Stephanie Zacharek “puzzles” over TDK fans

One of the things that puzzles me about the popularity, both of Batman Begins and — we all know, the Dark Knight, it’s gonna be a hit, there’s no way around it — is that comic books, they are actually, they have a very logical visual structure, and it surprises me that comic book fans don’t demand more, visually — in terms of visual storytelling — from comic book movies. Now, there are already some fanboy reviews of The Dark Knight, and people seem to really love it…
(Stephanie Zacharek)

Mysteriously, inexplicable as our behavior appears to Zacharek, we do seem to love it. As for all the undemanding comic book fans, I’m sure DC Comics wishes everybody who saw The Dark Knight was a comic book reader. But just as a very small percentage of moviegoers have ever read the novels on which movie adaptations are based, I’m guessing the vast majority of people who go see The Dark Knight never bought a comic book in their life.

I have no problem at all with Stephanie Zacharek being bored by anything she she dislikes. But there’s no need to waste a lot of puzzled speculation about what’s wrong with the rest us who do like it. Seems a little condescending and presumptuous, don’t you think? “Those undemanding comic book fanboys” — fanboys like Claudia Puig, Manola Dargis, and Maitland McDonagh. 66-year-old fanboy Roger Ebert and 62-year-old fanboy Kenneth Turan. (All of those fanboys predictably gave TDK a perfect metacritic score of 100, except for fanboy Manola Dargis who gave it a 90.)

Then there’s pimply 80-year-old fanboy twerp, Andrew Sarris, Columbia University professor [nerd alert!] and author of seminal fanboy manifesto, “The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968” (heh-heh, I said “seminal”). That geek Sarris had this to say:

I previously have had my own auteurist doubts about Mr. Nolan’s work, even though he has been much honored for his stylistic innovations in Memento (2001) and The Prestige (2006). But after The Dark Knight, I may have to rethink my past reservations about Mr. Nolan’s place in the 21st-century cinema.

(video of Stephanie Zacharek’s puzzled befuddlement)

How about a friendly treaty. I agree not to be puzzled about why Stephanie Zacharek doesn’t like every single movie the rest of us do, if she’ll try not worry to herself about why we don’t “demand” the exact same things she expects from the kinds of movies that she doesn’t like in the first place. The last thing we need from a critic is daydreamy advice to a genius filmmaker about how to improve his movie that 90% of moviegoers believe to be sheer perfection.

  • k
  • Kristopher Tapley

    This one you’re free to dismantle. 😉

  • Dan

    I agree that Zackareck dislikes a hell of a lot of movies these days. But even though I disagree with her most of the time, some of her criticisms are not without merit. Wall-E, The Dark Knight, There Will Be Blood, ect are not 100% perfect films, it’s just that Zackarek cannot seem to look past these films’ flaws and recognize just how much they have going for them.

    For example, The Dark Knight is a bit incoherent at times, visually in particular. It is hard to tell exactly what is going on at all times, how things relate to one another spatially, and such. The structure and editing are a bit muddy at times, as well. Moments that are in actuality quite profound and/or devastating do not have the full effect they should because Nolan does not allow viewers time to process them. And dare I say that near the end of the film it begins to feel as if Nolan is hitting us over the head with his messages ever so slightly (I’m thinking about the boats here)? But, of course, these are only minor flaws in comparison to the rest of The Dark Knight, as the film is quite outstanding and deserving of praise. I will leave someone else to extol TDK’s merits (they’re pretty obvious anyway), but in our euphoria we should not fool ourselves into thinking TDK is a perfect movie–we can leave that up to the fanboys!

  • Ryan Adams

    [the above video clip disappeared, but now it’s back again.]

    ha, Kris. Not sure I have the energy for this one, and since this article focuses on the Salon video clip, it doesn’t seem fair (even to me) that we dissect a 20-second-sound-bite as if it’s a carefully thought-out position. I realized transcribing that Zacharek’s quote at the top that she was about to launch into a meandering ramble (I’ll stop short of calling it “incoherent”).

    The video is telling though, for how it begins: “Well, Andrew, as you and l know, girls are not supposed to be allowed to review comic book movies.” (Simultaneously managing to sound defensive about this fictitious oppression of female critics, and at the same time dismissing all the girls who’ve openly enjoyed the movie without needing to play the misogyny card.)

    So we know we’re off to a rough start with this Salon video, and frankly I think it betrays a bunkered personal bias that I’d rather skip than listen to.

