I’m a week or so late on this, but I have a thing or two to say about next year’s Batman Begins sequel, The Dark Knight, the photo released of Heath Ledger in his Joker make-up, and Batman fans in general.
First, on the film itself, the absence of David Goyer as screenwriter can only be a good thing. The story is based on a plot Goyer and Christopher Nolan came up with when they were brainstorming Begins, so he’ll presumably get a “Story By” credit, but the screenplay itself is by Nolan and his brother Jonathan, who also co-wrote Nolan’s great film Memento. Goyer’s script for Begins was the most conspicuous defect in that insanely overrated pile of dogshit, so to have someone else taking up the writing duties for the sequel is pleasing news. Chris Nolan seems intent on showing us his own idea of Batman (which is his prerogative as the filmmaker), so any allusion to the comics more than is absolutely necessary is probably too much to hope for, but perhaps between the two of them, without Goyer’s idiotic input, the Nolan brothers can come up with a decently compelling story instead of a massively stupid Silver Age plot driven by the convenient stupidity of its allegedly brilliant characters.
The continued inclusion of the useless Rachel Dawes character is annoying, but Maggie Gyllenhaal is a good enough actress that maybe she can salvage something of her, though the only reason she’s there at all is because someone is under the mistaken impression that Batman needs a Mary Jane. The rest of the cast is shaping up nicely; not just Heath as the Joker, but Aaron Eckhardt as Harvey Dent. I was never a fan of Eckhardt until I saw Thank You For Smoking last year. He was brilliant there, and I even liked him in The Black Dahlia, where he was the only one in the fucking thing remotely watchable. Dent is to be a major character in the film, judging by the “I Believe in Harvey Dent” marketing campaign Warner Bros. has launched on the net lately, so hopefully it will be up to Eckhardt’s talent.
Speaking of actors who are probably too good for this movie, Heath Ledger — who should’ve nabbed Best Actor for Brokeback Mountain, I don’t give a fuck what anyone says — put on his Joker face for a teaser photo released online last week. Ledger’s (and Nolan’s) Joker will have a Glascow smile, it looks like. I wonder how that happens. I assume the origin of this Joker will differ a great deal in its details from that of the comics; I hope his is better than the shitty revised origin they gave Batman in the last film. Apparently some Batman aficionados aren’t too thrilled with the look of Heath’s Joker, since the sloppy scar-smile and uneven skin tone are departures from the comics. I’m not ecstatic about it, but I’m willing to give it a chance based on Ledger’s demonstrated skill as an actor, and Nolan’s previously proven (though not in Batman Begins) ability as a filmmaker. At least he looks creepy and a little scary. Scary the Joker ought to be.
There is a useless website called Batman on Film, run by grinning moron Bill “Jett” Ramey, that’s had as its stock-and-trade for the last few years reporting and commenting on rumors about the new Batman movies. Writers for the site other than Ramey occasionally post articles mildly critical of the look of the Batmobile, say, or how much they hope they redesign the Batman costume to look less like a 100-pound sculpted wetsuit in which Christian Bale can barely walk, let alone fight off armies of thugs. But the main mission of Ramey’s site (and Ramey himself) is to be a cheerleader for whatever the powers-that-be are doing with the character. If you absolutely must have spy-pics of Heath Ledger on-set with his dyed-green hair, or you enjoy self-congratulatory, self-consciously clever, utterly uncritical writing, I recommend the site to you. To me it is the foremost example of what’s wrong with most Batman fans — after so many years of shitty movies, and then no movies at all, they are ready to uncritically accept anything produced with the character that isn’t Schumacher/Goldsman-level terrible. So instead of regarding Batman Begins as the silly, nonsensical mess that it was, a very slight improvement only over the films of the previous franchise, they anointed it the best superhero film ever made, which anyone who has seen more than a few other examples of the genre ought to find ludicrous.
Now that he’s gotten the goofy bullshit of Batman Begins out of his system, maybe Nolan will make The Dark Knight the Batman film I’ve long been waiting for. Regardless of whether I like it or not, I’m sure Bill Ramey and his slobbering, cooperatively sycophantic fellow Bat-fellators will crown it the Citizen Kane of comic book-adapted cinema. Which they have every right to do — but if they think the best Batman film has been even a shadow of the worst Spider-Man film, they’re out of their fucking minds.