall. About halfway through the Joker interrogation scene we had to evacuate the theater because some douche pulled an alarm.
    We were then told to enter only to be asked to leave again. Then when everything was settled the movie continued. And by continued I mean the movie was never stopped. So we left, got refunds, and saw it at the loews in the mall.
    I think I liked the movie, but my whole day was spent waiting. Waiting to get into Imax, waiting to go back into the theater twice, waiting at loews, and then waiting for the film to get to where I left it.
    My main problem with the movie was the sonar thingy at the end. Seems a little unreal for a movie striving for realism. Oh well I was probably cranky.

  37. I agree with Ian. This stemming growth of having comics and movies be so REAL takes it away from being fantasy and what a comic book is. “Christ, this comic is drawn cartoony! I can’t read that!” At least HellBoy kept it fun.

    Comics have taken this turn with lousy phototraced and stiff looking artwork in the last 5 years because the babymen want everything hyperreal. Could Phil Jimenez’s Spider-man be any uglier or overdrawn? Do the films have to be that way too??? Could Batman’s ugly suit be any worse looking??? At least the Michael Keaton suit got it right and kept it simple and stylized. It’s a comic book and a comic book movie. I still think the best interpretation of Batman is still from the fan film, “Batman: Dead End”. The Alex Ross version is the way to go for me.

    I’m hoping that comics don’t take this road forever and we get some of the Pow and Wham that Kirby, Ditko and Kane gave us back in the day when comics were good. 90% of Marvel and DC is shit right now.

    The Dark Knight WASN’T a superhero movie. It was a crime drama with a superhero character inserted. I liked the film plenty, but it was really Ledger’s show. You could have kept Two-Face and the Joker and just inserted any hero character with Batman’s realistic toys and the film would have worked.

    Also, this new film was written for the 30-40 year old babymen. I wouldn’t take anyone under 10 to go see it. You’d have to be an asshole parent to do so. “My kid can handle it.” Really, I’m sure. When you take the 12 year old and his little brother can’t go, it makes for an upset household to be sure. The one thing no one is talking about is how ALL the toys for TDK in Target, Walmart, etc are marketed to kids (or the babymen) based on a movie that the little ones shouldn’t be able to see. Well, what kid wants to buy a movie toy for something he can’t see. Does the Joker figure come with a pencil so you too can do the Joker’s magic trick on an action figure?? I see another huge blowout inventory sale in Toys R Us’ future…right next to the Hulk toy sale.

  38. Good to see not everybody’s drinking the DK hype Kool-Aid.

    Too long? As Alfred would say, “Oh, yes.”

    Yes, Ledger’s Joker makes the film and his performance as the character is near-definitive. (Though I could see another actor -preferably an unknown- following his blueprint.) And yes, some sequences are complete knock-outs. (The hospital scenes and their climax come to mind, especially Joker’s choice of “disguise”) Also, the cinematography and FX are top notch, as is the entire cast.

    But it’s often difficult to follow some of the dark, murky action scenes, particularly the skyscraper/hostage sequence. And while I’ve seen much choppier editing, there’s enough of it to go around in this film. For instance, I’ve see lots of discussion online about the “five people” supposedly killed by a particular character towards the end, but no one could seem to account for that number. It was a clumsy reference to make since the events preceding it failed to make that body count clear.

    All things considered, I enjoyed TDK a great deal. But the greatest superhero film ever made? Maybe the greatest DARK superhero film ever made. I mean come on, comparing TDK to Superman II or Spiderman II is like comparing The Empire Strikes Back to The Exorcist. They’re not the same animal at all.

    Finally, I have to wonder how this film will ultimately affect the thousands of children seeing it. If TDK were not a Batman film, would folks be carting the little ones in like it’s Kung Fu Freaking Panda? I doubt it.
    I don’t really have a problem with the material being handled this way, but I’ll have to think hard about it before I carry my 7-year old.

  39. Angry Girl says:

    I would take the smell of chinese food over crying babies ( I guess the price of admission is cheaper than a babysitter). PG13 meant little to some parents who brought their kids and had to explain (incorrectly) the entire movie. Somewhere down the line, the movie theaters have to enforce the rules.

