I’ve always been used to fairly simplistic super-hero movies. The ‘typical’ superhero has a standard set of abilities, which usually mean above average physical strength, one unique power and a monk-like righteousness. The story revolves around these as a given with a cute love-interest, a quickly-passing moral dilemma and yes, the villain, with powers that just about match those of the hero.
Its not like we don’t know how the story is going to pan out, I’ve always found they’re fun to watch nevertheless, because of the always improving special effects and the no fuss victory of good over evil that end with the superhero kissing his love interest, lots of applause all around and a burning city in the background. Makes you wonder whether only tourists form the cheering crowds given I wouldn’t be jumping around waving wildly if my home or office or both had just been leveled by marauding alien robots (Transformers), blown away by a flying man dressed in bright red (Superman) or simply punched aside by a huge pissed off green dude in pants that seem to have torn around the calves (The Incredible Hulk). More likely taking pictures for the insurance claim.
I’d done my top 4 list of superheroes way back when not all of them had been turned into moderately successful movie franchises. And since everyone loves a superhero, I didn’t pay much attention to the brouhaha over the latest DC comics offering ‘The Dark Knight’. I’d even seen it, since I and the missus have an unsaid rule about watching any superhero flick that comes out (and I do mean ‘any’, since we’ve even watched ‘The Fantastic Four’! Invisibility, biceps made of rocks and spontaneous combustibility might be very practical powers, but what self-respecting hero acts like a rubber band!). Memories of batman limited to an evidently gay side-kick exclaiming “Holy utility belt Batman!”, a long week and a 11.15pm show meant that I didn’t catch much more than the opening credits, closing credits and some exploding buildings and yet felt I’d got the gist of it.
I finally actually watched it on dvd and woah! The batmobile and the bike must be the best looking modes of transport used by any superhero. Come to think of it, most superheroes don’t rely on mechanical modes of transport so there’s not much to compare. The supporting characters are not as one-dimensional as I usually like them. The villain describes himself as “a dog chasing cars”, sets fire to a mountain of cash and extols the virtues of chaos. He oozes menace in the way he makes clear that he wants to gain nothing and had nothing to lose. But it’s the last sequence that erased all memories of brightly silly exclamations and anatomically correct outfits (remember Alicia Silverstone?). There are no wildly cheering crowds. Only the body of Harvey Dent, activist District Attorney reduced to Two-Face. Commissioner Gordon saying
“He’s the hero Gotham deserves…but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero…he’s a silent guardian…a watchful protector…A dark knight”