    I was going to answer your tease about the dismantling with a simple, “I wouldn’t know where to begin, Kris.”

    And that reminded me of this scene from Death Becomes Her:

    Madeline: Ernest! My ass! I can ass!
    Ernest: There’s something really wrong with your neck too.
    Madeline: I would say so! I would freaking well say so. Ernest. What’s wrong with me.
    Ernest: It’s a dislocated neck, that’s what it is. I can happen. I’ve never seen it happen but it can happen.
    Madeline: Yeah, so fix it.
    Ernest: How?
    Madeline: I don’t know just do it!
    Ernest: I wouldn’t know where to begin, Madeline!

    So, in my typically flippant fashion, I’d suggest that Stephanie Zacharek can see her ass, and her dislocated nose is seriously out of joint. 😎

    But with no more to go on that her flatly unexplained complaint that the movie is visually incoherent, I wouldn’t know where to begin to fix her apparent lack of comprehension.

    This is an unusual phenomenon being spawned by TDK and spreading around the critical community like an ugly rash. David Edelstein felt so beseiged that he had to follow his review with a defense of his review.

    We’ve all been there. Spending time trying justify our opinions and fending off blows when we’re feeling attacked. But if Edelstein’s purpose was to try to redeem himself and clean up a sullied image, I think he might’ve found a classier way to do it than by swearing on Heath Ledger’s grave:

    “I can swear on Heath Ledger’s grave that I have never tailored a review — positive or negative — for the sole purpose of making a name for myself.”

    I don’t know much about oaths, but it seems a horribly crass and risk-free loophole to swear on somebody else’s soul.

  • Ryan Adams

    Dan, I can absolutely understand some of your points about the editing and cinematography. For me though, I felt like the style was an intentional choice and far from hapzard.

    One of the first things that started to screw with my expectations was how the scenes were edited in such tight compression they seemed to fold up like a retractable telescope. Once I got a handle on that, I loved it.

    We’ve all seen that editing trend in indie films where a character is followed in an activity, shot seemingly in one long take. But then sections of that long take are taken out and the chopped up pieces put together to create the sensation of jumping in jerky movement through time.

    Chris Nolan and Lee Smith are up to the same tricks, only on a grander scale. They jump ahead seconds or minutes in the continuity, crumpling time and space and stacking chunks of the scene up against one another in oddly matched juxtapositions.

    For me, this seems to mirror exactly what panels of a comic book do. The key moments of an event are selected, and reassembled for a speed-reading of the scene. I mean whoa, that’s really quite a brilliantly innovative technique and thrilling when you get the hang of it, zipping along with those syncopated editing rhythms.

    (and wow, thanks for bringing this up, Dan, because I had a vague notion of what this structure was attempting to do, and you’ve helped me clarify it by putting it into words. And hey, not to boast, but whether you buy my explanation or not, isn’t this a little more interesting than simply dismissing it as “incoherent” as Zacharek does?)

    The only time this technique really felt jarring was at the formal fund-raiser event when Joker crashes the party. After the Batman’s daring rescue, there was no obligatory shot cutting back to the party — and we don’t see Joker leave. The sequence is over, and we move on. But the second time I saw the movie on Saturday, I accepted that abrupt ending much more readily.

    It’s the same technique with the same aim I was talking about before.. In a comic book, that scene is over, it’s chopped off at the bottom of the page. And when we turn the page we’ll be instantly thrust into the next round of action. Screw the typical transition shots. To Zacharek this might seem “disjointed” (she’s having trouble keeping up this summer) but to me it feels daring and bold — a sensational new film grammar. Just like the Bourne Ultimatum invented last summer — and won an Oscar for its efforts.

    whew. I hope this doesn’t sound like bullshit, because I’m really sold on it. I might need to think it through and expand to a full-length post about the TDK editing. (and that means you can’t use it, Kris. 😎 But you can link to it when I have something more polished ready to go.)

    We all know Christopher Nolan’s propensity for messing with our perceptions of time and space continuities. Did we really expect him to set aside his artistic inclinations just because he’s playing with $200 mil of Warner Bros’ money?

  • Spock

    “The Dark Knight” just came out and It’s already one of the most gruesomely overrated movies ever.

  • RichardA

    Interesting essay on the editing. I’m not buying it. It shouldn’t take anybody a second viewing to accept the techniques used. The style should have been established early on in the film. The Matrix was innovative in a lot of its techniques in editing and its play with time and space, but it was seamless. Oh, I don’t know. It could very well be. I’m just basically ranting here, but I can’t even follow what happened to Lt. Gordon (and Gary Oldman was one of the best parts of the movie). “The trick is not minding.”

