Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wall-E, Dark Knight, Hellboy (major spoilers)

I saw all three of these films at the theatre yesterday. Since a lot has already been said about them, I will keep myself to capsule reviews, though the Hellboy thing gets a bit rant-y.

Wall-E is of course wonderful, one of the best movies I have ever seen. Pixar's technical achievements are nothing compared to their gifts of character and story. Wall-E does hovers between putting a spork with his collection of forks or spoons and finally decides to leave it between the two. And now I love him. The main characters have so little dialogue, and yet seem so much more human than most film characters I can think of. When the satire of act two kicks in, it is broad but also all visual -- this film, wonderfully, does not end with some big Jeff Garland speech condemning the human race for their sloth and blah blah blah. They just get to work. No one needs a big speech. And the movie avoids the simple "screens are bad, go out and live life" message that so many movies seem to think is a good lesson -- in spite of the fact that movies are the images on the screens that we care about; Wall-E cares about the images on HIS screen, and so we can care about ours guilt free. A

Halfway through Dark Knight I thought what I have been hearing from most people: Ledger is amazing and I could not think of anything wrong with the film exactly; my only clue that something was wrong was the fact that I was not really engrossed the way I am in a really good movie -- something on screen was keeping me in my head, distanced, analyzing. Somewhere after where the second intermission should have been I got very restless: the movie, and its grim seriousness just went on and on and on, and it made me tired all over. This is not just a length issue: pacing has a lot to do with it. There Will Be Blood was longer, but felt much shorter. Keeping everything at a pitch is exhausting and the the introduction of the late Dent conflict made the film feel like it had four acts rather than the proper three. Though it is partly a length issue: two hours and thirty minutes is too long for a summer Batman movie; people make fun of Shumaker for excesses like the villain pairs and trios, and they should, but let's be honest and say that this film crammed Scarecrow, Joker, Two-Face, and the mob into one film. It might have been better as a six hour HBO series with a killer budget. I very much agree with Neil that the "hero Gotham needs" rather than the "hero Gotham deserves" distinction made little sense, and that the whole thing was quite depressing the way Joker was able to turn Dent so thoroughly and quickly. And I hate the Batman voice: do not tell me Wayne is playing a character, because it is a bad character and that voice is ridiculous if you are going do anything more than shout three word commands at criminals; this in a movie that seemed in love with monologues about the nature or order and chaos, heroism, and justice, especially toward the end. There is a lot to like in the movie, even outside of Ledger (who was stunning): the prisoner chucking the detonator out the window, the truck flipping over, the reveal of Batman in the interrogation room. And I loved that the Joker was not given an origin, and in fact made a joke out of his lack of one. But the good stuff was was isolated. And what the hell was Eric Roberts doing in that movie, and why was he given such a big part? C

[EDIT: SEE THE COMMENTS FOR MY REVISIONS AND EXPANSIONS]

