Thursday, June 16, 2005

Yes, we all love Batman

love batman
Originally uploaded by Scipio1.

As the wise Plastic Man noted, "Yes, we all love Batman," or perhaps more accurately, "Batman Begins."

But let's all weigh in, if we would, on what we liked least about the film. Not that we didn't love it; most people did.
Just for contrast.

There were snags in the plot and dialog, sure, but the thing I liked least was

Michael Caine.

He lacked Alfredity, and you know what I mean.

What are your thoughts?


Matter-Eater Lad said...

Katie Holmes left a gaping Katie Holmes-sized hole in the screen in every single scene she was in. If she and Kristen Kreuk had a competition to see who could do a better job of stinking up the screen in a superhero drama, it would be a very, very close decision and could go either way. She was as believable as a DA as I would be as an NBA forward. She has no talent, no screen presence, and no chemistry with the character we're told she has an emotional connection to.

Loved the rest of the movie. Thankfully, Holmes just didn't have that much to do, and everything else was so good it prevented her sucktitude from homeopathically permeating everything else in the movie.

Anonymous said...

Surprisingly, I actually liked Caine as Alfred, and Holmes didn't bother me.

The only nit I can pick is that the score was unremarkable, and really doesn't hold a candle to the Danny Elfman score of the '89 Batman.

Otherwise... this was a nearly flawless movie.

Amy said...

Katie Holmes. Her head-jiggling every time she opened her mouth was so distracting, I couldn't even tell how crappy her acting was. Which may have been a blessing.

I liked Michael Caine as Alfred a bit more than you did, I think, but you're right -- there was something... missing. Perhaps if he tidied something in every scene he was in... Hm.

As for plot points, the ordinary citizens going into a rage while under attack seemed a bit contrived to me -- wouldn't the average person cower in terror rather than go outside on a rampage?

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brian said...

whoops, accidentally deleted my posty-thing. Trying again.

I admit, I dug the flick.
Big time. To be honest, even Katie Holmes didn't bother me that much -- she had so little screen time that her presence was mosquito-bite annoying, not movie-breaking awful. And any time she was on screen with Bale, he upstaged the bejeezus out of her anyway, so she was easy enough to ignore.

Seems to me that Nolan's whole plan for this movie was to make it as believable as possible. He uses every director's trick in the book (and makes up a few new ones) to make us believe that there exist circumstances that might make an otherwise (mostly) sane individual dress up as a bat and fight crime. Best review I read of the movie told it something like this: This isn't a comic book movie. It's a movie that just happens to involve a comic book character.

All that said, here's where the movie fell flat for me: When it was most like a comic book. The one-liners, the ham-handed philosophizing, the mini-expositions...stuff that is perfectly at home in the panels just doesn't seem to work as well on the screen. Real people wouldn't SAY those things.

I can imagine walking into this movie expecting it to be comic-book-like and walking out hating it. This isn't really a "Batman movie" in the classical sense. It's a movie that just borrows a lot of the imagery and tropes from the comic books and attempts to tell a good story.

Anonymous said...

Haven't seen the film, but I gotta quip -- Michael Caine may lack "Alfredity", but he has "Alfie-idity"...


Anonymous said...

Loved it. After seenging it, I was worried about the film's humorlessness. I knew the geeks would embrace it as the Batfilm they've always wanted, but was concerned that nongeeks might be alienated by the self-serious and reverent tone, which at times gave off a whiff of ripe fanboy musk.

And, in fact, that's been the reaction of several newspaper critics. But after actually READING their reviews -- which inevitably, if not always explicitly, evince a feeling of outrage at the films lack of over-the-top camp -- I say:

Ah, fuck 'em. It rawked.

Anonymous said...

Caution: Peevish, long-winded indie whinging ahead. Last exit before writerly pontificating.

For me, the film's few but sizable misfires grew out of its essential nature as a summer release backed by big studio money, and hence, Hollywood screenwriting groupthink.

Studios have fetishized the idea that screenplays must follow the same, ironclad three-act structure, which is why watching Hollywood flicks -- particularly those released in the summer months -- so often feels like going on the same carnival ride over and over: as soon as you feel the gears locking locking into place, you find yourself anticipating each twist and turn long before it comes.

Call it the Bruckheimer Effect.

