June 18, 2005

Film fakery.

I went looking for some reviews that expressed what I thought of "Batman Begins" and found this, from David Denby:
This is an overly methodical and heavy-spirited movie—pop without rapture. Bruce comes back to Gotham and slowly assembles the elements of his costume, his vehicle, and his mode of operation—the kind of equipment fetishism that used to be tossed off in a few barbed exchanges between Sean Connery and Desmond Llewelyn’s Q in the old Bond films. And I miss Anton Furst’s urban-grotesque production design from the first movie—the curious, malign details pulled out of the night. Most of this movie is just dark, and the familiar trope of a high-flying passage through Gotham’s bunched skyscrapers isn’t as thrilling as it was years ago. The young Welsh-born actor Christian Bale is a serious fellow, but the most interesting thing about him—a glinting sense of superiority—gets erased by the dull earnestness of the screenplay, and the filmmakers haven’t developed an adequate villain for him to go up against. The return of Liam Neeson late in the movie is a bust, and the action climax, in which the water supply threatens to combine with a vicious white powder floating around the city (the mixture will drive everyone crazy, or at least make them sneeze), is cheesy and unexciting.

The real failing is Nolan’s. There’s very little sense of Batman’s awesome surveillance of the city from the heights; he just drops out of nowhere, thrashes all the bad guys in a whirl of movement that is shot too close, and edited too rapidly, for us to see much of anything, and then elevates out of the frame. In “Memento,” Nolan and his editor, Dody Dorn, created a new syntax for movies. It’s depressing to see Nolan now relying on the same fakery as everyone else.
Yes, exactly.

And about that crazy-making steam... Wouldn't that have been a great choice for the threat in an extremely low budget movie? Blow in some steam and have the actors act crazy.


Dave said...

David Denby is a fool.

I haven't seen the Batman movie and so can't comment on his reaction to it, but he strikes me as a rather naive person.

Read his memoirs, American Sucker, for his explanation of his naivete. Having read his book has tainted all of his reviews, in my mind.

Contributors said...


Have you seen the reviews for this? You'd think it was "Casablanca." That's how bad films have gotten -- the critics have been as dumbed down as movies. The reviews for "Sith" were exactly the same.


I think critics need to spend a little time with Turner Classic Movies. They'll find even the non-classics of that era are better than what they're recommending we drop $10 for today.

Havew you seen "Rushmore" yet?

TWM said...

I thought the movie was pretty good. But I am comparing it against the previous Batman films which were not very good, so my expectation was low before I even saw it.

SippicanCottage said...
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Ron said...

hmmm...what's more cliched than Hollywood movies? Most of the wheezy saws who write about "Hollywood's decline." Gotta have that "decay" meme going, gotta talk about "dumbing down." I feel more dumbed down by this style of writing than the movies themselves; if you look at how movies are marketed, and how paranoid the money men get when they put $100mil on the table, the behavior of filmmakers is completely understandable. Notice I didn't say they were right to make movies this way, that's discussable. But I sure wish critics (emphatically Denby included!) took more time to understand the business constraints which produce films that they don't like.

J-Unit said...

I can always count on David Denby for a reliable review. Anything he hates, I will love, and vise versa. He thinks he is smart because he can nuance a few bad items from movies other people like, or the hidden nuggets of brilliance that make a masterpiece out of a film that is utter crap. He loves putting spoilers in his pieces so if a person reads his review before seeing the movie, he takes care of a good bit of surprise and suspense that the director was trying to bring you himself. I am not saying Denby is a complete idiot, but well forgive me if I don't mind watching a comic book movie that requires you to have a little bit of an imagination.

Making a Batman movie is difficult and Christopher Nolan did a great job. He reminds us why Batman was the Dark Knight and does a great job explaining the transformation of Bruce Wayne and gives a plausible explanation on why he is such a good fighter and great explanations for things like the Batsuit. Mr. Denby doesn't like the fight choreography? Well, it's not the House of Flying Daggers, but maybe Nolan wanted to show Batman's greatness was more than just his ability to kick ass. Nolan handled an incredible amount of characters without without being too cute about things that are going to happen in the future (the joker thing at the end an exception).


I don't think it is fair to compare movies of different eras just like I don't think it is fair to compare athletes of different eras. Hollywood has always been formulaic. There may have a been a golden era, but anybody waiting for it to come back is, well, living in the past.

Ann Althouse said...

Ron: Whatever one feels like saying about how money makes movies worse, the fact is the movies aren't doing well as a business at the moment.

Joan said...

SippicanCottage, what about Collateral, in which Tom Cruise is an entirely heartless hitman? What about Minority Report in which Tom Cruise plays an emotionally damaged cop? The joke doesn't work at all anymore, IMO. Not that I'm defending Tom Cruise, he's a certified lunatic, just that he has branched out a bit in his roles.

Also, lumping Office Space in with Get Shorty, etc, is just bizarre.

Ann Althouse said...

There's also Tom Cruise in "Magnolia."

hat said...

re: 100 million dollars.

as a person who is an avid fan both of games and movies, I've been seeing this trend in both areas. As budgets and the things allowable by special effects go up, the things allowed in the story go down. When you need to hire several million dollars worth of people and technology just to make the scenery for a game, how much time and money can you afford to write it?

And any innovation you might've done with a million dollar movie is impossible when you've got 100 million riding on it, unless you've got a director like peter jackson, willing to go all out.

SippicanCottage said...
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Ron said...

Ann: I'm not sure that movies as a business are doing poorly; perhaps the theater experience is being replaced by the DVD experience. The margins for Hollywood on DVDs are much nicer than theatrical releases, to the point that the movie in the theater might be considered the "trailer" for the DVD! Psychologically, the loss of the theaters may mean something that will affect DVD sales down the road, but I don't think we've figured that out yet.

California Gold said...
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