July 21, 2012

"Both as Wayne and as super-Wayne he seems indifferent, as the films themselves are, to the activities of little people..."

"... and to the claims of the everyday, preferring to semi-purse his lips, as if preparing to whistle for an errant dog, and stare pensively into the distance. Caped or uncaped, the guy is a bore. He should have kids; that would pull him out of himself. Or else he should hang out with Iron Man and get wasted. He should have fun."

"Batman's Bane," by Anthony Lane. (No Aurora massacre content.)

That link is worth clicking on just to get to the cartoon — a guy in a bar looking into his highball glass says: "I don't know anything about global warming, but these ice cubes are melting like crazy."

By the way, I read a plot summary of "The Dark Knight Rises," because I'm not going to see it — I rarely go to the movies anymore and I experienced the last Batman movie an unpleasant chore (not out of fear of massacre) — and because I wanted to understand the connection to "Occupy Wall Street" politics. Anthony Lane pooh-poohs the connection:
True, we see a handful of rich white men being ejected from fancy apartments, but then the film coughs politely and moves on, as if recalling that nobody is richer or whiter than Bruce Wayne, and that his apartment is, in fact, a castle. Also, the outcome is positively Victorian, in that its dread of disorder far outweighs its relish of liberty uncaged; the throng is faced down and tamed by ranks of growling police officers.
Lane fails to contemplate the possibility that the movie is against the Occupy side. Here's Rush Limbaugh working that theme — Batman is Romney! Batman/Romney is "the rich guy, milquetoast, boring, dull," but if he "puts the uniform back on," he "saves the day."
In fact, the producer -- or the creator, Chuck Dixon -- says that the villain in this movie is almost... I forget his exact words, but he links the villain in this movie to Occupy Wall Street. And yet the Democrats are out there trying to say Bane is Bain. I think this exposes the frailty of their position.
So, as I said, I read the plot summary. It looks incredibly dull and over-complicated when distilled into forthright sentences, but it was all quite meaningless to me. If the film says anything about politics, I'm not going to be the one to figure out what.

***

That's not meant to say anything about the murders, which I don't think should be inflated with political imagination. Let's resist the temptation to say things that might entice delusional people to make the decision to act out. You could suddenly one day be the most famous person on earth, whose face everyone will gaze upon, whose mind everyone will contemplate. You could make the presidential candidates suspend their campaigns and command everyone to pray and pray over the dramatic changes you have made in their puny little world. Let's resist the temptation to create that temptation.

38 comments:

Brent said...

I love reading Anthony Lane's reviews, even when I disagree. He's just wonderful as a writer.

Brent said...

Oh, and about the cartoon:

The New Yorker website refreshes with a different cartoon from the current issue everytime the page refreshes.

LOVE the cartoons!

rhhardin said...

Both as Wayne and as super-Wayne he seems indifferent, as the films themselves are, to the activities of little people, and to the claims of the everyday, preferring to semi-purse his lips, as if preparing to whistle for an errant dog, and stare pensively into the distance.

I hear the sound of freight trains.

Brent said...

And - sorry, but the movie was a bore. Depressing and, to me, not even socially redeeming. Nolan and Bale each have far, far better films to recommend them.

Should have waited for the DVD. Even then, probably would have heard enough to tell me to not waste 3 hours of my life on it. Better things (and movies!) to do.


WV: undears. Totally appropriate to the movie.

traditionalguy said...

The Christian Bale's portrayal of Bruce Wayne is as an elitist's dream of becoming an intruder into the criminal underworld that is so evil that it is unstoppable without a beyond belief super powered performance of a single savior dressed as a BatMan.

That is a very discouraging idea: that free men are powerless before the forces of evil without one special elite Batman coming to the rescue.

Bale is not Bain. Bale is the special talented man who alone can survive superioe forces of evil.

That is not emotionally far from his first movie role at age 9 as Jim who faces the evil of the Emperor of Japan in China.

Bale did a better character in "2:10 To Yuma " where he had a wife and son to protect in face of great evil. That character's expression was closer to a real man than the elite BatMan cartoon character.

Ann Althouse said...

"The New Yorker website refreshes with a different cartoon from the current issue everytime the page refreshes."

