Friday, July 27, 2012

Batman Back-and-Forth, Day 4: In Which There is Hugging

Posted By on Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 4:35 PM

No one prefers Batman Begins
  • No one prefers "Batman Begins"
In many ways, The Dark Knight Rises is the movie of the year, and here at Sing All Kinds we seem to have a disagreement on our hands. Chris Herrington thinks The Dark Knight is the best film in the trilogy. Greg Akers finds The Dark Knight Rises to be the superior film. This week we're hashing it out here. NOTE/WARNING: Spoilers will be flying like batarangs.

Tuesday, Herrington made a “sprawling,” “commanding,” and “entertaining” case that The Dark Knight (DK) is the best in the bunch. Wednesday, Akers wrote the War & Peace of off-the-cuff Batman blog posts in trumpeting The Dark Knight Rises (DKR). Thursday, Herrington, exhausted from battle, conceded some points and double-downed on some others. Today, Akers makes his rebut and turns out the lights in the Batcave.

Greg Akers: First, no disrespect intended to our highly respectable colleague Addison Engelking, who I disenfranchised with the line, "no one thinks Batman Begins is the best of the bunch." My argument was statistical and rhetorical rather than literal. But, honestly, the fact that Addison is the "no one" I was talking about, it gives me pause: Maybe Batman Begins really is the best? I do think the long pre-Bat-cowl passage of time — what you think tedious — is the best thing about the movie, and a sequence that becomes even better now that DKR is out and the final shape of the trilogy is revealed. (And how about a shout out to Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow? His brief appearances in the sequels were perfect.)

And as for the nature of my "off-the-cuff" comments in my last post, my intention was that they be like a series of punches and kicks, peppering your face. But I guess that point didn't come across. I shall rectify that.

I'm coming out swinging.

[POW!] Your dismissal of Batman is ridic. From yesterday:

I've got a newsflash for you: Batman — meaning Bale when he's in that kinky black rubber suit, riding around in those overblown tank-like vehicles — is the least interesting thing about these Batman movies. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne is a different matter, but Batman himself is just not that compelling an on-screen figure. More Bale, more Bane, more Dent, more Joker, more women (please), and less Batman proper is a fine recipe as far as I'm concerned.

Yeah, I can't agree that Batman is the least interesting thing in these movies. I imagine you rolling your eyes every time Bruce Wayne suits up, but it ain't me. I love Bale's growl when he's in Batman mode, a nice way to help explain how he keeps his identity secret and also to truly let loose all that anger bottled up from his tragic upbringing. Lest we forget, Bruce is Batman as therapy. The "Swear to me!" scene is my favorite, especially the little anger build up before he yells/asks, "Where were the other drugs going?"

[BIFF!] Furthermore, what's going with you on this criticism? Also from yesterday: these kinds of movies especially; see also the much lesser The Avengers — I care much more about the performances and characterizations than I do about the action/plot scenarios they're deployed in.

Let me unwrap that. So, in action movies ("these kinds of movies," so, so dismissive) you care more about nothing more than performances and characterizations? But isn't sometimes the action just awesome spectacle? Something you can't (and even shouldn't) get in a different film or medium?

So, your argument to its logical conclusions:
In action movies, you care more about performances and characterizations.
In character studies, you care more about scenery.
In landscape paintings, you care more about the picture frame.

[SOCK!] Why must you wish you were watching a Wong Kar-Wai movie and frustrated you're stuck in a Batman flick? Hey, pal, why don't you just do us all a favor and move two screens over and get your Wong freak on? Oh, Dark Knight Rises is playing on all 16 screens? Never mind.

[QUNCKKK!] Syndrome is better than Bane? Jason Lee's character is the least interesting thing in an otherwise fabulous movie. He's just a whiny hothead, and likely incapable of escaping from an airplane in which he's held prisoner, a la Bane. (A scene you describe as "overblown and chaotic" but which is actually exciting and shows something never before seen: rappelling down to a flying plane and shooting out the cabin from the outside. And you don't care for it? QUNCKKK! indeed.)

But enough with the fisticuffs. Time for reconciliation. Time to hug it out.

I do agree that Joker (Heath Ledger) is the best comic movie villain of all time. I don't think his performance is without distraction, and I do think Aaron Eckhart is better as Harvey Dent (but since that character isn't all villain, all the time, I don't think he's eligible for best ever, or perhaps only half-eligible).

But, Ledger is fantastic. This is me agreeing with you: Joker with his head out the cop car window is sublime.

My favorite of all is when Joker plays chicken with the Batcycle on the streets of Gotham. ("Come on, come on, I want you to do it, Hit me!") After Batman crashes and Joker's henchman gets shocked trying to unmask Batman, I LOVE Ledger's bit where he laughs and starts kicking the henchman and then spits on him. LOVE IT.

If anything other than Batman v. Bane, Round One, is the high point of the trilogy, it's this sequence:

From Batman: Year One
  • By Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
  • From Batman: Year One
And let's agree on Selina Kyle, too, and her under-utilization. I had reservations about Anne Hathaway pulling this off, but man did she ever deliver. After Bruce/Bale, Selina/Hathaway is the best thing about DKR. I love when she plays the hysterical scaredy cat in the bar when the police charge in, then coolly slinks away. So charmingly manipulative. And Selina's roommate Jen (Holly in the comics): Love them together, should've gotten more screen time and would make for a great spin-off series. Maybe a better 2 Broke Girls?

I didn't love the reference to Blake's first name, seemed silly. Kinda like Matthew Modine mentioning the preposterousness of putting on his dress blues for the assault on Bane, and then doing just that. And who came up with the plan to just assault Bane's army like Pickett's charge? And I honestly didn't think about the Bat-bomb from the old movie, but now that you mention it I can't unthink it.

Ultimately, we agree that DK and DKR (and Batman Begins) are all excellent and worthy of praise and thousands of words of discourse. Yay!

However, you opened Pandora's box:

(I almost did a DKR is to DK as Prometheus is to Alien/Aliens riff in my initial review based on the mythology/backstory aspect, but given our difference of opinion, or at least interest, in Prometheus, we really don't need to get sidetracked by that here. Pretend I didn't say anything about that.)

Kick us off, Herrington. I've got material ready.

Herrington:One slanderous mischaracterization here cannot stand: "these kinds of movies" doesn't mean "action movies." It means "the current iteration of comic-book super-hero movies." Two examples: X-Men and Spider-Man — the first in each series — are both films where the characterizations and performances are interesting but in each case the Big Action Climax is pretty boring. I blame computers.

On a related action note: Thanks for backing up one of my initial arguments with that excellent street-action sequence, yet more proof that DK, among other things, is a better pure action film than DKR.

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