As for Hellboy Where is the outrage? del Torro is like Gondry (and Mignola to a lesser extent): his is a wonderful visual stylist -- the monsters of Hellboy are beautiful, that puppet scene especially -- but not much of a storyteller. Movies are very much a visual medium, and I get why they get so much credit for the achievement, but with Pixar running around handling both quite well, the bar should surely be raised. My complaints in the form of a flood: Kid Hellboy was awful, and thanks for the bit about the king only being able to command the golden army if unchallenged. See you have to add that arbitrary rule if you want to both have a fight scene with an unstoppable army AND have your film climax with a mono-e-mono. Elf man cutting the drop of water with his blade makes no sense unless you establish that that was what he was trying to do: if there was water dripping everywhere as it was in that scene I could do that too. If you were fighting a swarm of things would you just stand in the middle of the room just shooting your gun around? One actor in that scene was not even pretending that there were CGI creatures everywhere -- he just stood there calmly pointing his gun and various places on the green screen or whatever. Liz is an awful, wasted character, good for little more than hysterical woman cliches (and men's sitcom reactions to those cliches) literalized her her flames. Does you really want your German guy to sound EXACTLY like the fish on American Dad? Why did Hellboy say he was going to shoot the monster with his big gun then go to help some woman in an SUV and take her baby? -- because for thematic reasons (rather than any plot reason) we need to see him with a baby to know he will make a good dad. Why does Elf-man give him such a guilt trip about the last of the wood elementals -- he was the one that decided to use the unique Mononoke creature for some petty revenge over a dead bodyguard Hellboy was not even responsible for. The troll looked like a bag lady and is afraid of canaries -- wokka wokka. Was it a COINCIDENCE that the one person who could remove the shard in Hellboy happened to live next to the Golden Army? And do you really want to DOUBLE UP on the plot point of main characters deciding to pick their loved ones over stopping the apocalypse in the third act? And are there no consequences to that decision -- everyone seems to still like Abe at the end in spite of his attempt at world ending traitorousness: I suppose the point is they cannot throw stones. Did German fish man really just suddenly have this massive realization about his whole life as a result of Liz telling him he has forgotten how to be human? And it was really cheap how Hellboy can let Elf man live only to have the sister kill him in this magical way: it really negates the responsibility again. And why on earth do they all quit at the end? The singing, for the record, I actually liked , but the song about the Freaks was a little on the nose. I suppose you have to raise this at least a letter grade, maybe two, for the monsters, but the story here was so overwhelmingly bad I really want to give this an F.

40 comments:

Kamandi said...

I have a lot of problems with your Dark Knight review, enough so that I find myself wondering why I visit your blog as regularly as I do.

Now, to be fair, this is exactly the review I had expected from you, as you have made no secret of your personal preferences and hang-ups when it comes to film. Still, I'm struggling. If I may...

Yes, Eric Roberts was in this film. Don't raise this point unless you're prepared to discuss it, though. What about Roberts' performance bothered you, exactly?

Likewise, why can't a summer Batman film be 2.5 hours long? Very few people have made issue of the run time, which is only slightly longer than Batman Begins. If you're going to criticize the run time, please explain why it's a problem. There Will Be Blood's run time certainly did it no favors, in my opinion (and let's not even get into the narrative problems inherent within that "film").

Why do both you and Neil not see the point of the "hero Gotham needs" versus the "hero Gotham deserves" distinction? Gotham needs a voice of reason and of hope, but it has continually turned on "heroes" who provide that (count Thomas Wayne and two of The Dark Knight's fallen among the casualties). Gotham deserves a "freak" hero, someone who counters costumed histrionics with more histrionics. At this stage, everyone realizes that Batman has simply escalated the problem, though, so he obviously was not the solution that the city needed. Sane men can't hold back the tide of malevolence in the city, though. Both you and Neil are splitting hairs here and it's quite unnecessary.

What was depressing about the Joker "turning" Dent? Aside from the beef Dent held with Gordon, which does make sense in context of the larger story (Dent knew their were problems on Gordon's task force; why didn't Gordon?), Dent's vendetta was with criminals and crooked cops. The Joker didn't turn Two-Face into a villain. He revealed to Dent that working within the lines of the law no longer worked in this new world order. I'm not sure I understand the problem you have with this aspect of the narrative.

As far as Batman's voice is concerned, though, I'm quick to agree with you. Bale plays a compelling Wayne and he's physically imposing as Batman, but his grumble-voice was the only major problem that I had with the film.

Anagramsci said...

my problems with the Dark Knight go straight to its philosophical core, so I'm not sure if I could have liked it even if the narrative hadn't been botched--but I quite agree with you that it WAS botched (particularly in its deployment of the Harvey Dent character), that the pseudo-profound discussions of "city-appropriate heroism" are hopeless and that the Bat-voice is for the birds...

and, yes, Ledger was excellent--particularly when outlining his multiple-choice-choose-none-of-the-above maudlin primal psychic damage/origin story...

damned shame they couldn't have made a good movie around it...

and I think I'll have to see Wally --everyone loves it!

Dave

Anagramsci said...

I mean--Wall-E!

Kamandi said...

That is to say, Dent knew THERE were problems on Dent's task force.

So sorry.

Madd_Hadder said...

Wall-E only gets better upon subsequent viewings too. I have seen it three times now, and just keep falling more in love with it.