Yeah, I noticed that when I hit "single page." Glad I wrote down the caption that amused me.

Rabel said...

The plot summary link needs a spoiler alert.

Ann Althouse said...

"Bale is not Bain. Bale is the special talented man who alone can survive superioe forces of evil."

But don't miss the question whether Bane is Bain.

The villain is Bane, so there was a whole lot of talk about that.

Ann Althouse said...

"The plot summary link needs a spoiler alert."

Very funny.

Rabel said...

"That is a very discouraging idea: that free men are powerless before the forces of evil without one special elite Batman coming to the rescue."

I blame Beowulf.

EDH said...

Caped or uncaped, the guy is a bore. He should have fun.

If he's such a killjoy, then how do you explain Wayne adding nipples to the breast plate of this costume?

William said...

Christian Bale is the Laurence Harvey of our era. He has triumphed over a complete lack of charisma or even a mild likeability to become a major star......I do not seek political or moral enlightenment in a Batman movie. Batman movies should be judged on their car chases, explosions, and special effects.

traditionalguy said...

Sorry professor. Back on thread, Bane Capital (Romney) is a dull man that doesn't drink (not even Starbucks Coffee) and doesn't enjoy flirting with attractive women he meets, unless he can marry them first like the good old days in Salt Lake City.

But dull Romney is the man who understands the pickle that we are in today with China doing our manufacturing and Americans working on each others services until the money runs out.

And a new costumed Romney will need BatMan's powers to save us from the evil world forces of dollar devaluation and disarmament for lack of military funding.

I just want yo hear that dull Mitt will not join Obama/Soros in throwing us away to appease the Envir-Marxist's fear of CO2 ending the world mythology., no matter how much cash it can spin off to his Bane Capital buds.

SunnyJ said...

Truck load of 19-20 yr olds texted me from outdoor theatre last night, saying "amazing movie, with the best ending ever..." They want this 60+ yr old to watch it. Come on Prof...for me, it's wanting to understand what others like and think, not hearing myself cloned. Surely anyone that fosters and nurtures a blog for debate will see this as a window into todays culture...good or bad, and an oppportunity to gain some insight.

edutcher said...

I think we're over-analyzing this.

To paraphrase Bill Shatner, it's just a comic book movie.

And what Dr Freud said about a cigar is true, too.

Ralph L said...

If he's such a killjoy, then how do you explain Wayne adding nipples to the breast plate of this costume?
I was about to ask if the nipples were still erect. Those first appeared on the 2nd? Batman movie about 20 years ago. In the next movie, the codpiece will tell us if Bruce is circumcized.

What does it mean when these not-very-good movies are hugely successful? Are some people actually going back for multiple viewings, as with Star Wars, or do young people feel compelled to go?

Michael K said...

The first Batman with Michael Keaton was very well done and I enjoyed it. I haven't seen the others and don't want to. Is there some law that sequels are always worse ? "Aliens" was supposed to be better than the original but it didn't seem so to me.

Rick67 said...

Just saw it. Better than I expected after reading some of the mixed reviews.

I thought it was blatantly political. Bane's Gotham is where the Left is taking us, whether many on the Left realize it or not. Bane gives Gotham to "the People", which of course means Bane and his army of psychopathic thugs. But the Revolution only leads to fear, misery, starvation, oppression, and ultimately death.

Dale Light said...

"a very discouraging idea: that free men are powerless before the forces of evil without one special elite Batman coming to the rescue."

But that is the essential idea behind all super-hero comics and films. They are power fantasies that appeal primarily to disaffected adolescents who resent the fact that the moronic masses don't understand and appreciate their specialness. They seldom evince any real concern for the lives of normal people who are usually nothing more than cannon fodder.

wyo sis said...

The cartoon I got was a living room with wife speaking to husband who is reading the paper.
"O.K. we'll do it your way--- let's ignore any problems that come up in the next twenty years and see what happens."

I believe I saw that same comment on the the shooter thread.

Mitch H. said...

I saw the picture yesterday. It was disjointed and kind of disappointing. Yes, it's sort of conservative, but it's a Manhattan sort of conservative - authoritarian, elitist, suspicious of the masses, thinking in terms of police power and defensive about wealth and class. The reviewer is right in that we don't really see the massed middle in the film - it's all police, verminous untermenschen, mercenaries, villains, 1%ers, and cute little orphan children. Although I suppose a case can be made that Manhattan has always been missing the middle half of society...

