July 20th, 2008

redness falls.

My Review of David Edelstein & The Dark Knight.

The day before I went to see The Dark Knight, I read a lot of reviews. A great, great many of them were solely positive; in fact, all put one review absolutely glowed with praise. I read one by David Edelstein of New York Magazine and he is a hater like I've never seen in print (actually, at the time, I only partially read it, because it's littered with spoilers, etc; it reads like he wants to turn people away from the film at all costs, purposely). It’s been a long time since a greater hit piece has been created.

"The director, Christopher Nolan, has decided to get real with the thing. Forget Gotham City—or Anton Furst’s splendid Gothic Gotham of Tim Burton’s Batman, which summoned up the freaky superhero’s inner landscape of vaulted arches and gargoyles. We’re now in a modern, untransformed Manhattan, where the Joker’s opening bank heist unfolds in a tense, realistic style with multiple point-blank shootings. It’s a shock—and very effective—to see a comic-book villain come on like a Quentin Tarantino reservoir dog. But then the novelty wears off and the lack of imagination, visual and otherwise, turns into a drag."

This guy is clearly used to the 60s era batman that's goofy WHAM PLOW SNAP camp nauseates anyone over the age of, say, 7 years old. Tim Burton's two renditions of the Batman story are a hybrid of this campy style and the original 1950s (and Frank Miller's 1980s Dark Knight Series) creepy, serious Batman feel. For most, Tim Burton's original Batman film was a decent film, and for its day, a marvelous piece of work if you are a comic book fan, etc. But it certainly wasn't a masterpiece, by anyone's account, except of course for apparently David Edelstein.

What Nolan and Heath Ledger's performance have done for the Batman franchise is raise it to reality, just as this reviewer has stated, and coming real with it has its price; you have to accept that good people die, good isn't always black and white, and sometimes a happy ending can't always be something overwhelmingly warm. This film was amazing, and there is a portion of the population that will hate it; those that have short attention spans don't have the ability to comprehend or appreciate brevity will hate it, without a doubt. This isn't so bad in my opinion, because those people don't appreciate finite details anyway; the little things in life that surround them, they are normally blind to. They don't put weight on any one thing.

Also in that opening paragraph, he speaks of point blank shootings and grandiose violence and believe me he is right about that. It's all there, in spades. There ARE violent acts so intense that my jaw dropped. But guess what? Nothing is shown at all, in any way; it is artfully done in every case, and thus it's not the gore fest implied. There is no Resvoir dogs mentality about it; this guy is just trying to bury something he has no power over, to be the only man in the universe that holds that position. Sometimes, the price of trying to be unique is assuming the role of the moron. It's very much a PG-13 movie through and through, and the violence that does occur serves the purpose of illustrating the character that is committing the acts, wholesale.

He attacks the dialog in this hit piece on more than one occasion, rails on its morality play, saying both are incoherent. My first response-instinct is to point out that he is the only person on the planet that feels this way. The next instinctual response would be to point out again that an appreciation of brevity is as much a prerequisite for this movie as it is for something like Hamlet, or Romeo and Juliet; if you can't handle how words are laid down and delivered in performance to deliver meaning with contextual weighting, why attempt to take in any movie outside of simple comedy like Dumb & Dumber? Why bother watching any movie that takes a personal emotional investment from its audience for its credence?

As it turns out...

David Edelstein hates every movie anyone else likes, actually. He hated King Kong, Alexander, Moulin Rouge, Natural Born Killers, Nixon, A.I., About Schmidt, American Gangster, I Am Sam; I am Legend, The Incredible Hulk, Indiana Jones 4, etc.

Read as: He hates almost every good movie that has any kind of hype or fan-love behind it, from any genre. He's a critic that loves to hate; that's his story, and the reason his by-line has any credibility whatsoever. Organizations like Slate like attention, and this attention whore gets it in spades.

His thoughts on Moulin Rouge, from an interview:

Aaron: In a post in a "Movie Club" chat a few years ago you compared Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge to Sylvester Stallone's Staying Alive, which you nominated as the worst movie ever made. C'mon, Staying Alive has too many bad laughs not to be entertaining. Luhrmann's movie displays a sense of the theatrical (not to mention a respect for choreography) that the Stallone movie doesn't begin to hint at. How about a more out-there candidate for Worst Movie Ever Made? Like, say, Fellini's Satyricon?

David: Well, I couldn't get on the wavelength of late Fellini at all. But laughing at bad movies isn't my thing--maybe with the exception of The Life of David Gale or parts of Ed Wood's films. They're claustrophobia-inducing. They shrink your sense of what's possible. Staying Alive was a bludgeoning. I couldn't bear what Stallone did to Travolta--not to mention Tony Manero. But I couldn't bear Moulin Rouge, either. You say a "respect for choreography????" You couldn't see the choreography. It's that whole miracles-are-cheap style of filmmaking, where you never hold a shot for more than three seconds and throw in every show-off effect you can think of. Most of the time it's just slam-dancing over a void. You have to be Guy Maddin to get away with it, and Guy Maddin doesn't get away with it all the time. And don't get me started on Stephen Sommers and his nonstop zillion-dollar effects. He's the worst director in Hollywood.

