13 July 2011

Never Judge a Book by its Cover

There's a remarkably tedious article about the third Christopher Nolan Batman film in today's Guardian. Peter Owen squints at the teaser poster for far too long, and proceeds to tell us that the film is obviously going to be crap. The Dark Knight, he says, 'took itself far too seriously, most of all in its lumpen and simplistic attempts to comment on the war on terror,' and as for The Dark Knight Rises, well...
'The new poster suggests the next film will fall into some of the same traps. It hums with seriousness and portentousness, with its black and white colour scheme, hints of awful destruction, and depiction of an empty city totally devoid of people – never a promising sign. It's claustrophobic, joyless, and derivative, like the poster for Batman Begins or one of those for Nolan's Inception, which depicted buildings tumbling like cliffs into the sea while Leo, Juno and the rest stared upwards with sombre, blank stares as vacant as the film itself.

The Dark Knight ended with Batman on the run from the police, having nobly taken the blame for Two-Face's murders so that Gotham's citizens don't find out that their upright, morally impeccable district attorney Harvey Dent had turned evil. The new poster suggests a city literally falling to pieces without him, his bat symbol representing the only chink of light – or hope – in the gloom.'
Now, call me old-fashioned, but if you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, you certainly shouldn't prejudge a film by its trailer, let alone its poster. Frankly, the article's nonsense anyway. Owen grumbles that the film looks set to repeat the classic error of too many superhero films, that being an abundance of bad guys. Granted, as a general rule of thumb a variant of Occam's Razor would make a good maxim for superhero films, in that villains should not be multiplied beyond necessity. However, leaving aside that I'd trust Nolan with a whole brigade of nasties, Owen clearly doesn't know what he's talking about. Of Batman Begins, for which he has at least a sneering regard, he says:
'The only supervillain involved, the Scarecrow, an evil psychiatrist experimenting on asylum patients, was not too over the top, and his costume not too silly'
Whereas of The Dark Knight Rises, he proclaims:
'... judging from the cast list, Nolan has already booked in far too many villains, including Catwoman, Ra's al Ghul ("rumoured" on imdb.com) and Bane, an uninteresting, monosyllabic lunk who broke Batman's back in the comics a few years ago.'
Given that Ra's al Ghul was the principal villain -- there were three, the others being the Scarecrow and Carmine Falcone -- in Batman Begins, and that Owen appears not to have noticed, I think his witterings can be safely discarded. You remember, don't you? Played by Liam Neeson? Trained Bruce Wayne? Used the Scarecrow and Falcone as his pawns? Burned down Wayne Manor? Attempted to destroy Gotham City? No?

While the Guardian has been covering itself in glory over the last fortnight, it's useful to be reminded that even Homer nods sometimes, and that paper doesn't refuse ink.

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