Going to the Movies

The office had a trip to see the new Batman movie. The movie itself, while flawed in some ways, was for the most part enjoyable. However, the whole movie-going experience itself has become tedious in many ways. First, there was lunch. The theater is actually only close to a bunch of boring box restaurants, and one of the people in our group required gluten free food. So we ended up at P.F. Chang’s. I see no reason to amend my previous comments on the place. The food was generic, expensive, too salty and generally completely lacking in any genuine character besides the color brown. Two points missing from my previous rant: they serve brown rice (ewww) and charge a ludicrous amount of money for pots of tea. But, even with all this going against it, it’s really no worse than any of the other food down at The Waterfront where the theater is. Why can’t someone put a decent place to eat close to the megaplex?

Second, we had the trailers. Of course, the first four trailers are now commercials, two of which must be for Fandango. They do this in France too, but in France I can’t understand the dialog in the commercials, which makes them far more interesting. ‘Nuff said.

The trailers themselves were for other films that Warner is releasing, and they mostly made you wonder why Warner is releasing the movies. Based on the trailers, I predict that Serenity will be too long, War of the Worlds will be overwrought and Spielbergishly manipulative, and The Dukes of Hazzard, if I watched it, would make me want to claw my eyes out and roll in the aisles of the theater screaming for my mommy. I think there was also a trailer for a cop film or some comedy with Jamie Foxx, but I can’t remember it.

By this point in the proceedings, I was already worn out. And the movie hadn’t even started.

Oh, the movie. I found the latest Batman to be a lot like the first “serious” Batman film with Michael Keaton, but with less style and higher production values. The film maker was eager to show us how hard he was working to, if nothing else, make a well crafted piece of summer film schlock, rather than just let the visuals carry the experience. These days, you have to be thankful for a film that sets up plot points in the beginning, and actually has them pay off 1.5 hours later. Most movies these days assume that the viewer doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to remember three lines of dialog for more than five minutes after the fact. So, kudos there, even though the plot points were pretty obvious.

My main complaint about the film is that for all of its craft, production values, and cost, you would think there would be a single person on the crew who could shoot a fight scene. Every single fight in the film was shot close up, hand held, and with jump cuts every 10 to 15 frames. The result is that instead of a clear view of who is kicking whose ass, all you see is a blur of black, gray and brown along with sound effects that imply the carnage that should be visible.

Compare this with Jackie Chan’s magnum opus, Drunken Master 2. The very first fight in this film happens under a train car with two people going after each other with poles (or was it spears). Every single attack, block, counter, jump and punch is perfectly framed and it’s always clear who is going in which direction. And this all happens in incredibly close quarters and yet is never confusing. American directors have to go back to film school and learn to shoot fight scenes.

My secondary complaints about the film are that it was too long, and the sound was mixed too loud. Leaving the theater, my bottom was sore and my head was ringing a bit from THX-boosted bass-laden sound effects. If you can live with these things, this is probably as good an adaptation of Batman as you will ever see.