June 17, 2005

Two posts on movie trailers? Althouse, have you finally gone to the movies again?

Why, yes, I have. Yes, I have. Impulsively, I darted out to see "Batman Begins," as you might have guessed from my first post today.

And? How was it?

Well, it was a big messy melange of things. No opening credits, so I had to wait to the end to go, oh, so that's Katie Holmes. Not that I had never read that she was in this movie. Just that I forgot. I knew it was Christian Bale, looking baleful. Looking a bit like Tom Cruise actually. Holmes looked a lot like Drew Barrymore. The School of Crooked Smiles acting. Morgan Freeman, I recognized him. He's always someone who's boringly solid and good. Does that piss him off? Oh, I have to be that guy again. Liam Neeson, Michael Caine -- I recognized them -- pouring great ladlefuls of talent on undersized roles.

Lots of shadowy black-and-grey sets with smoggy mists and glinting puddles. You could play a game of counting all the hidden bat-shaped images in various shots.

The Batmobile was the ugliest Batmobile ever. More like a super-clunky SUV than a great sports car. It seemed to handle really badly. But, implausibly, it could fly. The flying car in the trailer for "The Dukes of Hazzard" was more convincing.

I noticed a right-wing edge to some key statements: "Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding." Take that, you Gitmo critics! And it was quite clear that we were supposed to think about the criminals as al-Qaeda. Here was this "League of Shadows," based in Asia, bent on destroying "Gotham." We were nudged constantly to make this connection.

The beginning of the movie was interestingly scenic in a "Lord of the Rings" way, and involved a lot of learning how to fight, Asian-style, in a "Kill Bill: Volume 2" way. But why did Bruce Wayne learn all about swordplay, and then concoct a Batman persona who has nothing to do with swordfighting? And what was Christian Bale holding onto at the end of that ice slide that kept him from falling over the precipice? Somebody conveniently installed a handle, apparently.

And why was the speech on the soundtrack all muddled? Whenever Batman had his costume on, his voice was altered in a supposed-to-be scary way that seemed to belong in a children's movie. And when they identified one of the villains early on as "Ra's al Ghul," I was all, what did he say? Al Gore?


Kathleen B. said...

hmmm, I conveniently cross posted in your other thread that I didn't think you would enjoy it. Wrong again was I!

some thoughts:
"Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding."
except it was the bad guy that said that!

And it was quite clear that we were supposed to think about the criminals as al-Qaeda.
this connection never occurred to me.

And what was Christian Bale holding onto at the end of that ice slide that kept him from falling over the precipice?
he had those spikes on his arm guards - Liam Neeson used his to break Bruce's sword earlier. (ok that was enough geeking out)

I thought not only the speech was muddled, but the soundtrack too. And today's movies have gotten so skilled at weaving in the music. I thought that was really disappointing!

Ann Althouse said...

Kathleen: Which character said that "criminals thrive thing"? Liam Neeson? He seemed good when he said it, but I guess he turned out to be a bad guy. Okay, I'm wrong. Time to close Gitmo! But what did you think of Batman's interrogation technique when he was dangling a man off a tall building and dropping him part way down?

Spikes on arm guards? Okay. See, I constantly fail to pay attention to that sort of thing. But how would spikes have stuck into the ice in time?

Did you notice that when Bale was straining really hard to pull up Neeson, he looked weird, sort of like Stephen King?

Kathleen B. said...

oh yeah, I forgot to post about the lameness of Bruce being able to one-handedly lift Liam Neeson. I mean Christian Bale looked pretty buff, put lifting 200 pounds with one hand? (in addition to the arm spikes being able to imbed into the ice, and hold the two of them). He did actually look like Stephen King now that I think about it. (maybe the power of suggestion?)

you know, it's funny but the "torture" of the bad cop (dangling and dropping) didn't even phase me. I guess it is so par for the course in action films that it doesn't register. The message I think, clearly, is that its ok for the hero to do that because the "victim" is corrupt, and the information is needed to help people. And, in that case, it clearly was needed. No time for a lengthy interrogation session there. One of the appeals of the action hero, he doesn't need to get bogged down in Miranda warnings.

Ann Althouse said...

Kathleen: Once you concede all that, you're at the Abu Ghraib level, aren't you?

Alcibiades said...

Thomas Hibbs had an article up on NR the other day which made some interesting points about Batman. Here's the URL, for some reason blogger isn't taking HTML today

The generation gap between the Wayne parents and son, Bruce, marks a transition from detached liberal philanthropy to engaged conservative crime fighting. Bruce’s generous parents live at a safe distance from the city in a protected mansion. Bruce converts to conservatism the old-fashioned way — a liberal mugged, not so much by reality, as by, well, a mugger who kills his parents. Delicate, liberal philanthropy collapses in the face of violent evil; Bruce is left with fear and nihilism, the pointlessness of his life. His response is to create a purpose for his life by exploring and striving to overcome his fears.

