Monday, March 30, 2009

You Complete Me

One of the first English movies I remember watching is "Superman". I watched the entire Christopher Reeve series, including the bad ones - of course, to a six-year-old, there is no such thing as a bad Superman movie. So anyway, while I'm not much of a comic-book reader, and am not a walking encyclopedia on their mythology, I do have a soft spot for superhero movies. Most guys do.

But one thing always puzzled me. Not the bad physics. That, I could take. I was never one to poke fun at the genre by pointing out the impossible physics. No one ever questions how Philip Marlowe could solve a case, let alone stay alive long enough to ever write all those books, do they? How did Scottie get off that roof in "Vertigo"? What are the chances of your meeting a girl who looks like Julie Delpy in a train, let alone her agreeing to walk around Vienna with you? Why should physics be on a higher pedestal? Every movie creates its own universe, and as long as it sticks to the rules it establishes, and doesn't cheat, it's fair game, I say.

Yes, I know. The puzzling thing. I speak from a rather limited exposure to the genre, but it's like this. Humanity gets along just fine (well, mostly) for a few millennia. So does Lois Lane, though maybe not for as long. And then Superman comes along. All of a sudden, Lois gets mugged, she gets killed (temporarily), we face evil geniuses helping investments in property along by doing a bit of nuking on the side, bad guys from Krypton arrive to establish a new order... so on and so forth.

Superman goes away. For 5 years, there's peace on earth. Lois gets married, has a son, wins a Pulitzer for an article on why the world doesn't need Superman. All in all, a happy life. And then Superman makes a come-back. Even as he's entering the stratosphere, Lois almost gets killed in a plane crash. The evil genius also has some new plans. Coincidence?

Take Peter Parker. When he was a nerd who worshipped Mary Jane from afar, the world and Mary herself were safe. A spider-bite, and a spider suit later, we have, in the course of less than half a decade and 2 sequels, in order - a Green Goblin, an Octopus Man something, a Sand Man, Green Goblin Jr, and an alien-infested jealous photographer. In the words of the man himself, "Where do these guys come from?" Mary Jane, who had no difficulty getting into her 20s, now faces threats to her life on a daily basis. Coincidence again, I ask you?

So "The Dark Knight" comes along to explain it all. A pretty nifty piece of film making, I thought, when I first saw it, but too self aware for its own good, I think now, having just rewatched it on DVD (yes, at 3 AM on a Monday morning; yes, I need to get a life). Had it been a light-hearted exploration of the sleight of hand practised by every superhero movie I've seen, a-la "The Incredibles" (if that is what that movie did - it is 3 AM, after all), I probably wouldn't have stayed up to write a post on it. However...

Batman asks the Joker, "Why do you want to kill me?" He replies, visibly resisting the urge to french-kiss the caped crusader, "I don't want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, you... you complete me."

Magicians are supposed to draw attention away from their trickeries. And yet, here you have a film that not only exposes a plot hole the size of a truck in all films of its kind, but also wallows in it with the kind of solemnity that makes me want to throw up every time I hear the word "Matrix".

If you really wanted to make a picture that poses questions as dark as the movie pretends it wants to ask, surely there are better vehicles than a big-budget money-spinner, with all the limitations that that entails? When it's as plain as day that the movie's about a rich, good-looking dude beating the crap out of the bad guys, why all the pretentious bullshit? Why take away from all those glorious action set pieces, the Batmobile, and all those gadgets that would put James Bond to shame, with endless talk on "sacrifices" and "rules" and "choices" and what not? Why all the gloom? Why so serious?

P.S. - As long as I'm still slightly drunk, sleepy and crabby, what's with all the "one man can make a difference" hogwash that keeps getting peddled in the Spidey movies? I mean, the man in question can swing from building to building, and also get off with just a slight headache on being slammed into buildings with enough force to take chunks of concrete off. Bah, humbug.

P.P.S. - In walks Tendulkar. He batted beautifully for his 58 yesterday. Hope he goes on for a ton today. Time for some superhero action...

P.P.P.S. - Damn, he got out. I'm off to sleep.