    And I actually loved The Prestige–another movie essay on time and space! And all those cats! Now, that Nolan movie I really, realy liked. That movie was just, pardon me, magical. I’m gonna get word on this, but I think The Prestige had a better storytelling than TDK. (I’m all about great storytelling.)

    When is the update for the Contender Tracker going up?

  • Chase Kahn

    Stephanie Zacharek is a joke. She acts like 22-year old zit-headed freaks are the only people low enough to like a movie like THE DARK KNIGHT. If you don’t like it, fine, but don’t tell me I don’t like it, either. I wish the Joker would rig her to a freakin’ army of oil drums…

  • Sam Juliano

    Stephanie Zahareck is not nearly the critical icon that some people are deluded into believing she is. She is an average writer who pales compared to Manhola Dargis, and her taste is absolutely appalling. She didn’t like WALL-E or THE DARK KNIGHT, but loved JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH. She is a wannabe film critic for a wannabe publication–it’s high time she be exposed for her mediocrity.

    I went back and read three of her recent reviews yesterday, and was very unimpressed with the writing (and the judgement). Ryan is right to bring up Sarris, who has a long tradition of writing scholar film criticism, not to mention his decades-long stint as a University Professor here in NYC. I also see that 94 year-old Stanley Kauffmann, America’s pre-eminent film critic extraordinaire, deferred to his New Republic colleague, associate editor Chris Orr, whose review on THE DARK KNIGHT completely blows Stephanie’s out of the water by way of descriptive and illustrious writing, a given, especially when you put up THE NEW REPUBLIC (one of our greatest publications by any barometer against the dismissible and low-brow SALON.COM (where Stephanie’s writings are deposited)

    Another writer on AD here tried to suggest a few days ago that he knew how Manohla Dargis got her job at THE NEW YORK TIMES. This was a laughable an ludicrous way of trying to make excuses for the most pre-eminant newspaper in the world hiring someone who they felt fit their bill of journalistic excellence. The eloquence, superb construction and critical acumen of Dargis’ writing leaves Zacharek in the dust. She may be “engaging” for some, but strictly in a minor, way–she is neither probing, not erudite, and she vociferates opinions much like the way they would be transcribed on a street corner discussion.

    And she is so full of herself too, puzzling over the hysteria surrounding THE DARK KNIGHT.

    I wonder if she is resentful that the Christopher Nolan film wasn’t a 3D experience?

  • Sam Juliano

    Yeah, OK Spock, sure. The whole world is wrong and you’re right. What’s YOUR favorite film, STAR TREK IX?

  • DevilsAdvocate

    There is indeed a lot of presumptuous condescending going on. Towards anyone who dares to be less than ecstatic about TDK.

  • Sam Juliano

    OK DevilsAdvocate, you’re right. TDK is pedestrian garbage. Nice user name there by the way. A perfect fit.

  • DevilsAdvocate

    Very true. There are only two alternatives. It must either be the greatest achievement in the history of cinema or pedestrian garbage. So anyone not proclaiming it perfect must be vilified mercilessly.

    I don’t think I’ve seen a movie receive a reception this much over the top since King Kong. I bet a few people feel a little silly about that one now and I’d expect the same to happen in this case.
    TDK doesn’t have to be a bad movie for that to be true.

  • Sasha Stone

    Until you’ve had a chance to sit on opposite sides of the fanboy dominance of web movie culture it must be hard to imagine why people keep using the term – I use it often as well because it irks me how much movie-watching and observing seems to be sucking into that black hole more and more. Like it or not, fanboys do exist. So do fangirls and just plain fans. From reading what she said above it sounds like she wrote that before the majority of the reviews came in. I think DevilsAdvocate has it right in that people do seem to be going WAY overboard with this movie. I have to reserve judgment until I see it but the hype is going way up and when that happens it only has one way to go from there – unless it’s Titanic.

  • Sam Juliano

    I am certainly NOT going overboard at all.

    I awarded it 4 out of 5 at the top of my review.

    I like no less than a dozen films BETTER than I like THE DARK KNIGHT this year.

    Devil’s Advocate, does this answer your e mail about there being no room to fall in the middle? Am I overstating the case of THE DARK KNIGHT? I don’t think it will make my Top 10 in December.

    But it is still an exceptional superhero movie. Case closed.

