23 July 2008

more comic book films, etc.

during a break at work earlier today, i checked the website for the compuware arena drive-in. turns out that, starting friday, they will be showing hellboy II: the golden army. this is the third film that i have wanted to see this summer. the best part? they're showing it as a double feature with the dark knight.

the dark knight will be shown first. make no mistake about it, this will make for a very LONG evening. TDK clocks in at 2hr 30min. i'll probably try to go on saturday evening, weather permitting. that way, i can rest during the day.

in other news, i am in the middle of reading a LOT of harlan ellison essays. i finished the collections called "an edge in my voice" and "watching". you should consider both of these books required reading. currently, i am reading "the glass teat", which is a collection of his essays on television criticism. (i was able to track down used first print copies of this and the companion collection "the other glass teat".) i might start reading samuel r. delany's novel "dhalgren". his novel "nova" was a direct inspiration of william gibson's "neuromancer" and is also required reading. i'm also trying to find novels by thomas m. disch, who is considered to be one of the giants of science fiction literature. unfortnately, he committed suicide earlier this month. i don't know much about him and i think it's high time i rectify that.

finally, i have been feeling...stagnant lately, from an artistic standpoint. it's my own fault. i have a lot of distractions in my life. writing, when i can concentrate, sooths some of the stagnation, but overall it ain't doing it. i'm thinking about taking a photography class. the object would be to train my eye so that i'm in a better position to write a script.

then again, this could be another distraction. any advice that you may have is welcome. also, if you'd like to light a fire under my arse, be my guest.

and now, slumbertime.

19 July 2008

The Dark Knight

it is not a secret that my hearing issues prevent me from going into movie theaters. with the surround sound, the loud volume and the subwoofers it just isn't safe for me anymore.

however, i am happy to report that the compuware arena in plymouth (just a scant 15-20 minutes away) runs a drive-in during the summer. and, they get first run films. earlier this summer, i was able to see "iron man" (a fantastic film that everyone in the studio audience should go to see).

last night, i was able to see "the dark knight".

a little bit of history for you, my gentle audience:

batman is probably my favourite comic book character. with the senseless murder of his parents in the back alleys of gotham city, bruce wayne stared into the face of horror, fear and adversity. most people would crumble, but wayne used his anger and guilt to turn himself into a legend...something that criminals would fear. he doesn't have superpowers...he is an olympic class athlete, possesses a keen intellect and is a world class detective.

as a kid who was bullied and teased and picked-on, batman was a true breath of fresh air. comic books such as alan moore's "the killing joke", grant morrison's "arkham asylum", frank miller's "the dark knight returns" and "year one" and jeph loeb's "the dark halloween", "dark victory" and "hush" are essential tales of the batman. "batman the animated series" (featuring the talents of bruce timm, paul dini and alan burnett) was an amazing series that captured the spirit of the books.

and then we have the tim burton/joel schumacher films. i make no apologies about the fact that i am not a fan of tim burton. when i first saw his version of "batman" on the big screen, i loved it. however, time has not been kind to his two batman films. to say that they are dated is being kind.

the less said about joel schumacher, the better.

in early 2004, there was word in the fan community that warner brothers was planning on relaunching the batman franchise. i held my breath...would they finally capture the spirit of batman on film? at first, it was rumoured that director wolfgang peterson would be directing "batman vs. superman", with jude law as superman (i forget who they were getting to play batman). thankfully, this never came to pass. then, it was rumoured that ashton kutcher would be assuming the mantle of the dark knight. again, this never happened. writer/director darren aronofsky ("PI", "requiem for a dream" and "the fountain") worked on a treatment for bringing frank miller's "year one" to the big screen. this fell apart in the development stage.

and then, things actually got interesting. warner brothers hired christopher nolan to relaunch the franchise. as a fan of "memento", this naturally got my attention. nolan, in turn, hired david s. goyer to collaborate on the story and script with him. this also got my attention...goyer is a very good comic book writer and screenwriter in his own right.

the big question that lingered over this project, at least for me, is who are they going to hire to play batman? my hope was that they would get christian bale. he has the gravitas, the intelligence and physical stature to play the part. also, he is an intense, amazing actor. just watch him in "the machinist" or "equilibrium" or "american psycho".

thankfully, nolan, goyer and warner brothers thought the same thing. in addition, they decided to surround bale with other equally amazing performers. with michael caine as alfred, morgan freeman as lucius fox, gary oldman as jim gordon and liam neeson as ducard, my anticipation for this new batman film (to be called "batman begins") reached a fever pitch.

upon it's release in the summer of 2005, i wasn't disappointed. "batman begins" soon entered my list of top ten favourite films of all time. simply put, they got it. everyone who was involved in that production understood what batman is. they infused the film with the spirit of all of the best batman stories.

as you can no doubt tell, my anticipation for "the dark knight" reached...is there actually something higher than a fever pitch? because if there is, then that's what i had. this time, our intrepid dark knight would face off against his archnemesis the joker. i was slightly concerned...i didn't want the production to go for stunt casting. (this, in my opinion, is one of the many reasons why tim burton's batman fails...jack nicholson did not play the joker, he simply played himself...but i digress.) i was elated when they announced that heath ledger would be playing the joker. ledger was a world class actor. i had no qualms that he would disappear into the role.

but enough with the history lesson.

how was the film?

i find it difficult to review it without going into hyperbole and overselling it, but i don't care:

"the dark knight" is a breathtaking experience. once again, the filmmakers have nailed it. they understand batman and have captured the spirit of his stories hook, line and sinker. this film is nothing less than the best of comic book cinema infused with the sensibilities of crime films such as "heat", "the godfather" and "goodfellas".

i will only give you a very general plot synopsis, because i don't want to spoil the experience for you. "the dark knight" takes place right after "batman begins". organized crime is in the midst of a power vacuum due to batman's efforts in the first film. enter the joker. all of this oscar talk is not an exaggeration. heath ledger completely disappears into this role. ledger's joker would make darth vader, hannibal lector and leatherface piss in their collective pants. the joker is a force of nature. he wreaks havoc for the pleasure and for the chaos, not for the base human desires of wealth or fame. ledger's performance is on the same level as javier bardem's portrayal of anton chigurh in "no country for old men". what makes the joker even scarier is the fact that the filmmakers do NOT give him an origin story. he storms into gotham city whole cloth. we don't need to know where the joker comes from. the only thing that matters is that he exists.

this film presents us with the best depiction of the relationship between batman and the joker. there are many memorable moments in this film, but my favourite piece of dialogue is spoken by the joker to batman:

"This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object."

i didn't think that it was possible to distill the batman/joker dynamic into a single sentence, but there it is.

in addition, the filmmakers once again wisely chose to surround bale and ledger with a world class acting troupe featuring gary oldman, aaron eckhart, maggie gyllenhaal, michael caine and morgan freeman. because of these craftspeople, you believe that gotham city is real. you believe that a millionaire playboy dresses up as a bat and fights crime. you believe that the joker really exists.

talk of a third film started even before the release of "the dark knight". let's not distract ourselves with this. let us, you and i, bask in the glory of this amazing film.

simply put, if you only see one film this summer, make it "the dark knight". and see it in IMAX, because i've heard that it's even more jawdropping.

now, if you'll excuse me, i think i might watch "batman begins" again.