    I should have known what kind of experience I was in for when my friends and I were waiting on line and two young ladies asked if this was the line for Dark Knight, my friend replied yes this is for the Batman movie and they said “no we want the line for Dark Knight”.
    I said to my friend there are no words and drop it. Later we overheard them discussing which Ledger movie was their favorite 10 Things I Hate or Brokeback.

  40. Oh–did anyone actually get a Watchmen trailer? We didn’t, and had to watch TDK with Keanu Reeves as the most recent impression.

  41. Marcus says:

    Ian said:
    If you perceive anything that is not “more realistic”, or to use the babyman term “realer”, to be dumbed-down or softened then you don’t understand comics and what makes them great.

    I know what makes Batman great. Stories like Frank Miller’s Year One and Dark Knight Returns make Batman great. Shumacher’s movies make Batman a joke.

    The terms mature and realer (your word) aren’t necessarily interchangeable. Some superheroes work better when handled more maturely- without comic relief, bright colors and happy endings. A good Swamp Thing movie or Miracleman movie would need to tackle mature subject matters, but could still be fantastical (less realer)! I’m not saying a more mature treatment is needed for all superhero movies. But when appropriate, superheroes movies should be allowed to be more than trivial entertainment. With the success of The Dark Knight, hopefully studio-heads will more readily accept and recognize the need to stay true to what makes a character great in comic books- even if that means the movie would not be able to be marketed to family audiences.

    As for Spider-man… keep ‘em light, and kid-friendly- Its how the character works best. Also, I loved the “less-realer” Iron Man. But I’m dying for a more mature, “Man in a Bottle” sequel.

    If you don’t understand that, you need to read some more realer comic books.

  42. Timothcat says:

    I wouldn’t say Denby is too high-brow for The New Yorker. Being high-brow, if justified, isn’t a bad thing in my book. Being a snob, consistently snarky, and a lousy critic is. An opinion based on many years of reading and being irritated by Denby. I expect better from The New Yorker. He’s even more annoying than Daphne Merkin and that’s an achievement.

    Best,
    Tim

  43. @Angry Girl: “Somewhere down the line, the movie theaters have to enforce the rules.”

    What rules?

    The only rules for admittance are for R — no children under 17 without a parent or guardian — and NC-17 — no children under 17, period.

    PG-13 means “Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13 years old.” It doesn’t mean “no kids allowed.”

    It may have been a poor choise for those parents to bring their small children, but there’s no rule for the theater to enforce, unless it’s the theater’s own rule.

  44. Marcus:

    The notion that “Dark Knight Dectective Batman” is inherently superior to “Superhero Batman” is a deliberately reactionary attitude based upon revisionist history, and it’s been rammed down our throats for the last 40 years. Batman was barely “dark & gritty” in the Golden Age and pretty quickly evolved into an imaginative and fun superhero comic. It was only out of a reaction to the ramped-up camp of the TV show that the likes of Neal Adams & Co. decided to intetionally push the character (and comics in general with it) towards a manufactured ideal of mature realism.

    So right off hand I reject the notion that that’s the way Batman is “supposed to be.” Of course that’s only my opinion, but it’s an opinion that’s been lost in the shuffle. Batman has a long and well establish legacy of great comics by the likes of Dick Sprang and Carmine Infantino that do not trade on this cheap reactionary currency. The Burton movies capture the comicbook essense of Batman quite well under my terms. No need to point to the Schumacher disasters as a counter-point.

    Just a different take on it, not so much an argument against your point.

  45. David Edelstein — he wrote the review for NEW YORK magazine … and he gives film reviews on NPR. He was the critic I was thinking of regarding the “Dirty Harry” reference in the review. Couldn’t think of his name, offhand. Since then, a few other reviewers have drawn the Harry comparison.

  46. if Joker thinks Batman “completes” him, whuffo does the bad man want the good bat to doff his cowl and get arrested?

    Maybe he didn’t really want him to go through with it? Maybe he just wanted the chaos that ensues from making such an ultimatum? Any other points in how it made sense involve spoilers. But it works.

  47. I’m not reading the Denby review, nor am I particularly familiar with his reviews. However, I’d have to say that draining the comedy out the Batman films has to be uniformly a good thing.