I loved The Dark Knight. I have noticed that people who I think are comic book people first and movie people second tend not to like it, but those who are movie people first tend to really enjoy it. I think if Batman was a rouge detective and not a masked character, this would have been released much later in the year as a Heat like movie.

I loved Hellboy 2 as well, but mostly because of the visuals. I got what I wanted from it.

Kenney said...

Just goes to show how different strokes appeal to different folks, as I really enjoyed There Will Be Blood, but felt like the last 30 minutes could have been chopped off. I started looking at my watch, which is never a good thing.

In Dark Knight, I didn't even notice that it was 2 hours plus long.

I also have to agree with Kamandi, in that Eric Roberts...is well Eric Roberts, but I thought he was perfectly fine in his role in this movie. He might not be my favorite, but he can pull of that gangster role no problem.

jennifer said...

ditto to wall.e. so nice to see a movie depending on visual cues instead of dialogue.
as far as the dark knight. i did like it more than you geoff. but i am a bigger fan of drawn out serious, depressing movies than you are.
i do agree the dent to two-face transition was handled badly. it was too quick without any emotional transition that we were privy to. leandro pointed out that it would have been thematically appropiate for two-face to decide to persue a bad life based on the toss of the coin, instead of using the coin after his transition. fitting in the continuum of batman, principle and order, joker, chaos and destruction, add two-face, chance.
and ledger fleshed out the joker just as i had imagined him reading the comics. creepy motherf**ker.

Block Rottner said...

Re: Eric Roberts. I thought that part of the point was that the whole second tier of Dark Knight's cast was b-list players. Melinda "Scully's Sister" McGraw as Mrs. Gordon, Michael "Spawn" Jai White as Gambol, Tiny "Jackie Brown" Lister as Tattooed Hulk on the Prison Ferry, Anthony Michael Hall as Mike Engel, Nestor "Bat-Manuel" Carbonell as Mayor Garcia . . . what point Nolan and company were trying to make, I dunno.

Maybe it was a . . . sad joke?

Kamandi said...

Within the confines of this film, Two-Face never decided to pursue a "bad life." He did some bad things, yes, but only as a means for revenge. In the wake of what he and Rachel went through, Dent sought out vengeance, rather than justice.

That's not necessarily a "bad life," nor does it make him an outright "villain." I'll admit that the lengths that he went to in order to punish Gordon were extreme, but Dent was seeking revenge.

We were never led to believe that he was inspired to lead a life of crime due to the Joker's influence.
_______________

And, yes, Eric Roberts plays a sleazy character. He's certainly not playing against type in the role, but I fail to see how his very presence taints the film.

Kenney said...

"Re: Eric Roberts. I thought that part of the point was that the whole second tier of Dark Knight's cast was b-list players."

Who says there needs to be a point? Maybe Nolan and Co. just casted the actors they felt were right for the parts?

Geoff Klock said...

Kamandi: "made no secret of your personal preferences and hangups" -- by this you mean that I have published my opinions, yeah? Cause anything sounds bad if you say it in that tone of voice. And believe me, you would not be the first person to stop reading this blog because you do not agree with me. To be fair, there are several websites I stopped reading after their opinions did not jive with mine. I will NEVER forgive AO Scott for liking Johnny English. NEVER. Never read a times review since.

This is very much a rambly impression thing, and I could have been more precise and better argued, sure. One of the reasons I did not work it up into an argument is because I don't really have one, and I know people around here just want to know what I think of that movie. So the impressions there are no more than what I would have said -- and in fact did say -- on the walk from the theatre back to my house. I also figured since a lot has been said already, I would just briefly indicate where I fell on the continuum.

Also -- tone of voice. My fault. Typical internet thing. I did not hate Eric Roberts. I thought he was kind of funny actually. He is just such a B-list soft core porn staple and Julia Roberts brother he just sort of sticks out at me. The tone of voice on that sentence should have been playful incredulous rather than complaining -- and in the context I put it I can see why you would have thought it was a big complaint. My bad.