    I do agree with the essence of Sasha’s post of course as the hysteria is admittedly deafening.

    This does not though, change my own opinion of Zacharek as a writer and critic, even if my opinion means close to nothing. All I am is a blogger.

  • RichardA

    Titanic the ship?
    Or the movie?

    A good chuckle for a Sunday morning.

  • DevilsAdvocate

    Sam, you’re the one who presented me with a “pedestrian garbage” straw man you conjured up out of nowhere. And that without me having said one single negative word about the movie. So it was a perfect illustration of the wider tendency amongst “supporters” to wish to ridicule and stamp out anything which might even loosely be perceived as criticism.

    If 90% of people like the movie as much as you do isn’t that enough? Must all dissenters about something as subjective as a the experience of watching a movie be hanged, drawn and quartered in the city square? Might they not have perfectly valid reasons for not liking it very much, even if those reasons aren’t very important according to the taste of the majority?

    Apparently not. If we can find reasons for entirely discounting every single negative (or mixed) review then we can all be safe in the knowledge that every right thinking person likes this movie. And all is well with the world.

  • Bernard

    Yikes, generally I tend to just read around the edges here and not get in on the action but this one seems like fun. Personally, to get this out out of the way, I give the movie an 8/10. I’m right with DevilsAdvocate where there seems to be an environment now where if someone didn’t LOVE DK then they’re clearly an idiot (look at the responses to Spock).

    The movie definitely has some issues, which didn’t prevent my overall enjoyment of it, but certainly are worthy of notice. As was pointed out the Commissioner Gordon plot doesn’t make any damn sense. Who or what went in his grave that his family was so surprised to have him show up at the front door again? Why did Joker and his goons randomly leave Wayne’s party after throwing Gyllenhaal from the window? Everything about the Wayne Corp. employee that knows Bruce is Batman seems somewhat silly in hindsight. Wouldn’t he have needed to not only tell, but prove his information to the news station before they ran his story? Thus wouldn’t the news station run with the information with or without him?

    Ryan, I appreciate your defense of the film’s action scene editing and I think it’s an interesting idea…I’m just not sure I buy it. I think I’d be far more inclined towards your idea if each CLEAR visual image flowed to the next (more in line with the look of a comic), instead it often feels like a muddled image jumps to the next muddled image. Obviously nothing in DK is as rough, editing-wise, as the dock fight in Begins, but I still think it’s an issue. I intend to see it again (whenever the damn IMAX in NYC stops selling out), so I’ll try to watch with your ideas in mind and see if it changes my opinion.

    The last 20 minutes or so are a huge step down from the rest of the movie, especially the Saw-esque boat bombs. Not too subtle there (the acting on the boats is also lacking). I found the building climax, with the silly Bat Sonar, to be nothing short of inept. I would love to have some sort of scientific explanation as to how cell phones (which seemingly EVERYONE has, even the Joker who is supposed to only have knives and lint in his pockets) give Batman Daredevil-sonar-vision ala the Mark Johnson “masterpiece” from a earlier this decade (before I get attacked for ‘praising’ Daredevil I’d like you to note the quotations around masterpiece meaning to imply heavy sarcasm).

    I still find myself confused as to why Two-Face ‘agrees’ with Joker and chooses to blame Gordon and Batman OVER the Joker. I can certainly understand a hatred towards the two of them, but certainly not to the point that it replaces his Joker rage. I also didn’t understand the usage of the coin, it didn’t seem to mean anything. Two-face disregarded its result multiple times to get the outcome he wanted…why?

    In defense of Zacharek, while perhaps she lets the flaws of movies influence her overall enjoyment more than most, she’s still a pretty damn good critic. I absolutely respect that she isn’t afraid to go against the grain with her reviews and, having read almost everything she writes each week, I sure as hell don’t think it’s to be contrarian.

    It makes me VERY sad that Dark Knight currently has a fanboy created 9.7 average rating on imdb (the next highest rated movies EVER are Godfather at 9.1, Godfather Part II at 9.0 and Shawshank at 9.0). Seriously? Do people actually think DK is the best movie ever made by a significant margin?

    Don’t get me wrong, I think DK is a damn fine movie and one of the better films this year. I just feel a little frustrated by this growing willful ignorance of the film’s flaws and this vitriol towards anyone who dares think DK is anything less than the greatest thing since slice bread. It’s a good movie, with very good performances, especially from Ledger who plays one of the best villains I’ve ever seen, but, like almost every movie, it has some issues.