    I liked The Dark Knight and probably have to agree with Heidi with what she said about it. Also, going to a movie these days and NOT have some clown sitting nearby ruin part of or all of the experience is a near impossibility these days.

  48. I’m a firm believer in that one of the great things about the character is that he can be “Batman” (the friendly neighborhood guy) or “The Batman” (the dark urban myth). Both sides allow for a wealth of creative exploration and fun.

    I loved TDK because while we have seen SWAT movies before, we haven’t seen them through “our” (the fanboy’s) superhero lens, and I really though it brought a new element to it. And conversely, we haven’t seen a “superhero” movie where it became obvious that good was not going to win in the end — all it could hope for was some kind of stalemate. I think it took some guts to make this movie.

    I like movies set in the comic book world (the good ones, anyway) but I think there’s room for this type as well.

    The WATCHMEN preview seems to straddle that line, much as the GN did. However I think that the public is going to get superhero fatigue sometime soon. This summer was an embarrassment of riches in a lot of ways, but now I’m left with the sugar rush hangover.

    ps. And hey — very little CGI! Loved it.

  49. Angry Girl says:

    Kelson @ Speed Force Says:
    It may have been a poor choise for those parents to bring their small children, but there’s no rule for the theater to enforce, unless it’s the theater’s own rule.

    The Dark Knight is an oppressive, dark and violent movie, anyone could see that from the trailers, why would you take a child to see it? After every explosion (and there were many) the crying and the talking would start.

    Clearly it’s a judgement call but when parents show up to a midnight movie with children under a year or under 13, I think it time for someone to make the call. I made a concerted effort to be considerate to other people when my kids were little and not take them to any movie because I wanted to see it.

    I guess I wasn’t the only one, passes were issued for another day for anyone who brought it to the managers attention.

    If it will make you feel better, I won’t complain it there’s crying at Spiderman the Musical.

  50. The notion that “Dark Knight Dectective Batman” is inherently superior to “Superhero Batman” is a deliberately reactionary attitude based upon revisionist history

    I’m sure if I wanted to try, I could find something to slam YOUR OPINION that superhero Batman is better with.

    There are plenty of grim & gritty comic books. Not all comic books are hope and light and warmth and fun. So, please, stop campaigning for this movie to be recognized as something that will kill comic book movies by taking the fun and fantasy out of them. It’s like suggesting There’s Something About Mary would kill all other comedies but the one’s willing to go for shock laughs. It’s patently ridiculous.

    All Dark Knight might have done is made it less likely that you’ll see a Batman movie that fits your fancy and more likely that we’ll see a third Nolan Batman flick.

  51. Hulk hated Hellboy II. Hulk hates it the more he thinks about it.

    Hulk agrees with you about The Dark Knight. Very good, but Hulk though it was over like four times and sort of wanted it to be.

    Hulk hates long speeches. Hulk says, “try revision,” call David Twohy.

  52. Marcus says:

    LOL- I guess mentioning Shucacher was a low-blow… Your comment about my not being able to “understand comics and what makes them great,” just got me a bit ruffled.

    I don’t think “Dark Knight Detective Batman” is superior to “Superhero Batman,” but it’s what the character has evolved into and its what’s relevant to movie-going audiences today. Just as Sean Connery and Roger Moore’s Bond wouldn’t work today- “Superhero Batman” just wouldn’t be accepted on the screen today. So why focus on a version of the character that would leave most audiences cold, when the “Dark Knight Detective” version is a critical and fan favorite version that is just what today’s audiences is calling for.

    I can appreciate and accept both versions of the character. But on film, the more you look at “Superhero Batman,” the more the absurdities of the character (and supporting characters) shine thru. It’s a lot easier to suspend disbelief when READING “Superhero Batman.” I grew up on the old Batman TV series, and fortunately I’ve got plenty of old comic books to allow me to continue to enjoy “Superhero Batman”… But that’s not going to lessen my enjoyment of the “Dark Knight Detective Batman” on the page or the screen.

  53. Dweeze says:

    DENT: What was that nickname everyone had for me, Jim?
    GORDON: Sissy Boy?
    DENT: No, not that one…
    GORDON: The Mayor’s butt buddy?
    DENT: *SIGHS* No, dammit! The other one!
    GORDON: Oh, you mean ‘Two Face’?