A summer Batman movie can be 2.5 hours long. But not like this. The pacing is all off, because, as I said it wants to be at this huge pitch all the time. it is exhausting. There Will Be Blood had its quiet moments mixed in with the set-pieces. The closest Dark Knight came to a quiet moment was all the PHILOSOPHICAL MONOLOGUING, which is to me equally exhausting. Do you want an example of what I wanted: think of that great scene in Burton's first Batman film where Wayne is eating with Vale in this absurdly fancy room in his mansion and Vale says "do you actually like eating in this room?" He says "Yeah, yeah .. you know, I don't think I've ever been in this room before." Then they go eat like sandwiches in the kitchen with Alfred. You cannot have a scene in this movie like that without some horror intruding. The length is not used well because of the pacing.

Who is the hero gotham needs and who is the hero gotham deserves? They need Dent to be pure right? But what have they done to deserve Batman? I am not sure it is splitting hairs. What you want at that moment in the film is perfect clarity -- this is after all the note the film will go out on. I am not saying this cannot be parsed out (though I am not saying it can be either) -- it is just not that clear, and that lack of clarity is a problem.

"The Joker didn't turn Two Face into a villain" -- he had a gun to the head of a little boy. I cannot follow you here.
"We were never lead to believe that he was inspired to lead a life of crime due to the joker's influence -- but surely the joker is the cause for his revenge spree since he killed the people Dent wants revenge for. And that scene in the hospital -- I think there we ARE supposed to see that speech as changing Dent's life.

Madd_Hadder: so for you, and I am asking this question sincerely, the visuals of Hellboy overshadow the LIST of objections I made? I am just trying to understand how people can like this movie.

Block: that IS really INTERESTING. Huh. I will think on that.

Kenny: yeah, but they are almost distractingly recognizable, drawing a weird amount of attention to themselves as a result. I am sure they did get actors they felt were right for the parts. The question is was their feeling off at all. I basically do not think they were on the whole. I can see how Eric Roberts' B -movie roles for example, play into his B-list villain thing.

Geoff Klock said...

And let me reiterate: there was a lot to like about Batman. But I think my friend Brad is right about this: people want a Batman movie so bad, it gets a lot of extra credit.

Madd_Hadder said...

Geoff: After a first viewing yes. If I were to see Hellboy again, maybe I would feel differently about it, but I got what I wanted the first time around. I could hate it the second time around, it has happened before. The First time I saw "Sky Captain" I was so floored by the visuals, I came out loving and when I went back to see it again, I could not believe I ever loved it.

Maybe I was watching it in terms of seeing whether he could pull off The Hobbit visually?

Geoff Klock said...

I think I have my Dark Knight opinion into a better sound byte: Christopher Nolan cannot have a scene like the Burton scene in which Vale and Wayne share a sandwich in an unpretentions kitchen without putting a BOMB in the sandwich, and that is why Dark Knight feels like it is 9 and a half hours long. Because there is no place to slacken the tension even for a moment.

Geoff Klock said...

Look at Kill Bill if you want to see good pacing: you NEED that scene with Hanzo so you can recharge before the big set piece at the end of Vol 1. Batman, on the other hand, pretty much goes straight from fighting the Joker to fighting with Dent.

sara d. reiss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kamandi said...

Geoff, you've proven yourself to be a better man than I.

As a regular reader and infrequent poster (certainly not a troll, though), I knew that both you and Neil had misgivings about this film, particularly in regard to the reinterpretation of the Joker. The tone of your review led me to believe that you went into this film wanting to dislike it... and therefore nit-picked inconsequential elements such as the casting of Eric Roberts. So, I gave your thoughts a bit more weight than you probably meant to give them, yourself.

A couple of quick thoughts: Gordon's blind faith in his task force caused Dent to lose someone he loved. Dent's attempt to kill Gordon's son was his (terrible and misguided) attempt at eye for an eye compensation. Again, that doesn't lead me to believe that Dent has embraced a cliched "life of crime." There's a significant difference between this reading of Two-Face and others that we have seen. The Dark Knight presents an altogether different take on the character. Dent doesn't turn into the duality obsessed gangster that we are used to. Instead, he is a man once devoted to the cause of justice he has been drive to lose total faith in the rule of law.

