Christopher Nolan and Maggie Gyllenhaal just aren’t enough of an indie connection to cover this on Worldfilm, so I’ll just say this here: godawful. Two hours and twenty minutes, a gazillion dollars, a sterling cast, and an eight story IMAX screen weren’t enough for this movie to tickle a single thrill out of me. Instead, endless turgid tripe about vigilante morals, heaps of vicious violence, Gotham City politics that play a little bit like The Wire, only stupid, and muddled action sequences that are — and I say this without hyperbole — duller than the scenes in which Bruce Wayne is having dinner.
What else? Christian Bale doesn’t go anywhere near Rescue Dawn levels of intensity, poor Maggie is wasted, Aaron Eckhart pays for his sins in Thank You for Smoking with a nasty case of Visible Man, Morgan Freeman turns into a FISA-protected wiretapper, and Michael Caine will always be Michael Caine. Heath Ledger’s Joker, a sadistic freak with curious facial ticks, is the most compelling person on screen, but tragedy or not, he can’t beat Jack Nicholson dancing in the pale moonlight to a Prince track.
Tim Burton knew how to have fun with Batman rather than turning it into plodding, puffed-up kitsch mistaking itself for profound psycho noir that the source material won’t support. As Hellboy 2 amply illustrates, there’s nothing wrong with fun — but there’s none to be had here. Previously: Batman Begins.
Prince, Jack, Keaton, Burton:
The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan, 2008. *
I’m not fanboy enough to give you an exhaustive rundown of all the scenes Ridley Scott recut, reshot, rescored, and reshuffled to create this “ultimate” version of his 1982 scifi milestone. Rest assured, that list will be online within hours of the December 18 release of the much-anticipated 5-DVD set. But I can tell you that Blade Runner, the movie that defined the cyberpunk look long before William Gibson wrote the opening lines to Neuromancer, has never looked or worked better. I had the pleasure of seeing it on a big screen for the first time in hi-def digital projection at the Walter Reade Theater, and I can’t remember the last time a scene sent chills through me like Roy’s “C-Beams” speech.
Yes, the unicorn is still there, the ending is that of the 1992 director’s cut, and apparently, there’s new music by Vangelis. The sequence where Deckard takes down Zhora has been redone substantially, and the shot in which Roy lets the dove fly is definitely new. There may have been a few new CGI vehicles, too. But everything is done tastefully and subtly; nobody here shoots first who didn’t shoot first before, and those Atari billboards are still were they used to be.
The new cut confirms Blade Runner‘s status as a major achievement and the high water mark of Ridley Scott’s career. It’s also fun to see a younger Edward James Olmos as Gaff in a movie that his new show Battlestar Galactica owes so much to conceptually. The Final Cut will screen at the NYFF on September 29 and comes to the Ziegfield for one week starting October 5. Go if you can.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut. Ridley Scott, 1982/2007. *****
“That’s a lot of entertainment for five grand!” Philip Marlowe’s talking about the questionable spectacle of a bunch of gangsters (including an uncredited Arnold Schwarzenegger) stripping to make a point, but it applies equally to Robert Altman’s time-traveling Chandler adaptation as a whole. Mumbling Elliott Gould is miles apart from Humphrey Bogart but drop dead cool in his own inimitable way, and all of 1970s Los Angeles emerges as his deceptively sunny antagonist.
The Long Goodbye. Robert Altman, 1973. ****
Starting out like a romantic comedy about a phobic shut-in and his sexy neighbor, this truly independent production soon turns into a taut, claustrophobic thriller. The debts to Something Wild, Shallow Grave, and Double Indemnity are obvious but never overwhelm the original vision co-directors Kerry Douglas Dye and Jordan Hoffman bring to their material. In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably mention that I’m friends with the filmmakers and appeared in their previous production — so I’ll refrain from giving Body/Antibody a rating. The film will be screening in competition at the Brooklyn International Film Festival this June. Body/Antibody features fine performances by Robert Gomes, Leslie Kendall, Frank Deal, and Deborah Gibson (!).
Body/Antibody. Kerry Douglas Dye and Jordan Hoffman, 2007. N/R
Pompous & bloated. When was it decided that superhero comics were now to be treated like Shakespearean tragedies? Oh, the agony of being Bruce Wayne, playboy millionaire with a bat complex! The guilt, the fear, the fateful choice between vigilantism and revenge! Even Ang Lee’s Hulk had some jokes (and primary colors.)
Perhaps the thudding seriousness would be acceptable if the movie wouldn’t keep asking us to believe more and more outrageous conceits: first there’s the bat thing, then there’s a secret clan of ninja criminals, a stolen superweapon, a mad doctor who uses bummer hallucinogens to attack a city that only exists in a comic book universe… and most ludicrous of all, we’re supposed to buy that Katie Holmes is a D.A.? Come on. Stiff pseudo noir does not suit a pop hero franchise. Tim Burton’s 1989 version was far superior because it embraced its silliness and had some fun with it. In the immortal words of Joker Jack: “What this town needs is an enema!” So does Nolan’s Batman.
Batman Begins. Christopher Nolan, 2005. *