    I had the same mental conversation with myself.
    GORDON: Boy Scout?
    DENT: No.
    GORDON: Goody Two-Shoes?
    DENT: NO!
    GORDON: (Pause). You’re going to have to help me on this one, Harvey.
    then you have the Joker get away with rolling 200 drums of explosive-rigged oil onto two public ferry boats without anyone noticing.

    Getting the oil drums onto the boats without being noticed was a piece of cake compared to getting enough directional charges planted to completely demolish the hospital without anyone seeing that happen.

    On the other hand, considering the competence exhibited by the Gotham police in the film, maybe it wasn’t so tough after all.

    POLICE OFFICER 1: That inmate has something surgically implanted in his chest!

    POLICE OFFICER 2: Should we move him?

    POLICE OFFICER 1: Naw, it’s probably not a bomb or anything.

    I liked the film, but there were enough minor nitpicks and enough major, glaring problems to keep it from being a great film.

  54. Okay…this is it for me, but I had to add one more comment.

    Ian Harker says that Batman was “barely grim and gritty” during the Golden Age. Well, let’s take a look.

    The first appearance of Bats, Detective Comics #27, May 1939. Batman throws a criminal off of a second story roof, and in the end punches a thug so he falls through a railing into an acid tank. Batman says, “A fitting ending for his kind”.

    Detective #28: On the second page, Batman catapults an attacker off the roof of a downtown building.

    Detective #29, “The Bat-man meets Doctor Death” (catchy!). On the fifth page, Batman confronts the gunmen, telling him he’ll kill them unless they tell who their boss is (okay, maybe Bats is bluffing!). On the next page, he subdues another would be assassin with a gas pellet. The next caption reads “The room becomes filled with deadly gas” as Batman leaps out a window.

    Detective #30: Batman breaks the neck of a criminal.

    I could go on, but as far as “grim and gritty”, one could make an argument that “The Dark Knight” is true to the original depiction of Batman–at least in tone.

    But I love the 1950s Batman stories. I grew up with the Carmine Infantino version, and the Denny O’ Neill/Neal Adams Bats. And who can forget the Engleheart/Rogers team?

    As Craig I said above, the great thing about Batman is that he is open to many interpretations. And to me, the real “babymen” (god, I hate that term!) are fans that aren’t open to a well-told story of ANY stripe.

    I look forward to the upcoming Brave and Bold cartoon, but I also want to see what Nolan and company come up with in the next cinema chapter of the Dark Knight.

  55. Geez, I really enjoyed The Dark Knight, Iron Man, The Hulk and thought Hancock was OK.

    Now, The Happening…. I believe we can all agree that sucked.
    Right?

  56. Peter, you’re right all that stuff happens, but what you fail to mention is that it all happens in an incredibly cartoonish way. Batman could have easily evolved in the opposite direction that it did, hell all they had to do was pick up any E.C. comic in the 50’s a see how to do “grim & gritty.” The fact is that it didn’t, and since Bob Kane was involved hands-on with the comic up until the mid-sixties* we can only speculate that it turned out the way he intended up until that point.

    I agree, it’s different strokes for different folks. The only reason I raise the point at all is because “this is the way Batman is supposed to be” has pretty much become groupthink at this point. I’m just challenging some of the basic premises to that claim. I’ve enjoyed plenty of “grim & gritty” Batman stories in my time, but I think this movie might have taken it to it’s Omega.

    (*not as an artist or writer or anything though, lol)

  57. Hmm, tried to make three bloglinks and they all failed.

    Let’s see if a linkless post works.

    BTW, though BATMAN BEGINS has problems similar to TDK, it does seem to have a stronger central plot.

  58. Mariah says:

    I’m not going to touch the Batman stuff because I’ll take a layered, complex story like this over the other stuff any day. And I liked Iron Man a great deal, loved a lot of The Incredible Hulk, had fun at Wanted, and found Hellboy II to be very pretty…but really weak in terms of story.

    But…Burton is a better director than Nolan? I think that’s like comparing apples and oranges. Burton’s Batman (both films) are entirely different…as is his overall style. He’s at his best when he’s doing fairytales like Edward Scissorhands which I think is his most unique and layered work.