Much like the poseur Batmen in the film's opening, the conditions in Gotham inspire Dent to take the law into his own hands... to a terrible extreme.

As a side note, the last time I posted on your blog, you mentioned that exact same scene from Burton's original Batman film. It is a great scene, although I have many problems with that film in general.

Geoff Klock said...

Here is the shameful truth about Eric Roberts. I have seen every episode of the terrible sitcom Less Than Perfect because I have a huge crush on the actress Sara Rue. Eric Roberts is a main character on that show. So seeing him in Batman was just sort of surprisingly surreal.

I see your point about Dent, and how he is more sympathetic than usual. Magneto is also quite sympathetic. But both tried to kill children, so there are limits to my ability to take them out of the villian category -- but I can go with sympathetic villain on both.

Burton's Batman is not a great movie, but there is also a lot to like it in.

sara d. reiss said...

sorry. deleted my post. typos

i know the batman thing is drawing all the attention and it's easier to talk and debate over negative, or perceived negative points, than to just repeat in different ways how much you like something, but, sweet zombie jesus did I love wall.e! I mean MY GOD what a beautiful movie. I feel what really makes it click in is that it takes a simple little story and builds a universe around it. John Lasseter, the director, said that the story telling is in the details. What makes these characters real is the small things. The spork scene, the dried pieces of paper flying around wall.e's world. he's right. it's the things that make up our world that we don't notice that makes this one as palpable as it is. You don't need meta jokes or pop culture references that went stale before the thing hits the theaters to make something that relates to everyone.

anyway

when you find yourself all grown up in the middle of movie theater on a summer afternoon, actually chewing on your knuckles, tearing up, and cheering ecstatically at the screen, just as absolutely heartfelt as the 7 year old sitting next to you, you begin to realize this is something more than a movie.

sara d. reiss said...

btw- if anyone is interested: here's christopher nolan and christian bale on fresh air: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92581365

Kenney said...

I really need to go see Wall-E. Pixar movies have never let me down (even the ones I like least are still pretty fantastic), but I usually wait to see them on dvd.

One thing about Batman that I didn't like was I never bought into Harvey Dent as Gotham's savior. He never seemed as "good" as Gordon, Rachel, and Wayne kept telling me he was.

louobedlam said...

I disagree with your opinion of The Dark Knight.

But that's actually kind of why I like reading your site. If we were on the same page all the time, I could just sit at home and talk to myself. It's in reading opposing views of things that I'm able to better flesh out why I feel the way I do about those things.

I hadn't given Eric Roberts much thought until you mentioned him, but now, looking back, I enjoyed his performance. I think one of the reasons he still gets work is because he's actually a decent actor, and some folks still remember his early work, which was quite good.

And here I am, defending Eric Roberts. What have I become?

But I never would've have thought about his performance if I hadn't read your review. I wouldn't have thought about how the pacing never bothered me, or how I was so thoroughly engrossed in the film that I didn't notice the length.

I think another factor in my liking the movie was that I didn't actually expect it to be good. I was only a so-so fan of the previous one, and expected little more this time. I've coming around to the idea that lowered expectations are really the best way to go into something as hyped as this film was, just to get my expectations back to a realistic place.

So thanks. Thanks for making me think about all that.

brad said...

This has been one of the most exciting summers of blockbusters in a long time. My list from best to worst:

Iron Man
Wall-E
The Dark Knight
Hellboy 2
Indiana Jones
Wanted
The Incredible Hulk

Troy Wilson said...

I think, on the whole, the general public isn't used to seeing this much high-falutin' philosophy melded so blatantly with superheroics. It's still relatively new for many of them. Whereas we comics fans have been reading stuff like this since the 80's. But there's well executed super-pretension and there's poorly executed super-pretension. Dark Knight was loaded with the poorly-executed variety. I enjoyed the Joker's monologues, and wouldn't have cut much from them, but everyone else's were just painful. Imagine a much longer version of Silence of the Lambs if EVERYONE made speeches, not just Hannibal Lector.
One of the most groan-worthy monologues was Gordon's at the end as Bats drove away. He was going on and on to his (very) young son, for pity's sake.

