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.