I think Bruce Wayne agreed with the notion of the character played by Liam Neeson that "Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding". He wasn't being indulgent. What he disagreed with was the method of fighting evil.

Anyway, it was kind of a dark film visually, but I enjoyed it.

Alcibiades said...

Whoops, I meant to edit that comment about HTML out, but forgot to...

Alcibiades said...

And thanks Kathleen for explaining about the arm spikes. I missed that entirely as well.

Troy said...

Haven't seen the Batman movie yet, but he has always been a right wing hero. He stands ready to act in the face of evil when others can't, etc. etc. Mostly clumsy Sophomore year philosophy major stuff.

I'm outting myself as a bigger fan I guess, but his writers have always veered between liberal pop-psych labeling theory garbage and ultra-righty "break a few eggs to make an omelette" extreme explanations. "Nuance" is not the usual viewpoint in comic books.

If I remember from my teen years, Batman, in the comics, was trained in Asia long before 9/11, al-Qaeda, and Gotham connection so that is just timely coincidence. You know, back when Asia was exotic and decades before the mainstreaming of Jackie Chan, the Matrix, Crouching Tiger, et al.

Oh... and "Keep Gitmo open" since we're doing one sentence pronouncements. ;-)

Soo said...

But why did Bruce Wayne learn all about swordplay, and then concoct a Batman persona who has nothing to do with swordfighting?

It would seem to me that if you want to learn how to defend against swords, you have to learn how to attack with one.

Anyway, I can't wait to see it!

Ann Althouse said...

Soo: But the criminals in Gotham aren't using swords.

Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...

...And since there are no broomsticks, or bats or billy clubs or long sword like objects in Gotham either, Batman knowing how to use a sword is like an Applebees chef knowing the fundamentals of French cooking technique.

Such a waste of training, unless... every bit of knowledge and training helps in one way or another.

hat said...

well, he does end up getting attacked by swords by ra's men.

Also, I think the lack of a sword in batman can be seen slightly symbolicly as the refusal to follow ra's way. The sword earlier is the weapon of an executioner, and batman, while being a feared monster, conciously wants to avoid actually killing criminals unless he has to.

I agree that pulling him up one armed was stupid and unlikely.

re: Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding, I see batman as not denying it, but not agreeing with ra's either. His parents are the example of supreme kindness, which in the end fails, and Ra's is the example of supreme ruthlessness, which, although thwarted, obviously causes problems far worse than those he was trying to prevent. Batman is a recognition that compassion and ruthlessness both have their places in justice.

As far as voices, for parts of the movie, I'm pretty sure that was supposed to illustrate the effects of the drugs, along with the visual brouhaha. In other parts, particularly as far as batman goes, I'm thinking bruce wayne would want to deliberately not use his normal tone of voice as batman, both because a scarier tone of voice can have a psychological effect coming from a big black bat thing, and to help disguise who he really is.

hat said...

also re: batmobile. How much sense does it really make for batman to drive a sports car? I think an armored vehicle is much more plausible.

Ernst Blofeld said...

The interplay between Ducard (Liam Neeson) and Bruce Wayne is interesting because there's not a lot of space between them. Batman could quite easily slide into Ducard--not the Ducard that plots to destroy cities, perhaps, but certainly the one who executes the village murderer, just as Wayne was prepared to kill his parent's murderer after the parole hearing.

Evil in the form of Ducard is presented as having a certain not-so-superficial attractiveness, at least before it fully reveals itself, and good is presented as being ineffectual and weak. The viewer is pushed along with Wayne to sympathize with Ducard's putative viewpoint. Of course, Wayne catches a glimpse of the void just past Ducard's facade, and pulls himself and the viewer back. But he's still pretty close to the edge.

Ann Althouse said...

Drethlin: Well, how was a tank-like vehicle supposed to weave through traffic in a high speed chase? It was clear to me that the vehicle they had on the set could not perform well enough even to get the shots they needed. Anyway, I like sports cars and think a sleek car fits that bat concept better. If he were Turtleman, he should have a tank!

And let me add: Keep Gitmo open. Whether Batman agrees or not.

hat said...

I fully agree that it's pretty implausible that a tank like vehicle could have that kind of maneuverability.

I personally would've preferred a bat-flyer.

Re Gitmo: agreed.

Kathleen B. said...

sorry I cannot agree about, Abu Grahib Prof. Althouse - there was no evidence that there was either crucial information or short time frame, much less both.

close Gitmo.

Kathleen B. said...

forgot to add: no evidence that the victims were corrupt.

Homer said...

And it was quite clear that we were supposed to think about the criminals as al-Qaeda. Here was this "League of Shadows," based in Asia, bent on destroying "Gotham." We were nudged constantly to make this connection.

How was this clear at all? I suppose you can read pretty much anything into certain movies. Sometimes you just gotta sit back and enjoy it... I don't think every movie has underlying messages relating to modern day events. Its batman for cryin out loud!