So yeah, I agree with you, Geoff. This would've been better as an HBO series. More quiet moments, more showing, and less telling, telling, telling.

In the end, Dark Knight has more in common with the 1989 Batman than I would've hoped. Both have plenty of great moments - and great Jokers - as well as plenty of missteps.

More later...

neilshyminsky said...

Lotsa people have chimed in here, and I won't go over things that I cover on my own blog. But I do want to add something about Eric Roberts. He bugged me too, because while he does well playing to type, he is still very noticeably Eric Roberts. And in a film where great actors like Heath Ledger and Gary Oldman manage to make you forget the actor behind the character, that becomes something of a distraction.

hcduvall said...

The thing with Del Toro is, and this includes Pan's Labyrinth, his creativity is seldom in service to the story, it frequently feels like indulgence. Otherwise? He's pretty sloppy.

patrick said...

Hellboy is fun; it's refreshing that he's a superhero who doesn't take himself too seriously, plus he fumbles about like an average guy

hcduvall said...

Ah, the thing of it is, I didn't have as much fun with Hellboy 2 as I did the first one because I felt like Del Toro didn't take dotting i's and crossing the t's too seriouly, and kinda fumbled the story.

Troy Wilson said...

Before I resume tearing Dark Knight a new one, I do want to stress that I did enjoy a lot of it. I agree with Scipio Garling's extensive (but far from exhaustive) list of the good parts: http://absorbascon.blogspot.com/2008/07/things-that-made-me-happy-at-cinema.html#links

Plus, the fact that the parties involved had the guts to make Dark Knight long and ambitious might pave the way for others to make long, ambitious superhero films that actually work (as well as, of course, ones that don't). That's not to say that I see it as a template for how all superhero films should be made. Obviously, there are tons of valid and valuable approaches to superheroic material, from the super-serious to the super-silly and everything in between. Let's hope Dark Knight can broaden the playing field at the super-serious end of the spectrum without squashing the super-silly end. At least not for too long, anyway. Post-Watchmen superheroes weren't pretty - or fun.

I'd rate Dark Knight higher than Geoff's C, because the parts I liked I REALLY liked. Even so, it's certainly not the best superhero movie ever. For my money, Iron Man and The Incredibles accomplish what they set out to accomplish with far fewer hiccups.

Speaking of hiccups, Two Face didn't quite work. This version was light years better the Batman Forever version, but his turn to the dark side was too quick and too extreme. Dent killing the criminals and corrupt cops worked, but I didn't buy him going after Gordon's loved ones. Gordon needed to screw up in a more substantive way to make that work. Yes, Gordon put too much faith in his corrupt cops and yes he might've called Dent "Harvey Two Face" and yes he failed to save Rachel (but it's not as if he didn't TRY to save her, for pete's sake). Still and all, none of that sold me on Harvey the White Knight being reduced to pointing a gun at Gordon's kid. I think Harvey needed to be more conflicted, right until the end. Or Gordon needed to have screwed up in a bigger way. Or something.

And I didn't feel anything for these people. Granted, I don't necessarily feel anything - or need to feel anything - for most characters in superhero movies. Or in blockbusters generally, for that matter. But I did feel for the characters in many of the crime films Dark Knight has been compared to. And it's clear that Nolan & company really, really, really want me to care. And it's equally clear that, with some re-jigging they could have made me. More's the pity that they didn't.

Troy Wilson said...

A couple of changes friends of mine suggested for the segment with the boats: Either a) someone on one of the boats could have pressed the detonator only to have their OWN boat blow up, or b) the people on one or both boats could've realised that a)was a possibility, thereby giving them even more cause not to press the button.

Oh, and Lucias REALLY needs to come up with some device that can electronically alter Bruce's voice, because yeah the Bat voice is dumb. Plus, I bet it really makes his throat raw.

Mikey said...

Geoff - my God, that's why I watch Less Than Perfect too. See, I knew there was a reason I kept coming back here....