    Sorry for the rambling nature of this post! Keep up the good work Sasha and Ryan!

  • Sam Juliano

    Indeed, I did bring up the “pedestrian garbage” quip, but I thought my “sarcasm” was evident there.

    When I personally perceive that some of the criticism aimed at films that are universally acclaimed is the result of “premeditated contrarian thinking” then I raise objections. Brief one-liners are usually the way to go for such disclaimers, and I find them as insincere as they are begrudging.

    There is an astonishing amount of ego involving in blogging, and when humility, flexibility and fair-play are sacrificed in the process, well then I take issue.

    The point “Devil’s Advocate” and is that REALLY your name I wonder, (LOL!!!) there are some very astute and perceptive people here at AD, but there are also the rebel-rousers, who wait to see what films are spectacularly priased, and then they go right in to “save the day” evincing the time-worn, “I got it and you didn.t”

    Do they have the right to post? Absoulutely. But I have the same right to call out on it, you I don’t perceive the objections to be based in sincerity.

    I actually like your post quite a bit Bernard. You make some excellent points and your 8/10 is the same as my 4/5. And yes, TDK is not even in the Top 5 of 2008, much less one of the greatest films ever made.
    But I remain opposed that Ms. Zacharek is a great critic–I just don’t see it in her writing at all. I’m sure she isn’t always contrarian though, she’s just run-of-the-mill.

  • Spock

    To Sam Juliano:
    Actually my favorite film is Rear Window.

    Don’t take me wrong, I really liked TDK (on of the top 2 movies of the year so far) but I also believe that people are going overboard and that the excitement level is to high to give an realistic grade.

  • Sam Juliano

    It’s all relative my friend. If you think THE DARK KNIGHT is one of the TWO best films of the year, well then the HUGE irony here is that you think it MUCH BETTER than I do!!!!!
    THE DARK KNIGHT would be maybe my number 9, 10 or 11 so far this year, but it is also the BEST superhero movie ever made. THAT is the reason why the hype is as great as it is, in addition to the Ledger story.
    If you think it is one of the TWO best movies of the year, well then you needn’t worry about your vaunted opinion being compromised by over-the-top reaction, because you are right there with them.

    REAR WINDOW is a great choice there, I salute you.

  • DevilsAdvocate

    If you put “sarcasm” in quotes then it’s no longer sarcasm, is it?

    The burning desire in some circles to discredit any dissenting view on TDK has been very evident here for some time. This is, I feel, exactly where the need for “humility, flexibility and fair-play” is needed and sorely lacking.
    I really can’t see how it could apply to me. It’s not for me to say if I’m humble, but I’m certainly flexible and fair-minded about this. TDK might indeed be very good – I haven’t seen it myself so I don’t have an opinion about that yet.

    But I do know that it’s not good enough to warrant an “anyone who doesn’t like it is an idiot” stance. Why do I know this? Because no movie ever made has been that good.

  • Sam Juliano

    Spock: The problem I have in retrospect is your value judgement. In your original post you stated that THE DARK KNIGHT was “one of the most grusomely overrated movies ever” Yet you now confide that it is one of the 2 Best Movies of the year?!?!?

    It is statements like this that fuel my rants against the deliberate contrarian blogger critics. If the film is virtually at the top of the list of films you’ve seen this year, how could you now say that it is “grusomely overated?” How many movies do you see every year to come to this conclusion? 3? 4?

    Maybe it’s just me.

  • Sam Juliano

    Devil’s Advocate:

    To be perfectly honest, you really should not even be engaging in the discussion if you haven’t seen the film!!!!
    To have a full grasp of the hysteria, hype and critical mania surrounding the film, you should at very least have SEEN the film to understand why many have been defending it and shooting down the opponents.
    Yeah, you could argue back that the film isn’t the issue, that the seemingly wanton attacks on those who oppose the majority, is, but to be honest, it’s like talking to someone about the food in a restaurant, when the person being spoken to had never tried it, but was making some kind of general value judgement.
    I personally in this strain can fully excuse people for being PASSIONATE. That sure beats pathological naysaying which in many cases is a show of envy.
    Are YOU guilty of this? Based on what you say, I don’t think so. You seem like a fair enough guy. But there are others lurking in the underbrush that attack whenever they feel “threatened,” Sorry, but I simply don’t buy that it’s all sincere. Maybe it is sometimes, but it isn’t just as often.

    I put the quotes around the word SARCASM to explain its use in the previous post. Again, I thought that was self-evident!