A "tight" screenplay is prized by studios and screenwriters. Basically -- I'm simplifying -- tightness means that everything mentioned in the first act is referred to in the last act, either directly (the return of a character or situation) or indirectly, as a "callback."

People who advocate this kind of filmmaking -- which is, let's face it, nearly everydamnbody with an LA address -- try to validate this groupthink by namechecking Chekhov.

And yeah, he did advocate an approach to drama that tries to mirror reality by enforcing certain narrative/structural rules. It gives the audience of a play, story, novel or film a satisfying feeling: order has been imposed on the messy chaos of life.

But Chekhov was cautioning young writers against narrative sloppiness, not dictating the strict universal adoption of a single formula.

Yet that single formula -- on page twenty, X will happen; on page thirty, Y will happen -- is now inescapable.

I'd argue that the net effect is not one of satisfaction, but of airlessness. Focusing so intently on tightness makes a screenplay about nothing but itself -- its own overwrought reality. It has nothing whatever to say. Not so much a mirror up to nature but a wholly separate, artificial, constructed reality that has nothing whatsoever to do with the natural, the human, the wider world.

And yeah, I know, such movies are meant as entertainment, something to keep you in your seat eating popcorn and jujubees, not to provide insight into the human condition. I get that.

What I admired most about Batman Begins was that it managed to be about something before the inevitable studio-mandated Bruckheimification kicked in, in the final reel.

Nolan manged to resist the siren song of the blockbuster formula for a yeomanlike period of time, and invested the film with small, utterly convincing character beats that are messy and complex and human.

Everything that went wrong with the film was, I'd argue, a direct result of the formulaic demands of the summer studio release:

The Tortuous and Illogical Master Plan Behind the Big Microwave Macguffin Death Ray Runaway Train Tick Tick Tick Explosion-A-Rama, the "My GOD! If it gets to Wayne Tower, all of Gotham will..", the inevitable return of Villain X, the revelation that Villain X was behind ... pretty much everydamnthing, the egregiously needless secret id reveal, the pointless return of the goddamn arrowhead ...

All mandated by the same hacky blockbuster formula that causes films like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Armageddon, Tomb Raider, XXX, and a hundred others to blend together into one great big sack o'crap.

And yet, Batman Begins was something those flicks aren't: a nuanced, believably complex character study. That's not something I was expecting, and it continues to amaze me.

Scipio said...

"Studios have fetishized the idea that screenplays must follow the same, ironclad three-act structure."

Actually, Glenn, Aristotle is the person who did that (in On Poetics).

Anonymous said...

I speak not of Aristotle, who laid the foundations, nor (as I labored to point out) Chekhov, who built upon them.

Instead, I speak of those who came after, who mistook the foundations for the building itself: The Syd Fields, William Goldmans, and Robert McKees of the world.

Dude .. only one "n" in ... Tom Curry.

Anonymous said...

I loved the movie, but there was one thing in particular that made me cring every time it came on the screen:

Bale's "Batman Voice", when talking as Batman he made his voice all deep and growly. It was strange the first time, distracting the second, and laughable every time thereafter.

Did I mention that I loved this movie? (Particularly Alfred. Wotcher! :) )

Anonymous said...

I thought it was too "emo-Batman". I loathed everything about it.
I'm sort of half-glad someone remembered to stick Henri Ducard in there - he's the best Batman supporting cast member who's never used, but he's never been better written than in his first appearance by Samm Hamm in Detective #600 and seeing him used so poorly in the movie was kind of a let down.
I agree about the lameness of the three-act plots that are predictable and tired. Whenever I watch a superhero movie I get always get the feeling the only way this could have a chance of turning out either right or interesting is if Stanley Kubrick directed. You know, someone who would totally throw the rulebook out the fucking window.
Seeing Katie Holmes and Michael Caine in the movie wasn't overly insulting - it was just the standard crap you go in expecting.

Anonymous said...

Sam Hamm story in Detective #600? Wasn't that the one that introduced Ducard as such a hard case that he buys some stationary when he gets off the plane so he's armed? Even now you can carry paper clips and pencils on a plane, it was lame intro which blew the story for me.

Didn't care for the Batman fights in "Batman Begins". I liked the first fight as Batman, but when they were all confused and impressionistic, well not so much. Overall I felt it was "worthy", well as "worthy" as superhero film gets.