Anyways, it strangely turns into Doctor Zhivago intercut with a prison flick for most of the movie. I'd call it undigested, and about as frustrating as the first Nolan Batman movie. He somehow caught lightning in a bottle with the Dark Knight, but I guess he only had one bottle in him.

Dale Light said...

It is interesting that Lane cannot get his mind around the idea that the film would not glorify the "occupy" movement, but would instead trash it. The film makers have been pretty explicit about its political content.

Mitch H. said...

Dale: people are getting confused, but Dixon isn't actually creatively involved in the movie; he just created the Bane character back in the Nineties. That character's been used in a hundred different ways by various DC Comics writers and scriptwriters since then. He has his opinions, and I don't disagree with most of them but he's not Nolan, and he doesn't speak for the actual writers of the film.

Indigo Red said...

After hearing of the theater shooting, I had to go see "The Dark and Stormy Knight Rises" for myself. It's a movie about comic book characters who could just as well have been from a Shakespeare play. The story is nothing new, but the reason for all the mayhem and death is just really stupid - a little girl is born in an underground prison somewhere in the Middle East, escapes to take revenge on Bruce Wayne/Batman, Wall Street, and New York City - the connections between then are never clear, if there are any connections at all. Kudos to the men and women of Hollywood for being able to make a movie from essentially nothing. But, Hollywood has had less to work with.

We did learn a few things though: Alfred takes a vacation every year in Florence, Italy where he drinks an aperitif at a cafe and yearns to see Bruce Wayne there; the Batsuit can withstand brutish beatings and high powered weaponry, but is prone to knife punctures; Detective John Blake's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt of Third Rock From the Sun fame) first name is Robin and he finds the Batcave and Batsuit; Catwoman and Batman fall in love and retire to Florence where Alfred is on vacation and spies them across the crowded cafe while sipping his aperitif.

There was at least one humorous moment when Batman is talking with Catwoman on the top of a skyscraper. While talking, he turns away from her and when he turns back, she's magically gone without a sound. Batman says to himself, "So, that's what it feels like."

ricpic said...

I just saw The Dark Knight and I can say without hesitation that it isn't Shakespeare.

Jason (the commenter) said...

I've seen the movie, just now, and it would be almost laughably bad if it wasn't such a yawn-fest.

It has these villains who want to mentally terrorize people (yes, again!) and they fail miserably. The other characters do such a good job of torturing themselves it almost comes as a relief when the villains strike.

An example: Three or four months of anarchy in New York City and not much changes, not even people's hairstyles.

Jason (the commenter) said...

ricpic: I just saw The Dark Knight and I can say without hesitation that it isn't Shakespeare.

But the actors pretend it is, which is one of the film's biggest problems. They should have spent more time getting the script to make sense and less time dragging performances out of the actors.

EMD said...

little girl is born in an underground prison somewhere in the Middle East, escapes to take revenge on Bruce Wayne/Batman, Wall Street, and New York City - the connections between then are never clear, if there are any connections at all.

Bruce Wayne killed her father in Batman Begins, which is the first film of the trilogy, if you haven't seen it.

It's just a revenge story.

And perhaps you should have warned some others about SPOILERS in your comment.

EMD said...

That is a very discouraging idea: that free men are powerless before the forces of evil without one special elite Batman coming to the rescue.


This is basically every superhero story/movie ever.

Batman has no super powers outside of immense wealth (which he loses in TDKR) and brains.

EMD said...

t. Those first appeared on the 2nd? Batman movie about 20 years ago. In the next movie, the codpiece will tell us if Bruce is circumcized.

Director Joel Schumacher was the one to put nipples on the Batman breastplates in the 3rd previous installment, Batman Forever. He referred to the film as his "Gay Fantasia."

EMD said...

I just saw The Dark Knight and I can say without hesitation that it isn't Shakespeare.

How many comic-book films are?

This trilogy is better than most comic book films.

EMD said...

One last thing ...

Wayne is supposed to be a contradiction as a character ... a billionaire playboy without real attachments who uses the violent death of his parents as an impetus to become a vigilante crimefighter.