    Nolan did Memento. That’s not even in the same league as Burton. And while it’s fine that you don’t like his style of directing, your preference doesn’t define who is a better director empirically. His style doesn’t work for you, cool. But seriously, that makes it sound like anyone who liked the film or enjoys his directing just doesn’t know any better because their opinion is different and they see the layering in the work. I think it’s an unfair generalization.

  59. “Peter, you’re right all that stuff happens, but what you fail to mention is that it all happens in an incredibly cartoonish way. Batman could have easily evolved in the opposite direction that it did, hell all they had to do was pick up any E.C. comic in the 50’s a see how to do “grim & gritty.” The fact is that it didn’t, and since Bob Kane was involved hands-on with the comic up until the mid-sixties* we can only speculate that it turned out the way he intended up until that point.”

    I think this is pretty divorced from any sort of historical reality. Not all Batman comics were coming out of Kane’s studio. The most cartoony of the early Batman stories were drawn by Dick Sprang, who was commissioned directly by DC in order to supplement the Batman material they were receiving from Kane (read: Finger/Fox/Robinson/et al). Any half-serious look at the earliest Batman stories would come to the conclusion that the art style was as serious and grim as the ability of the cartoonists (including Kane, a terrible artist) would allow. Also, there’s a fair amount of evidence that Kane did not exert a terribly large amount of control over the material coming from his studio which he did not write or draw (most of it). Comparing Batman comics to the EC Comics doesn’t make any sense, either – it was in large part because of the backlash against EC comics in the early 50s that superhero books like Batman got goofier and more sedate. Yes, Batman could have evolved in keeping with the early stories about brutal violence and death, IF the backlash against that kind of story hadn’t existed, which it did, so discussing evolution of the character in terms of artistic intent is sort of impossible.

  60. Also, people discussing the virtues of Burton vs Nolan would do well to think about which elements of films fall under “writing” and “art direction” as opposed to just “directing”, as those two areas are where Nolan and Burton differ the greatest.

  61. Sorry, to clarify my earlier post – the earliest Batman stories which I refer to as grim and gritty are specifically the Bill Finger/Gardner Fox/Jerry Robinson stories which came out of Kane’s studio during (approx) ’39-’41. I was not calling Dick Sprang’s stories grim and gritty, though I realize now it might look like I was, because of poor phrasing.

  62. Excellent points all, Jason M!

  63. I would agree that Jason made excellent points, but I’m currently reading “Batman Chronicles Vol. 1″ which collects every Batman story in chronological order staring with Detective #27-Batman #1, and unfortunately his analysis doesn’t match the historical record.

    There seems to be more folklore about the early days of Batman comics floating around then there is fact. For example, the charge that Frank Miller has made on many occasions that “Batman used to wear a gun on his hip.” I’ve heard this parroted by people a million times, but as far as I can tell it’s not true*. Batman handles a gun in certain occasions, but it’s never his gun and he certainly wasn’t wearing it on his hip.

    By the end of the first volume of “Batman Chronicles Vol. 1″ both Robin & The Joker show up as characters so it gets rolling into classic Batman lore pretty quickly. Also for every crime/mob/jewel-thief type of story there is a sci-fi/fantasy/superhero story to balance it out. The genre setting is all over the place.

    (*If someone can point me to a specific issue, please do.)

  64. I agree with Richard J. Marcej – The Happening sucked the wind right out of me.

    I felt that after seeing the Dark Knight yesterday is that it can’t any better than this than if any Joe Schmoe were to pick up and read a actual Batman comic book and get completely something out of it. The interactions with Gordon and Batman investigating crime scenes together were absolute gems to see depicted on the screen. I mean, the best line in the whole movie to me, was the comment Gordon makes to Dent as far as Batman vanishing in the night: “Yeah, he does that.”

    However, one small bone I have to pick: get Kevin Conroy to dub in Batman’s lines instead of Bale. Bale’s growl comes off as some rejected death metal singer who needs a couple of sticks of butter to help soothe his throat. I recently started to get into listening to Opeth ( yeah, at age 44, go figure) and I read somewhere that’s how some of those death metal singers work out their throats by drinking quarts of milk and chewing on butter.

    As spectacular as Ledger’s performance is – I had trouble making out some of the lines he was mumbling in some scenes.

    If Nolan does a third film – he should figure how to use Black Mask in it.