Being English, the only thing I know about Eric Roberts is that he's turned up as a gag on South Park a couple of times. But I am a huge fan of B- and C-list actors and "That Guys", and the kind of 'resonances' (without wanting to sound too high-falutin') they generate when they pop up in movies and shows - whether good or bad. As such, as per Block's previous post, I'll be watching Dark Knight tomorrow with interest.

After all, Nolan et al are quite smart - you would think if they were going to cast someone who would stand out as much as Roberts seems to, that it would be for a reason.

Wall-E - currently on a par with No Country and In Bruges as the film of the year for me. There were two points in the movie that I knew would make my girlfriend cry (because, y'know, they're the points that make me cry), and I looked across and she was just bawling. As she is a wonderful person, and only cries when genuinely moved, when this happens it means that a movie is truly human(e). I also thought the satire was quite savage at points, but never in a cheap or demonstrative way (savage is too strong a word and not really accurate but I can't quite think of the right one). And it looked amazing, of course.

My favourite part? Probably anything with the cleaning robot, and how it came good in the end by retrieving the plant. Everyone gets to play a part in Wall.E (and other Pixar movies).

In Pixar movies generally - although feel free to correct me - there are rarely (never?) any out and out villains, in the sense of irredeemable subhumans. The villains are usually provided with some sort of sympathetic hook, they're never baseless, although they are also no less effective in providing drama and acting as plot engine because of this.

In fact, the fact that the villain can be sympathetic is always taken as simple and normal, not part of a tired moral debate about the nature of evil, black, white and grey etc. - it's never The Point.

It's this kind of humanity and inclusiveness (and always siding with the rebels and misfits - "Rogue Robots!") while still generating a story with emotional and dramatic peaks, that make Pixar movies so rewarding I think.

Paul said...

Geoff: I see what you mean about the pace of The Dark Knight, but for me that was one of the draws of the film. Yes, I was worn out by the end, but that was the world of Gotham. The citizens of Gotham were living in constant fear because of the Joker. Every sandwich could have had a bomb in it. Sure, there were only brief moments of peace and quiet dialogue (usually between Bruce and Alfred, Alfred and Rachel, Rachel and Bruce), but life at that moment in time in Gotham could only afford those short moments. The Joker was constantly hammering at the city, no one hardly had a chance to catch their breath.

BTW, Wall-E is the spork! The film defies catagorization! Truly beautiful. Reminded me of Brazil but more family friendly.

Troy Wilson said...

Paul: The problem wasn't that every sandwich could have a bomb in it. The problem was every sandwich did have a bomb in it. Big difference.

Geoff Klock said...

troy -- that is going to be the quote of the week and I am putting it up on sunday. Cause out of context that is hilarious.

scott91777 said...

Damn you and your Sanwhiches, Klock! :)

That said... Even though I enjoyed the movie, I think I may have found out what an inherent problem with The Dark Knight is. The world that Nolan has created is meant to be very 'realistic'... now, think about how Batman comes off in the movie: He wears a sleek black costume and speaks in an over the top growl that becomes even more ridiculous when he delivers painfully hokey monologues. The other characters... Gordon, The Joker and Dent (even post Two Face) seem to come off, with a little willful supspension of disbelief, as fairly believable. Batman, however, sticks out like a sore thumb. So, the problem is, we have a Batman movie where Batman seems out of place.

Triumph of the Underdog said...

I haven't posted in a while, but I thought I'd pop in to add to The Dark Knight discussion. Here are things that worked and that didn't work, in my opinion.

1. By his own admission, Nolan spends a lot of time developing the "third guy" in Batman Begins. That is to say you've got the public Bruce Wayne (a farce on celebrity and affluence), Batman (a pretty farcical bogeyman) and then the third guy – the guy he is in the Batcave with the mask off, talking to Alfred. In Batman Begins it's the "third guy" that's the real character, the one we related to: he's the college kid who tries to kill Joe Chill, he's the disillusioned dude who goes on the samurai quest. (Geoff—I'm pretty sure that was the "third guy" in the kitchen with Vicki Vale and Alfred, too. ☺) The "third guy" is only sporadically and haphazardly thrown into The Dark Knight — a few scenes with Alfred and Maggie G, but that's it. There's very little anchor to his story in the movie and it suffers because of it. That said…