If this man has smoked a joint in his life, I'd suggest the US government put him in an anti-drug commercial. This guy is seriously out of his !@#$ing mind.

He loved Knocked Up... Need I say more? I don't believe this guy should be-... This shows that literally anyone can become a critic, be successful, and chirp like it's the gospel.

In every case of a remake or a sequel, he points out that the original is better; even if he hated the original, too.

Now, I can understand why he felt the need to attack this movie, after the initial round of private screeners were viewed by critics and everyone in Hollywood praised it. People fawning over Ledger's performance; hyped beyond belief due to his untimely death and how much Ledger transformed himself for the role makes for an easy target, especially in such a huge summer blockbuster. Edelstein, in the same interview sighted above, states he hates the summer movie season because of movies exactly like this; you know, the ones that are made to draw crowds back to movie theaters after the many months of movies he likes drive them away. If by bashing The Dark Knight he had started a chain reaction, a wave of bad reviews to come, he would better position himself in reputation; this didn't and won't happen of course, because for the most part (and this is surprising to even myself) most people on this planet do have good taste. Who would have known?

Is The Dark Knight the greatest movie ever made?

No, of course not. Is it epic? Is it a great movie? Does it live up to the hype? The answer to these questions is Yes. It is a great movie through and through. It has the brevity, the guts and meat of a masterpiece. Nolan's vision is exclusive it seems in Hollywood, and he shines here more than ever. Ledger steals the show from Bale and knocks it out of the park. In fact, Ledger carries the movie; that opening scene that Edelstein pans as grotesque is mind-blowing; a tour de force introducing a juggernaut of a character not seen in most brilliant gangster movies. The photography, the action sequences and pace are not gun-shy, either; they're over the top in every possible way.

The surprise, in multiple ways that I won't talk about because I'm not going to spoil everything like Edelstein, is the Two-Face character; so rich in development, and very strikingly old Hollywood in the way he tosses his coin to decide his victim's fate.

Edelstein complains about the violence of the movie, stating that Tim Burton's Batman, in 1989 was disliked by many parents for its violence, and that this is an escalation of that problem. The problem with that is that this movie, nor Tim Burton's rendition, were designed with an audience of children in mind to begin with. It's painfully obvious that both films have adults in mind; children wouldn't "get" about half of what's going on in the film, anyway.

Edelstein also complains that the IMAX experience of this film is subpar. I completely disagree, and so does everyone else that was in the theater I was in (Reagal Opry Mills IMAX, Nashville, TN) when I saw it, and everyone I know that's seen it in IMAX thus far. The experience was wonderful, and a first of its kind; at least for me. I've never personally witnessed a movie cinematically taking advantage of the IMAX format. I was stunned with the bank robbery scene, which was done in gloriously big, over the top screen size; the jumps off the buildings and the swooping down glide shots were nice, too, but none of it lives up to that first, amazing scene. I'll probably remember that scene vividly, for the rest of my life it was so intense. I don't think it would have been anywhere near that level of intensity if it were viewed on a regular movie screen.

How does it compare to other movies of this summer? I saw both Iron Man and the new Indiana Jones movie; it reduces both (Edelstein didn't like either, really) to dust, in my opinion. I liked both of those movies on a lot of levels; Robert Downey, Jr was an underdog in Hollywood prior to that film being released and I loved all his previous films; hell, I love the guy. When I saw him do such amazing work as a superhero, though, I was wowed. And Indy4? I liked that movie a lot, for reasons I can't really explain. I was a big fan of the previous three movies, and I thought this film lived up to the imprint that at least the first two in the series left (The Last Crusade will always be the best, in possibly everyone's opinion.) The Dark Knight has magic that Iron Man and Indy4 just don't carry; the plot and character development are stellar, and the rich nature of the story is carried in a glorious parade of brilliant action sequences and cinematography. It both outpaces and undoubtedly will outlive the other movies of this summer, and probably of 08 wholesale.

Thank God Katie Holmes isn't in this movie; it would have trashed the atmosphere in the film if we had to contend with her face. This is all I will say about this, but I think everyone agrees on this point.

Heath Ledger is brilliant in this film, and Edelstein's final attack is on this point. He should be ashamed of himself. What is the matter with this person, really?

So, watch the movie. Its 2 hours & 40 minutes long, so don't drink a lot of soda because you'll want to see the entire movie and won't want to get up to pee. Also, get plenty of popcorn and other goodies. I suggest going to the IMAX version, because it's one of the most amazing movies you'll ever see in that format, too. Oh and, in the end, when the credits hit you in the face, give applause. It's deserved.

At the IMAX Theater I went to, everyone in the theater gave applause. It's that kind of thing. I wonder if David was annoyed by that, too.