    ~

    Coat

  65. Jim Sheridan says:

    I could not BELIEVE how every happening in “The Happening” was so TELEGRAPHED!! Unreal. They should have just kept jumping up and down and shouting “THIS PART IS SIGNIFICANT!”

  66. spike says:

    Wow, nerd rage abounds here. :)

    Haven’t seen Dark Knight yet–and I gotta admit, I’m probably prone to be more partial to any movie that actually shows Batman, you know, actually detecting.

    Any argument that Nolan is catering to the babymen (and yeah, there is cognitive dissonance in the idea of a serious crime drama featuring a guy dressed as a flying rodent) could be easily countered by Burton catering to Hot Topic teenyboppers. But I say that because Burton gives me a swift pain and I find his films highly annoying. Except maybe for Beetlejuice.

    That said, Batman vs. Hannibal Lecter doesn’t do much for me, either. I think my ideal Batman movie would star Hugh Laurie and involve flying rodent-man solving crimes in chamber rooms. Col. Mustard in the study with a candlestick!

  67. Dave Hackett says:

    Gene Phillips wrote: “if Joker thinks Batman “completes” him, whuffo does the bad man want the good bat to doff his cowl and get arrested? ”

    The Joker’s stated motivations, like his stories about the scars, change multiple times throughout the film. I think it’s in character, as you never know when he’s lying, or whether he actually believes them all. I also think that he knew Batman would never come forward, but thought it would be a great way to torture him when he didn’t by piling on the guilt of the Joker’s body count.

  68. Spike said:

    “Any argument that Nolan is catering to the babymen (and yeah, there is cognitive dissonance in the idea of a serious crime drama featuring a guy dressed as a flying rodent) could be easily countered by Burton catering to Hot Topic teenyboppers.”

    To whose allegation of pandering are you responding?

    Or do specific speakers not matter when one is attacking “babymen?”

  69. Dave H said:

    “The Joker’s stated motivations, like his stories about the scars, change multiple times throughout the film. I think it’s in character, as you never know when he’s lying, or whether he actually believes them all. I also think that he knew Batman would never come forward, but thought it would be a great way to torture him when he didn’t by piling on the guilt of the Joker’s body count.”

    I don’t have a problem with some degree of inconsistency in a madman-character, like what I mentioned above (Joker feels Batman is his only worthy foe but can’t help giving in to the urge to kill him, be it in heated combat or with your basic death-trap). But one shouldn’t feel that the filmwriter has overindulged in such inconsistency to make his job easier, which is what I think Nolan did.

    I like your explanation for Joker’s actions better than what Nolan actually put on the screen, but I still hold him culpable for muffing an easy “fix.” My blog-review goes into excrutiating detail about why the central plotline is a fricking mess.

  70. Ian,

    “By the end of the first volume of “Batman Chronicles Vol. 1″ both Robin & The Joker show up as characters so it gets rolling into classic Batman lore pretty quickly. Also for every crime/mob/jewel-thief type of story there is a sci-fi/fantasy/superhero story to balance it out. The genre setting is all over the place.”

    I guess I’m not sure what you’re arguing here? Yes, Batman stories are superhero stories – Batman is a superhero. He was created in reaction to Superman. He wears a mask and a cape. I don’t think that’s in dispute.

    What I – and I think others – are saying, is that in his earliest stories he was a superhero who starred in grim, dark, violent stories. In my reading of the same book you cite, Batman Chronicles v.1, Robin and the Joker showing up don’t change the fundamental tone of the book. And I don’t think SF/fantasy elements are really relevant either, since those elements are used in grim, dark, violent ways.

    Yes, under DC’s editorial direction Batman became lighter over time. There are many reasons for that, none of which have anything to do with or change anything about the earliest stories, which are the only ones I’m referring to.

    (I also want to make it clear that I’m not advocating any one version of “Batman” as the one, true version. I enjoy the light, goofy stories and the dark, violent stories. But there was only one type present at the character’s conception.)

