(UPDATE: I now stand accused, by a Batman fan, of "hate speech" for my essay on culture and the new movie. I'm not kidding.)
Me? I LOVE Batman. A LOT. And, along with Batman, every movie about Batman, too. This is because movies about Batman feature lots of Batman.
That stuff I wrote down there about how "The Dark Night" was not a lasting, profound artistic statement? I was just kidding about that. No -- "joking"! Like "The Joker"!
Yeah, "The Joker" -- one of THE best, most well-developed, fascinating characters in the history of literature, drama, or film. Better than Hamlet, and just below, you know, Batman. (Blessed be he.)
Yeah...I was joking. No way am I going to question, for a moment, a movie featuring the guy on your lunchbox. This is serious, artsy stuff we're talking about here, with bonus cape.
I did appreciate the two-pronged critique of my critique:
1) How could Brant have expected deep meaning from a comic book flick? What a doof.
2) How could Brant have missed all the deep meaning in this excellent, profound movie? What a doof.
I will repeat after me: I hereby promise (I hereby promise) never to take Batman (never to take Batman) or any other caped superhero show that people pay to see for amusement, less than seriously, except when I should really take it seriously, which is when it so beautifully illustrates the human condition on an awesome fat-tire motorcycle-thing. (fat tire motorcycle-thing.)
One guy on some forum called me a "hyper-fundie" (not kidding!) for not enjoying this masterwork. Another hated my post, saying it seemed more about the culture than about Batman. Well...yeah. It's my blog. I can talk culture if I want. Just so happens nobody else wants. No problem. I remember this from seventh grade.
Anyway, I think we can all agree that THIS is an awesome video. Probably.
At one level, this movie is a bunch of violent, purposeless noise.
But there is a second deeper level. At that level, "The Dark Knight" is a discourse on the nature of evil.
And then... there is a third, still deeper, final level.
At that final level, this movie is a bunch of violent, purposeless noise.
People are buying scalped tickets this weekend for $100 apiece. The critics say it's brilliant. You've likely heard them, speaking in uniform voice, extolling the profundity of this very, very important movie. The hype has been unmatched. It's the best of its genre -- ever. Thoroughly engrossing, thoroughly entertaining, thoroughly -- you know -- important.
So it's interesting to watch people emerge into the light of day in the hot Florida sun, looking for their cars in the crowded lots. They look kinda...bored. Like they did when they walked in. Almost like they didn't just see 2.5 hours of non-stop explosions, ear-crushing destruction, screams, bleeding, shotgun blasts, and brutal torture scenes.
Let the record show that in the waning days of western civilization, when we were artistically spent, the going rate for 2.5 hours of defibrillation was $9. Anything -- anything! -- to get our hearts pumping again, if for a short time, before exiting to find where we put the Accord.
This movie is well-made, of course. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, "People who enjoy that sort of thing will certainly enjoy that sort of thing."
"The Dark Knight" is that sort of thing. Death, mayhem, horrifying chaos -- wrapped in ooh-that's-deep philosophizing that will prompt many an essay from high school sophomores. Too bad it, ultimately, means nothing.
Granted, my experience was colored somewhat. Carolyn and I were sitting next to a three-year-old, who was treated to a happy-time-with-dad buffet of burnt flesh, maniacal laughing, and corpses. It's only PG-13, you know, which just means parents need show guidance, as they guide those they are to protect into their seats in dark, stranger-filled blood shows. Where would we be without parental guidance?
Focus on the Family gives this movie 2-and-a-half stars for "family friendliness". For what family, the Mansons?
Will kids say they liked it, though? Will the junior high boys like it? Here's an experiement: Ask a group of junior high boys for movies they say that were NOT awesome. I've done it. There follows a long silence. This is because they are fools.
"The Dark Knight" is cultural rigormortis. It's what happens when we are done, and we are done. Jacques Barzun had it right, when he wrote a history of western culture up through the 1990s, and said, certainly, that our age is defined by boredom. We are excited by nothing, really, but maybe for a moment here, or a moment there, we can try to be turned on. Sex can do it (or fake sex, much more likely) but brutal violence can work, too, if for a short time.
Our culture is lying on the table, and "The Dark Knight" is just another jolt before the flatline resumes.
At least give us this: Our mass-market (which included me, yesterday) is willing to pay for it, but also demands some sense that it was all, ultimately, high-minded, that it was making some statement, that it was horrific, yes, but redemptive, blah blah blah. Expect many hip Christian types to write as much, because 1) That's the essence of being hip, and 2) Who doesn't like Batman?
But it's not redemptive...unless...
Unless we can emerge in the sunlight, after ALL THAT HYPE for this masterwork, this penultimate expression, this marvel-ous creation, saying, "Really? That's as good as it gets?"
Then we walk out into the sun, and decide it's infinitely more interesting than what we just paid to see.
Okay, I'm taking a sabbatical from my sabbatical, but I had to post this: Wall-E is not about pollution. It's about sexuality. And not just any kind.
Unmistakably. From start to finish. I'm not kidding.
Watch it, and you'll see it. Surely, people are already discussing this. I did read one review that broaches it: "This movie is really about finding a partner for life" -- but to pretend this sells the movie short on poetry. It is very specifically, and very obviously, about heterosexuality.
"Eve" (of course it's "Eve"), pregnant with life, reminding a now-asexual society of its "directive", ultimately bringing children back to earth, with their own joyful directive, to bring order to earth through their own fruitfulness and works of restoration.
Wall-E is a lonely, hard-working Adam. He models masculinity through-and-through, by sacrificing self in order for Eve to be what she was made to be, and do what she was made to do. Others want to take the life growing in her and toss it down the garbage chute, in the name of protecting their lives of convenience. (Does this ring a bell?) But Wall-E, a true man, will protect the threat -- the life inside Eve, for which she was designed -- at all costs to himself.
None of this can ba an accident. If you view this as the typical eco-sermon, you didn't really watch the movie. Wall-E is about male and female, re-creation, and the putting-back of Things-as-Intended.
It's so obvious that I'm sure others have written about it. I saw the movie yesterday, so I'm only beginning to pay attention.
Because there's nothing more fun than forcing people to look at your own photo albums, here's an online version.
I can't force you to look at it. I can't even force myself to think you'd want to. But here it is.
Oh, the places you'll go!