So, as we all know, Christopher Nolan’s Inception is a smash hit. Box office winner, solid reviews, strong word of mouth … nearly everyone loves it, myself included. It was worth the hype. Some of that hype, accordingly, revolved around lots of us talking about Nolan’s films to date; we came up with our top five lists (slightly silly for someone with only 5-6 credits to begin with, but that’s ok), and so on. And in so doing, it has come to light, again, that while I do consider myself a Nolan fan, I am very, very strongly in the anti-Dark Knight camp. Yes, I know, it’s a very small camp. Regardless. I thought that movie was terrible. I was beyond disappointed. And the question has long been why? Why did I find it to be a waste of my $14.50, or however much I spent to see it in the theater on a Friday night? Well, the moment has come. I am going to attempt to tell you. Aren’t you excited? I know you are.
Let’s start with the circumstances leading up to Nolan’s Batman #2. First of all, I really like Batman. He’s one of my favorite superheroes. I’m not a comic book person, per se, but I know enough to get by, and so, I was really excited to learn that Nolan was going to be behind the reboots. I really loved Batman Begins. Christian Bale was excellent, I was very excited to be introduced to a new, fantastically creepy villain (Cillian Murphy as The Scarecrow), and it was just a solid movie. I didn’t even have that many complaints about Katie Holmes. So, in the beginning, I was as excited as everyone else about the follow-up. It had all the earmarks of being excellent, even if I was a tiny bit bored by the prospect of The Joker, again. No problems with Heath Ledger, but I just liked having a new, slightly more obscure villain and thought we should stick with that. However. I’m excited. Still with me?
Everyone knows what happens next. Hollywood, as is sometimes the case, lost a very talented and well-liked young actor in the form of Mr. Ledger. It happens, it’s sad and shocking, yes. What happened in the wake of this tragedy, though, was something that I still find completely distasteful. Whether intentionally or not, the powers-that-be behind Ledger’s last finished project (that being TDK) began to use the massive buzz behind their star’s death to generate buzz about their film. It just kept going! Nobody could talk about the impending Batman sequel without talking about Ledger, his performance, and death. So that’s my first point. You could say that I signed off a month or so before the film came out, disgusted when even the stars (Gary Oldman, I remember) seemed to be using the death of a colleague to garner an interview.
However. I’m still excited. So are you! And we all go, on opening night, to see the film. Hurrah!
Ok. It’s Batman. Batman is dark. Batman … doesn’t really have a sense of humor. He’s a tortured, angsty soul. I get that. However. A movie, particularly a comic book movie, in my opinion, should still be at least somewhat entertaining. And this just wasn’t. I was bored. I was restless. It was way too long, I thought that the plot was very messy and jumped around too much, and overall, I thought it was just too busy. There was the Joker, and there was Batman being angsty, and there was Maggie Gyllenhaal dating someone else (I think? Oh right, Aaron Eckhart.), and there was just waaay too much exposition happening for all of those plot lines and that’s all before we even really GET to Aaron Eckhart, who ended up becoming Two-Face three-fourths of the way through the movie. Seriously? I am a pro at keeping hold of multiple threads at one time, but this just wasn’t even fun. I must’ve thought to myself at least 5 times “Ugh. Could we just leave?” and the reason we didn’t is that each of those five times I thought “Nah, I’ll just stick it out. It’s got to be close to over by now.” But no. It just kept going and going. And going.
So there was that. Additionally, I need sympathetic characters, and there were none. Bruce Wayne can be played for a bit of sympathy and human pain, but he wasn’t here. And really, since the only characters of any real note this time around were Batman and the Joker (more here in a sec), that just wasn’t saying much. Honestly? I found Harvey Dent to be the most sympathetic. Until, you know, the three-hour mark.
Where was I? Oh yes, the Joker. All we heard about for months was Ledger’s brilliant performance. Amazing. Ground-breaking. Superlative after superlative. Wanna hear my adjective? One-note. Oh look. He’s crazy, and not even scary crazy. He’s kind of twitchy. He’s got that extremely distracting tongue thing. Brilliant. Amazing. This is what beat Robert Downey, Jr.’s amazing disappearance in Tropic Thunder out of a Best Supporting Oscar? Oh right. The guy died after making the movie. I’m sorry. I was very, very shocked and saddened when I heard about Heath Ledger. But I still believe, and will always believe, that he won that Oscar for that reason, rather than for his performance. Sometimes, I’m a harsh person. I really do sincerely apologize.
Are you still with me, despite the invective? I apologize for that too, but you wanted to know why I didn’t like this movie, so I’m trying to convey to you exactly how much I didn’t like it. It was partially all the hype, yes, but mostly it was that I truly felt that as a film, it came nowhere near to living up to that hype. It needed editing. Lots of it. It needed to not try to cram in a second villain (who was wasted) in the last act. The movie could have successfully ended with the event that created that villain (no spoilers here!), and we could have had a good sequel, focusing on a different villain. That would have been fun. I like Aaron Eckhart. He’s a good actor. It could have worked, is what I’m saying. But anyway. I’m going to finish up now.
I just realized this the other day. This, to me, is the ultimate problem with the movie.
It’s a comic book movie. It should be fun, maybe elicit a little bit of empathy. I’m not saying the characters don’t need to be well-rounded, believeable, people. I love the Iron Man movies, and a big part of why is RDJ’s ability to make Tony Stark a real and sympathetic human being. But here’s the thing. With my comic book movies, I guess I’m just not that interested in the big, deep, dark meaning. I did not need that long, drawn-out conversation between Batman and the Joker about how there’s a psychopathic villain in all of us, and that the world needs a Joker just as much as it needs a Batman. We all KNOW that. It is contrived and too, too meta to have the villain tell us so. Never mind that he’s spent nearly three hours teasing us with the secret of his “origins,” and then that’s all we get. It’s not even that I’m interested, so much, in the whys and wherefores of villainy. They’re comic-book bad guys. They’re just crazy. It’s what they do. I didn’t need the angst. Maybe I’m too old for it. Maybe I’m too jaded. It’s not that I was too stupid to get it, though, or that my mind doesn’t work that way … I have an English degree, for pete’s sake. We love our meanings. It just did not work for me here.
And so, I stumbled out of the theater, completely confused as to why this movie was being hailed as the best thing since sliced bread. I wondered what I had missed. I wondered, as I do in such cases, if I had somehow seen a different movie than everyone else. And as the weeks and months went by, and the roar became more deafening, I still didn’t get it. And I still don’t. And if it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll just stay that way, and hope for something better with the next installment.