  71. Jason-

    Well, I just think that the extent of the “grim & grit” of early Batman has been highly overstated throughout the years to serve the purposes of the creators that have used it as a rallying cry. I respect that you have an appreciation for Batman of all shapes & sizes, in that department we agree. However there are plenty of people who buy into the dark “essentialist” notion of the character hook, line and sinker, and to an extent that is highly dismissive of the pre-Adams comics, the 60’s TV show, as well as the Burton movies. I’m just choosing to push back a little. (just for yucks)

    BTW, I’m really looking forward to the Bat-Manga book that’s coming out this fall which collect the 60’s Batman mangas from Shonen King magazine by the artist of 8-Man. Surely it will be another jewel in the crown.

  72. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Ian, can you cite one of these supposed multiple places where Frank Miller talked about the gun on the hip? I’m not finding any, and I’d like to see the much-repeated quote in context.

  73. Ian,

    Gotcha.

    As I said before, I have no real concern for the debate of “goofy v grim” or however one wants to phrase it – I’ve read and enjoyed Batman stories from both camps, and just because one prevails over another at any point in time doesn’t mean the stories I’ve already enjoyed stop existing or being there for me to enjoy if I so choose. I’ve also probably read enough Batman over the course of my life that I don’t feel the same need for more new product that others might feel (not assuming you do one way or the other).

    My only real issue with your posts was with the odd and historically inaccurate assumption that Bob Kane exerted any true creative stewardship over the character for more than maybe the first handful of stories (depending on how closely one thinks he worked with Finger or Fox – there’s probably no knowable right answer). DC as a company took over pretty quickly – as I said, artists like Sprang or Infantino (your two earlier examples) weren’t hired through Kane’s studio, but rather directly by the publisher.

    Aside from that point: While my reading is as subjective as anyone else’s, I do think that those early issues are fairly obviously obsessed with darkness, death, and violence. I also think that the lighthearted approach you champion could just as easily be labeled “reactionary” as the later, grimmer efforts you seem not to like – the lighter, goofier stories were an editorial mandate, made in direct reaction to the earlier, darker stories. Which is not to say that anyone looking to invalidate the goofier stories can now look at you and say “gotcha, reactionary!”, because what we’re discussing is a couple of pretty young guys’ crude creation which fairly quickly became creatively dictated by a corporate publisher and which has been for the last 70 years. I think sifting through that and looking for some sort of shining beacon of Original Creator’s Intent is, at best, a little too time-consuming for what it’s worth at this point.

  74. Tom–I don’t know where else it appears, but Miller says this in his interview in the “Masters of Comic Book Art” video:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0288619/

  75. Ah, Wes beat me to the punch! I missed my first opportunity to actually back up one of my outlandish diatribes with actual facts, darn. He may have mentioned the same thing in his preface to “Batman: Year One”, but if not that preface still stands as a good example of the type of rhetoric I’m talking about. He references picking up an 80-page giant Batman annual when he was 8 years old and being struck by how grim and dark it was. Being the loser nerd that I am I decided to pin down exactly what Batman annual came out when Frank Miller was 8 years old, and it turned out to be Batman Annual #7 which featured a freakin’ Batmite story of all things! (Among other similar camp) Even if his memory is a little fuzzy, or if it was a different issue it was still during the height of campy superehero Batman.

    However, back to good ol’ gun wieldin’ Batman… Someone on tcj mentioned that Batman may have used a gun in the 40’s serials, but this has yet to be confirmed.

    As far as whether the Golden Age Batman stories fit in more with the Silver Age pre-Adams comics or the Bronze/Modern post-Adams comics is infitely debatable. In my opinion they are still pretty cartoonish and superheroey, certain crude and rudimentary. Hardly the sophistication that O’Neil and Miller and the like brought to the character. Either way they certainly don’t stand out the way that books like Vault of Horror or Tales From the Crypt did only a few years later. Also, like I said, during the height of EC (when superheros were on the dip) Batman continue to progress in the cartoonish direction. If they ever had a good opportunity to make the book the actualization of their dark and grim intentions the time would have benn then, when the market favored it. I will concede however that post-code surely help push Batman (and all comics for that matter) in a lighter direction.

  76. Someone was knocking Adam West’s Batman??? All I can say is Adam West has stood the test of time and stands up to repeated viewing better than Michael Keaton or the others have. And who can knock Fronk Gorshin, Burgess Meredith and the Catomwan of all Catwomen named Julie Newmar?

