Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight

Acting:  A
Plot: B
Production Quality: A
Positive Elements:  B
Negative Elements:  B 

GPA:  3.4

Comments: While I enjoyed The Dark Knight, I was a little disappointed because it did not quite live up to the expectations that I had been building in the days and weeks before.   By opening day, the media was at a frenzy.  Of course, this was not just the media’s fault.  They accurately reported film-goers’ expectations and reactions, and the movie did break records.   Do not get me wrong; I enjoyed the movie very much and will watch it again.   I was just a little disappointed that the movie did not live up to the hype. 

At least three things frustrated my expectations:  1)  The movie did not dive deeply into its own conflict and plot.  It seemed to bounce on the surface of a larger story like a skipped rock on water.  It feels like another origin story—this time, Harvey Two-Face.  As such it feels incomplete or shallow, like it was missing the rest of the story or did not possess a satisfyingly self-contained plot.   2)  The Joker did not live up to my expectations.   I expected him to be more evil and terrifying instead of just smart and weird.  Once again, his role was a skip of the rock on the way toward deeper waters, a part of Harvey Two-Face’s back story.  Ledger was immersed in this character, revealing what are, no doubt, some incredible acting chops.  I have seen him in other things and still had a difficult time recognizing him in this movie.  I assume that says a lot about his acting skills; however, makeup no doubt contributed to the immersive illusion.   I suspect also that our “actor-worshiping” culture has deified Ledger because his death coincidentally followed a unique and iconic acting opportunity.   The result is martyr-like accolades and eventual Oscar canonization.   My cynicism wants to blame some of the frenzy simply on the fact of his death and the shallowness of our Entertainment Tonight culture.  3)  I wanted a grittier and darker Batman. Spoiler follows!—In the end, the real darkness of the movie’s title is a lie concocted to cover Harvey’s "death" and descent.  My understanding of Batman was that his darkness was no illusion or lie.  He was a hero that was to be feared and doubted by even good people, an unknown terror in the darkness.    The cover up was instead thrown in at the last minute to give “insight” into the movie’s title that was splashed up at the end—a sort of unearned melodramatic moment.  I thought it would have been better to show Batman as a dark and dubious character throughout. 

I am being picky.  The fact is, I would watch it again in a second (maybe even several times), but I would not buy it on DVD.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Plot: B
Acting: A
Production Quality: A
Positive Elements: D
Negative Elements: D

GPA:  2.6

Comments:  Some movies exist simply for the spectacle.   Spectacle can be very entertaining, but it usually leaves the viewer with little more than a couple hour's rush and the momentary pleasure of seeing something new. If you enjoy spectacle, then I suppose it might be worth watching on that merit alone.  For Wanted, there is little else that commends it.   Eye-candy with nothing nutritious.  Spectacle lovers above a junior high level of maturity who can handle stylized movie violence could be entertained for at most the length of the movie.  It is a very violent, action movie, but it has presented itself all along as nothing more.  The special effects are amazing.  I might watch it again on DVD simply for the spectacle. But I won't expect more, and I wouldn't let my grammar age boys watch it. 

Brings to mind a question some Christians would ask:  Is mere spectacle, especially violent spectacle, with little else to commend it, wrong for a Christian to view?  I do not propose to answer the question here, but many would answer with an unequivocal yes.  I think the answer is much more complex and individual than that, but it is a question that needs to be asked nonetheless.