2. I love that this is almost a "Gotham Central" movie that focuses on Jim Gordon. (Everyone talks about how Ledger disappears into his role, but Oldman does so in a much more subdued way.) I was furious when Gordon got shot and probably would have hated the rest of the movie if he hadn't come back. That's why the few scenes with the "third guy" annoy me. Not because there's too few of them – I almost wish there weren't any at all! My dream is to one day see a Batman movie where Batman is a supporting character – you only see sort of see him in shadow and see Bruce Wayne at society things. This movie annoyed me at times because it refused to decide if Batman was a supporting character or the main character. But the police intrigue and Dent stuff was all great to me. (Thank GOD they didn't save Two-Face for another movie. I think Nolan told pretty much the only story you can with Dent/Two-Face, and it wouldn't have been worthy of it's own movie.)

3. TOO MUCH TECHNOLOGY. What is this, the Adam West show? Really. The sonar goggles at the end were completely ridiculous, not to mention completely debilitating in a fight. (My friend said that last scene with the bgoggles failing might be an attempt to show Batman learning to not depend on technology and that in the third movie he'll be more low-tech. Kind of a stretch, but whatever.)

4. Heath Ledger was genuinely great — creepy, threatening and yet relatable. The scene where he's wearing the nurses uniform and sort of bounces out of the hospital like a little kid is one of my new favorite things. This "edgy" Joker worked in a serious movie like this, but I don't know if it will work anywhere else. A great performance, but probably not the definitive Joker. But who knows? It'll sure be fun to watch someone try to top Ledger in intensity one day.

Triumph of the Underdog said...

By the way, this is mitch. :)

scott91777 said...

Mitch/Triumph,

I definitely agree with you... after discussing it with friends I think we've decided while this isn't the best Batman movie, it is the best Joker, Gordon, Dent/Two-Face movie.

Streebo said...

I'm coming late to the party because I've been too busy of late to get out to the movies regularly.

Re: Dark Knight: I agree with Geoff on this one. The pacing is all wrong. It does try to move too fast for the entirety of the movie and it is literally exhausting. Not only that - but I don't think the action crescendoed properly. There is a lot of talk on this blog about plots holes and story problems - but film is a visual medium first and foremost so at the most basic level - the action has to be entertaining -- and it should crescendo properly to an exciting climax. The ending of Dark Knight felt anti-climatic It's like the world's largest roller coaster that sends you through loop after loop but as it nears the end, it just levels out and slows down to a crawl. . .

This film like anything Goyer touches suffers from Goyerism as well. By that I mean the wacky sonar bat vision that suddenly pops up at the end of the film. In a film that worked so hard to stay close to it's gritty crime/film noir roots - to suddenly throw in this bizarre technology and it's use near the end of the film destroys the dark realistic tone that was so carefully constructed over the previous two hours.

And for Hellboy 2 I must throw the gauntlet at Geoff's face! I enjoyed Hellboy 2 much more than Dark Knight. Hellboy 2 is a great example of superheroics as BIGDUMBFUN. It is a visual feast from beginning to end that begs for subsequent viewings just to take in all of the sights. I understand Geoff taking exception to Liz as being the cliched frustrated girlfriend - but as anyone can tell you after a rather tiring end to a relationship the male half usually has no idea why the female half of the relationship is upset or why it all ended so suddenly. That's a cliche - but it's also LIFE!

The fight scenes were entertaining and unlike Dark Knight - they actually crescendo properly right up to the end.

Anyone that doesn't get teary eyed at Hellboy and Abe singing has no heart.

So YES - the highly imaginative visuals mixed with charming likable characters and fueled by high octane action scenes outweigh the negatives of a lukewarm story and weak plot points of Hellboy 2. So far, it is my favorite superhero film of the year - beating out Iron Man and Dark Knight.

swirly-girl said...

Once again, it is amazing how much your opinion coincides with my own on the subject of 'Dark Knight'. You should have a glance at my recent review here: http://swirly-girl.livejournal.com/

-L (a.k.a. Lala Lovette)