    Anyway, this was a good movie, I give it an 8.5 but it was missing too many Bat trappings. I did like Two Face’s face. Heath Ledger was great but I am sorry, the Joker does not wear makeup on his face. (unless he is Ceasar Romero in which case it is fine as long as he has a moustache). Might have been nice to see a Batcave or a Manor also. And for all his money, he has to be able to afford a better Bat Signal!

  77. “Also, like I said, during the height of EC (when superheros were on the dip) Batman continue to progress in the cartoonish direction. If they ever had a good opportunity to make the book the actualization of their dark and grim intentions the time would have benn then, when the market favored it.”

    But Ian, the point I was trying to make was that the people guiding the book during that market were not the original creators. Virtually every Batman story published after “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” is a mixture of multiple individual creative voices, editorial edicts, and corporate concerns. Looking for positive or negative evidence of Original Intent in any of those stories is completely pointless.

  78. Hellboy is fun; it’s refreshing that he’s a superhero but he doesn’t take himself too seriously… then he fumbles about like an average guy

  79. Jason –

    OK, I’ll concede that point. It is sorta like putting Humpty Dumpty back together to figure out who was the actual creative force behind any give Batman comic at any given time. They did a great disservice to future lovers of comics by branding everything as “Bob Kane”. I’m just learning a lot of this stuff for the first time myself and there is plenty of conflicting and anecdotal info out there.

    So if I was to stick to what I know for sure, which is the content of the early Batman comics, one last comment I’ll make is that while there are “dark” moments in those comics they never extrapolate upon them or make them the focus of the story in the way that future creators like Miller did. Not even in a primitive way. The “dark” moments occur within the flow of an otherwise straightforward adventure or crime story. In other words, I don’t think that the “dark” aspects of the old comics were enough to make them stand out in there day and age, and we only focus on them now because of a deliberate effort to isolate and exaggerate their importance out of context.

  80. “In other words, I don’t think that the “dark” aspects of the old comics were enough to make them stand out in there day and age, and we only focus on them now because of a deliberate effort to isolate and exaggerate their importance out of context. ”

    I think they probably were when compared to other work of the same genre, of which there was very little. But I can see and respect your reading of those comics.

    I would also add a final note that when dealing with something like the early Batman comics (or the early Superman comics) what individuals find within them to latch onto are almost as important if not more so than the intended qualities of the individual works themselves. So, to my mind, when Frank Miller expands upon the violence and crime elements, or when Dozier and Semple expand upon the campiness and the bright colors, neither is wrong. Each are reacting to elements they found within the work that spoke to them in one way or another.

  81. Ian,

    It kind of depends on how you define “dark.” There are a handful of pre-Robin stories that are heavy on the grotesquerie– the “Monk” story, which is essentially a riff on Dracula– but one could deem a fairly flat sort of horror, with no psychology behind it, compared to the EC horrors. The grotesquerie is the “focus” of these few stories, but even before Robin, the dominant emphasis was on Batman as the swashbuckling scourge of evil, rather than the weird evils he encountered.

  82. The real test would be to compare them with similar adventure or crime comics of the same era to see if the edginess of Batman really stands out. I’m not an expert on Golden Age comics, so I couldn’t really point to analagous examples of hand.

    Fletcher Hanks is certainly darker than Batman, but he’s a special case.

  83. Steven R. Stahl says:

    Here’s a column from one who saw THE DARK KNIGHT as conservative political commentary: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121694247343482821.html?mod=special_page_campaign2008_topbox

    SRS

  84. As the king of an amoral universe, as a purveyor of unrestricted evil for fun, Ledger’s dastardly villain, attired as sort of a rotting Clarabell, has chosen his own damnation. He’s jumped into an abyss he has dug himself, and he wants to pull us along.
    I m watched The Dark Knight Movies Here
    http://www.80millionmoviesfree.com

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  1. Beanstockd says:

    [...] The Dark Knight, Warner Brothers’ sequel to Batman Begins, beat all estimates this weekend by opening with approximately $155.3 million in ticket sales. Was it the most profound film ever made, a step backward or simply an outstanding entry into the superhero genre? The final performance by Heath Ledger is sure to leave fans debating for years over whether his or Jack Nicholson’s is the definitive performance of Batman’s iconic arch-villain. [...]

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