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...gonna kick the darkness 'till it bleeds daylight... musings of a hungarian in texas

©2003 by Annamaria Kovacs. All contents of this blog are the property of the author. Use with written permission only.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Yay movies!

These past two wekeends were movie intensive-both in the theaters and at home thanks to Netflix. When it's a constant 100 degrees outside, it's awfully nice to just curl up with some ice tea/water/juice in front of a screen or in a comfy air-conditioned chair at the local AMC and immerse yourself in a different reality. Most of the movies we saw, luckily, were always followed by a good discussion, which I enjoy immensely.

So: with the recent influx of superhero movies and comic book adaptations, it was interesting to see the contrast between the recent ones and even something from a couple of years back. We watched Spiderman 2 at a friend's two weeks ago, and it really sruck me just how... for lack of the better word, full of emo and teenage angst it was. When I originally saw it in the theater, I was enjoying Molina's Dr. Oc so much that I was willing to forgive those qualities (and Kirsten Dunst's constant inability to act) , but, like I said, a few years later it was all the more jarring. Especially since, in preparation for the Dark Knight, we rewatched Batman Begins at home just to get in the mood. Nope, just didn't care for it at all. I hear that 3 was much better, but I never got around seeing it after that kind of 'meh' feeling 2 left in me.

Also got to see Hellboy 2 the same wekeend: ow, what fun. The visuals Del Toro can create are simply stunning, and I can't wait to see what he'll do with The Hobbie. His elves... are different, let's just say that. And that Troll Market at the foot of Brooklyn Bridge--it was simply a delight, and I suspect one it's out on DVD, I'll get it and do a frame-by-frame view of those scenes just to lap it all up--the creatures, the colors, the gestures, the little details. Same with the scene when an elemental dies and transforms into something... beautiful and breathtaking. Ron Perlman, of course, is great again as Red, and the entire supporting cast revels in their roles, obviously having great fun with what they do. Watch for the singing duet scene--I laughed and was in tears at the same time. It's funny and poignant at once. The movie constantly teeters at the edge of being overblown but never really topples over. very fine line, that. All in all, great fun and something that makes you think at the same time with its main theme, which was, again, a meditation on the nature of love (much like the first one).

Dark Knight, now...a different story entirely. There are six great actors almost constantly present on the screen--quite an accomplishment, and the movie manages to balance them out more or less. At the same time, I can't name a single presence in this one that felt off--thankfully they replaced the other actress who can't act her way out of a paper bag (yes, I am talking about Mrs. Cruise) with Maggie Gyllenhall, who a. has an actual screen presence and b. can actually show emotions and deliver lines in a way that doesn't sound like she's reading them. ::gasp:: It counts!

I am sure by now everyone got the constant hype about the late Heath Ledger's role-defining performance as The Joker. I'd advise everyone to see it with their own eyes--he will be sorely missed indeed. This was one of those performances where you could see what could have been... and never will. At the same time, he always has worthy counterparts in the other leads. I never felt that he 'eclipsed'or 'overshadowed' the others. Even though he's a method actor, and Christian Bale is a minimalist, in every scene when they are together, you can indeed feel the reality of what The Joker says 'we complete each other'.

The Husband and I had a good discussion about the movie in D&D terms--The Joker is definitely Chaotic Evil, and a self-confessed one at that. Batman, his polar opposite, is Lawful Good, although some people might argue about that, saying that he's a 'vigilante' and doesn't obey laws, ergo, he cannot be LG. Now, even in the D&D universe, LG doesn't always mean obeying every law. Many arguments had been sprung from this that I particpated in and then abandoned, simply because a lot of people have dificulty grasping the concept and are stuck with the static and stiff 'do-gooder' image of Lawful Good. But that's a rant for another time--or perhaps for a discussion, even.

So that's Bale and Ledger, at their polesd of opposition, both in character and in acting. I said it elsewhere that Bale brings out the inherent sadness and tragedy in Batman/Wayne like no one else I've seen. He always has a deep sadness in his eyes, even when he's doing his playboy act, and while some people are itrritated by his raspy voice he uses when he dons the mask, I think it fits perfectly--there's a lot of pain and, again, sorrow in that, besides just the desire of not being recognized by voice.
Ledger, on the other hand, does everything over the top, and perfectly so. His nervous and random head tick, the way he chews his cheek, the way he jerks his body as he walks, all the unpredictable things he does and which, at the same time, are mostly planned with chilling accoracy and delivered with such malice that you just stare at the screen thinking 'is he REALLY just going to...' Oh, that disappearing pencil trick; the scene at the hospital with the detonator, the way he seduces the DA... Ledger does an absolutely pefect job here showing us an essential variation on Mephistopheles. A classic, that.

Now to the other four great actors: poor Aaron Eckhart probably will get the short shrift here for playing Harvey Dent, the white-knight DA of Gotham who turns into Twoface. And yet, he's the tragic hero of the movie; his descent into darkness and seduction into evil is a black thread running through the otherwise already almost ink-dark themes of the movie. It is subtly set up and done--The Husband opined that it is cut short at the end a bit, and I'd agree, but for the movie's purposes it is understandably so.

