“Fan-boys might want to look away now”
I’m really pushed for time this week, so my notes will be brief and lacking in support or explanation for any opinions offered. The purpose of these notes is for me to not have to remember anything and so its a bit of a risk to note down how I feel and not why I feel it. To myself in the future, I apologise. Whilst I’m busy caveating, I should add that my first viewing of last year’s biggest film (that’s the kind of unsubstantiated guess I was on about, on reflection Mamma Mia! probably beat it) took place in three broken spells on the 320×240 screen of my phone. Hardly ideal viewing circumstances.
The films I avoided last year because of the hype were Wall-E and The Dark Knight. I wish I’d seen them both on the big screen now, but for differing reasons- in Wall-E‘s case it is simply because it was a beautifully constructed piece of high-art masquerading as a kids’ film. The Dark Knight, however, is very specifically designed for the multiplex viewer- with its dark look, booming sound effects and the huge visual impact of its explosions. Seeing it on a phone (or even a big fuck-off telly) can never do that justice.
The film itself is a pale shadow of Batman Begins. I know that it’s easy to slag off a sequel, but that isn’t what’s happening here. The sequel, unusually, is the more lauded of the films. For a long spell in 2008, an IMDB poll had The Dark Knight rated as the greatest film ever made- currently it is merely the 6th best film of all time according to voters there. Personally, I greatly prefer the first film because a lot of the determination that was there to make a really good film first time around appears to have been lost in the desire to make a really great spectacle. The subtlety and intrigue is gone. Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne was troubled yet driven, morally ambiguous and too immature for the role he had created for himself. In this film he is a towering intellectual giant with a clear moral code and a ludicrously husky vocal delivery once he gets that suit on. Far be it from me to suggest that someone has disrupted Bale’s process, but I much preferred it when his Bruce Wayne was a three-dimensional human. I’ll never tire of that audio clip, by the way.
Fundamentally, Batman is James Bond in kevlar body armour. He goes outside the law and employs astonishing gadgets to bring down world-threatening bad guys in the final reel of the film. Michael Caine is M, Morgan Freeman is Q and Maggie Gyllenhall (a huge, huge improvement on Katie Holmes and the one aspect of the film where the quality is ramped up on the original) is Vesper Lynd. And this is a pretty decent Bond film; the set-pieces are amazing, the villain is charismatic (but it isn’t quite worthy of the posthumous plaudits) and the suspense is held pretty strongly for the most part. The problem, as is often the case with this type of film, is the plot- The Joker wants to create mayhem in the only city on the planet with a superhero by bankrupting the numerous crime overlords and turning the tough-on-crime District Attorney into a delusional psychopath. Just because he can. There are twists along the way, but they’re not interesting or surprising. You know a twist is coming because it is signposted way ahead by the projected plot being that little bit too straightforward. The intention is to lull the audience and then surprise them. Well either I’m too cynical or there was too much lulling and not enough surprising. Even weaker than the plot, though, is the dialogue, which everyone delivers as if they were Richard Burton on Richard III. That is the weakest thing in the film.
The costumes and visual effects and lighting and stunts and all the dull stuff that only matters if the rest of the film is up to scratch are all great, I should say. But it’s effectively just a very effective marketing tool and a great visual spectacle and very probably a great multiplex experience (if a little long) and not much of a film. 4/10