His efforts usually leave anyone close to him injured or dead, and thus he's probably not going to get a wife or kids anytime soon ... would make him too vulnerable to the nefarious foes he fights.

Bale pulls off the character as it's written. Batman, as a hero, has always suffered from a common problem — his villains are always much more interesting and alive on screen. This was true even in the Michael Keaton days.

The only time Wayne seemed to really come alive was in Batman: The Animated Series, which was really well done.

Brad said...

Bane spouts every bit of leftist "revolution of the people" clap trap a Harvard professor would ever want to hear (and then some).

gadfly said...

Rolling Stone interviews Dark Knight Rises director Christopher Nolan and gets a BS answer:

In the new movie, you have Bane more or less trick Gotham's 99 percent into rising up against the rich – is that intended as an anti-Occupy Wall Street statement?

I've had as many conversations with people who have seen the film the other way round. We throw a lot of things against the wall to see if it sticks. We put a lot of interesting questions in the air, but that's simply a backdrop for the story. What we're really trying to do is show the cracks of society, show the conflicts that somebody would try to wedge open. We're going to get wildly different interpretations of what the film is supporting and not supporting, but it's not doing any of those things. It's just telling a story. If you're saying, “Have you made a film that's supposed to be criticizing the Occupy Wall Street movement?” – well, obviously, that's not true.

sydney said...

Saw the movie last night with my family. Nolan is correct. He "threw a lot of things against the wall to see if it sticks." That movie is one jumbled up heap of a mess. The best part of it for me was that Batmanuel was the mayor of Gotham. That, and seeing the final credits roll. Gave me a splitting headache.

Erik Robert Nelson said...

Anyone who thinks Nolan is going to say to Rolling Stone that the movie has an anti-OWS message is an idiot. Of course he's not going to say that.

Nevertheless, the movie is what it is. Whatever Nolan's intention, people are clearly getting an anti-OWS message from it--including OWS people, no matter how "obvious" Nolan thinks the opposite is.

Smart directors (and I'd consider Nolan smart, at least in that field) know damned well that once movies are released, their symbols and meanings take on a life of their own, whatever his intent might have been. He might not have intended to make an anti-OWS movie, but it seems like that's what he's done.

Creative people are frequently blind to the meaning of their work on a more detached level. Nolan seems to be in that mode at the moment, just as he was with his other two Batman movies.

EMD said...

I've had as many conversations with people who have seen the film the other way round. We throw a lot of things against the wall to see if it sticks. We put a lot of interesting questions in the air, but that's simply a backdrop for the story. What we're really trying to do is show the cracks of society, show the conflicts that somebody would try to wedge open. We're going to get wildly different interpretations of what the film is supporting and not supporting, but it's not doing any of those things. It's just telling a story. If you're saying, “Have you made a film that's supposed to be criticizing the Occupy Wall Street movement?” – well, obviously, that's not true.

Translation: I want to keep working in Hollywood.

Rick67 said...

That is a very discouraging idea: that free men are powerless before the forces of evil without one special elite Batman coming to the rescue.

This also touches on the "pointless" middle of the movie where Batman is stuck in a prison in India.

I respectfully disagree, although I can understand that interpretation. I think that is the point of the middle of the movie - the heroic efforts of ordinary people to continue the struggle against this odd(? or not so odd) hybrid of anarchy and oppression. There is a key line where Batman says, "Anyone can be Batman" (or something along those lines). Everyone and anyone can be a hero.

Look at Officer then Detective John Blake. Look at Fox and Gordon. Look at Father ??? who cares for orphaned boys. And so on.

Now granted, traditionalguy has a point, in that despite the heroism and sacrifice of so many Gothams - it's just not enough to overcome Bane and his army. Only Batman can provide the extra edge they need. But then again - could Batman have succeeded without them? without Gordon, Blake, Fox, and all the rest?

The isolation of Gotham is significant. They are cut off, and Bane gets it. The people have to deal with Bane on their own. No outside help. It's up to them. In a way, no outside savior is going to help America get its act together. If we have a problem with statists turning this nation into a hellhole in the name of "equality" and "fairness", guess what? It's our problem, and we need to step up, despite the probable costs involved.