Gary Oldman as Lt. Gordon--I remember that in the first installation I almost didn't recognize him at first. With that horrible haircut and moustache, he's not exactly his usual self. But he has two or three great scenes in this one where his all-human dignity and just simple goodness and moral fiber shines through, and provides light and hope. He provides the human contrast to all the almost superhuman emotions and qualities of the three main characters, and I am very pleased with how he manages to bring that through.

Morgan Freeman- another actor with inherent dignity as Lucius Fox. While I cringed at the implied jab the movie's writers took at wiretapping, I understood why it was done and why his character chose to react the way he did. One of the great qualities about this movie is that it's also about hard choices and consequences--Batman is willing to pay the price, constantly, for doing good and saving the city, and that sometimes comes with the cost of losing people's friendship and trust. The way Fox walks away from him once completing his final task is a foreshadowing of the ending of the movie, and is very subtly set up and done.

And Michael Caine as Alfred. Really, albeit he has less screentime than in the first one, in this he really shows just how much he cares about Wayne/Batman (watch for the letter scene). He can express so much with just a twitch of his mouth, or a subtle nod... I always enjoy watching him act, not to mention I adore his accent. His scenes with Bale are full of their part explained, part implied friendship and trust. Without Alfred, Batman wouldn't be able to exist, and Alfred knows this. He chose to be who and where he is, and Caine never lets us to forget it. He is the only person Wayne implicitly trusts and can rely on, and if you think about it, at crucial times, Alfrred was always there to say just the right thing to keep him going. In this movie, it is the same.

Okay, this was probably the longewst blogpost I've ever done, and I could go on for longer, but I suspect there's such a thing as attnetion span, plus I have a life, after all. :) If you like, let me know what you think.

10 Comments:

At 4:59 PM, Blogger boxingalcibiades said...

I must take issue with the idea that Batman was "dark." Morally serious, maybe, but no darker than watching the evening news...

 
At 5:58 PM, OpenID mexalapotis said...

I disagree. I thought it was very dark. The evening news tries to scare you or "educate" you and, IF the station is any good, there are anchors there to try to lighten it up if things get too heavy. In this movie, especially with the Joker, the goal wasn't to scare or educate or even inform. In fact, other than showing that anyone could be corrupted, there wasn't really any point to the Joker's madness. There was no reasoning with him, he was just causing chaos because he could. And the knowledge that one has to become the bad guy to preserve the ideals of the good guys, as Batman has to, was morally serious and dark. You can be morally serious and not dark, and granted, there are other movies that are MUCH more dark (Pan's Labyrinth, for example) but I still think that this was dark.

 
At 4:10 PM, Blogger Madeleine said...

Mexalapotis: I almost completely agree with you, except for one thing - that the Joker's chaos is mostly pointless. I don't think it is exactly. Chaos is a force of nature and, as the Joker says (in a show of wild self-awareness), he is an agent of chaos. Even more than proving that the good can be corrupted, the Joker is trying to show the "schemers" and the "plan-makers" how pointless it is to try to control the uncontrollable. He's trying to expose the illusion of that control. He's completely mad, but not without specific motivation. Chaos for the sake of chaos was, in this case anyway, its own seriously illustrative point.
And now I'll hop off my soapbox :-).

 
At 12:31 PM, Blogger JimDesu said...

Dark schmark, now UHF, that was a dark movie...

:)

 
At 2:35 PM, Blogger Annamaria said...

"SOme people just want to watch the world burn"says Alfred about the Joker. I think he's the best CE villain depicted since Tolkien wrote Morgoth (as opposed to Sauron, who's LE). CE doesn't mean you have no plans, it's just that your ulitmate goal is to have chaos in which YOU are the driving force.

And yep, Jim, it was dark. I wonder how they'll top this in the third movie, unless they do it based on the Dark Knight Returns series.

 
At 4:40 PM, Blogger Madeleine said...

What impressed me so much about the Joker is that he isn't actually trying to be driving force of chaos. He has no personal stake in his being at the center of it - if he did, he wouldn't have taken the chance on Harvey Dent's coin flip with the gun to his head. He's serving chaos for the sake of chaos - to be the driving force of chaos requires some attempt at harnessing and controlling it. That sort of attempt at control would have been out of character for him. It would have made the character far less powerful, far less compelling.

 
At 5:56 PM, Blogger JimDesu said...

Anna -- was joking. Have you ever seen UHF? Ask Russ 'bout it....

:o)

 
At 9:47 PM, Blogger celogomama said...

I've been waiting all day to read your post from beginning to end. Now I feel I must see the movie! Great review! (Yes, we ARE always behind on cinema. shrug)

 
At 11:16 PM, Blogger boxingalcibiades said...

I dunno... hurricanes don't have much of a point to them either, but most people watching them just want to see how "oooooooh" a storm the size of Germany can be...

Watchmen will be dark. Soul-paining dark. In fact, just thinking about it makes me want to go watch Wall-E instead. :)

 
At 11:48 PM, Blogger Madeleine said...

the hurricane comparison is pretty apt - chaos is a force of nature. so is a hurricane. neither is after personal glory, they're both just doing their thing... and personally speaking, I'll be taking cover either thanks very much :)

 

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