This Batman thing

Comic Book Guy
Comic Book Guy (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

I tried, I honestly did.

After giving up after 20-minutes or so of the origins film (Batman Begins), yesterday I sat down to watch the middle one of the three directed by Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight. Why am I putting myself through this? I actually have to teach superhero movies next year as part of the Film Studies GCSE, so don’t really have the choice.

A couple of weeks ago, I watched Kick Ass, which was okay but probably far too violent and sweary for Year 10s, and I have a slight affection for the Christopher Reeve Superman film (the first one). I can cope with The Incredibles, but the rest of the genre leaves me cold, unless we’re allowed to include the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (now there’s a superhero I can get behind). But okay. I don’t have to like it, I just have to teach it.

I actually did watch the first run of Batman movies, back when it was Michael Keaton and George Clooney. I didn’t think much of them. I think the only time I ever really read a Batman comic was when he would occasionally turn up in a Superman story. Even then, I probably only read one or two Superman comics when I was young, and I don’t remember how I came by them.

In short, and hold on to your hats, I fucking hate comic books / graphic novels and their movie spin-offs. To me it’s just one more sign of the paralysis of arrested development that has descended on our culture since the arrival of the internet. The internet has brought many good things into our lives, but the absolute worst thing it has done has been this freezing of culture at a moment in time when the nerds who now run our society first developed taste. Now we’ve gone beyond arrested development and it seems more like senility. Or arrested development combined with senility.

Unlike normal adults, these people have remained stuck on three things: Star Wars, Comic Books, and Lego (or Legos as they invariably and infuriatingly term it).

But let’s not get started on how much I have grown to hate Star Wars. And Lego.

It was interesting to read in the New Statesman this morning (with reference to the third Nolan film, which I have not seen and will likely never see) that Alex Hearn agrees with me that the Hollywood realist approach to filming these Batman movies makes them even more ridiculous. (Though, please, New Statesman, don’t go down the Guardian route of pandering to the arrested of development in order to generate page views.)

My first problem with Batman as a superhero is that he’s not. He has no special powers, and is not “super” in any way. My second problem is with the dumb costume, with its little ears on the top. I cannot, will not, ever suspend my disbelief. Superman’s underpants and pointless cape; Spiderman’s Spiderman pyjamas, Batman’s ears. All deeply, deeply, stupid. (I deliberately put Spiderman there as one word in order to wind up the arrested ones.)

As to the film itself, I feel isolated in that I don’t really understand why Christopher Nolan is so highly regarded. I watched Memento and thought it was okay, but hope never to sit through it again. I watched Inception but thought it was a colossal snorefest. Sitting through this silly Batman movie, I was struck by its incoherent, vapid, story. A villain, the Joker, who yaps and yaps in a silly voice, and yaps and yaps through scene after extended scene of drivel disguised as exposition. Other scenes where fine actors are given stupid things to say, interminably. Cartoon, CGI-driven action sequences which start and finish with no proper resolution. (What’s with the ridiculously impractical motorbike?) And cinematography which is dark, dark, dark. I’m struggling to understand what anybody is saying because they’re all mumbling or putting on a stupid voice, and I’m struggling to see anything on the screen at all. 

Everybody seems to know who Batman is, so why the disguised voice, especially in conversations with people who know him?

And on and on. And way too long. Oh, so long. Amazing to have such a ridiculously long film and still none of it makes sense.

I borrowed some “graphic novels” from the library in order to use them in lesson planning, and they’re bad enough. Dialogue not worth the reading, overblown artwork on every page, stories which are purest drivel.

Looking forward to teaching this topic this year. Oh, man.

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