  • Bernard

    Hey Sam,

    Thanks for the kind words on my post.

    I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on Zacharek, my friend. Out of curiosity, who are you favorite critics today?

    In Spock’s defense, looking at those imdb numbers definitely seems to suggest that, though DK is a very good movie, it’s already preposterously overrated. I mean imdb users (which, in fairness, are probably often fanboys running up the numbers) have said that it’s .6 out of 10 better than what was previously considered the greatest movie of all time, The Godfather, so I can’t really fault Spock for gathering a perception that it’s more than a little overrated right now, even if he liked it a lot.

  • Spock

    Well, I’ll admit that I haven’t seen a whole lot of (good) movies this year yet, and that my reaction (the „one of the most gruesomely overrated movies ever“ reaction) is probably just as over the top as fanboy raves. I guess what I was trying to say was :
    TDK is an excellent movie, but it is not a masterpiece, or one of the Top 10 movies ever (IMO of course).

  • Sam Juliano

    Bernard, I definitely agree that the IMB numbers are fully ludicrous. As I said earlier, it isn’t in the Top 10 of the year, much less among the greatest films of all time. But it IS the greatest superhero movie ever made.

    My favorite critics living and dead of all time are: Stanley Kauffmann, Pauline Kael, Dwight MacDonald, Andrew Sarris, John Simon (nastiness and all), Parker Tyler, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Andre Bazin, Georges Sadoul, Francois Truffaut…………and………….Manohla Dargis.

    Again, I salute you Bernard on that splendid THE DARK KNIGHT mini-review. I myself fell for the cell-phone imploding of teh hospital, but I am enlightened by some those technical disclkaimers, which I wasn’t aware of. I’m still trying to write my own review, but words aren’t coming to me. As I said earlier, 4/5

  • DevilsAdvocate

    Of course I can engage in this discussion without having seen the movie. And the fact that people have been passionately “defending” it in huge numbers since long before they themselves had any chance of seeing it is neither here nor there.
    That you’re even referring to people who don’t love the film as “opponents” (the quotes are there because it’s a word you used – not to indicate sarcasm on my part) says it all.
    Once people get sufficiently emotionally invested in the success of something (movie, piece of music, whatever) that any sort of criticism is seen as a personal insult it becomes impossible to have a proper discussion about it. This has clearly happened here.

  • Sam Juliano

    To Devil’s Advocate or the Advocate of Contrarian Thinking”

    “Says it all”

    What are you the Nazi of discourse? There is no “says it all” here, there is only perception and opinions. You can engage in as much discussion as you want on THE DARK KNIGHT, but not having seen it places you at a distinct disadvantage. And what’s your disclaimer and excuse now? That others have been praising it before seeing it?

    Stop trying to place your own meanings on words like “opponents” which was simply used to describe those who didn’t like the film as opposed to those who did. “Opponents” is not adversarial, as you liken it but just a statement of contrarian thinking. But you wouldn’t be Devil’s Advocate now, would you, if you reacted otherwise? LOL!!!

  • winsjon29

    I also think that there was the problem of incoherence and/or continuity with TDK.

    But when Bernard pointed out a concern about Comm. Gordon plot: his wife being surprised to see him.. she was just informed several hours ago about a sad news.. and then he showed up after… those sequences happened within continued time frame, so I don’t think there was a problem with that. But the fund raising scene where we didn’t see what happened if the Joker left is another question. About the Sonar… you know how Joker got the phone coz be needed to make a call.

    Anyway, I do understand if others don’t feel as impressed as the other 90% who saw the film. But Ms. Zacharek shouldn’t be puzzled that a lot of people do like/love it.

  • Bernard

    Winsjon, I could be mistaken but it seems like a hell of a lot more than a few hours passed between Gordon’s faked death and his return home. Granted I’ve only seen the movie once and a lot happens but he ‘dies’ in the afternoon at the prior commissioner’s funeral. We see the family told at night. We see the police attempt to call Batman with the signal and realize he isn’t coming. We see the police go to Gordon’s house while Batman watches. We see Bruce choose to turn himself in. We see Dent hold a press conference and announce himself as Batman. We see the entire action scene with the Batcyle, until Gordon is finally revealed again. Based only on the transitions between night and day it seems that at least 2 days have passed (I’m fairly certain about this, though I have only seen it once).

    Beyond the specifics of Joker having a phone or not, the big issue I have is just how silly the Bat Sonar is that somehow reveals every detail of every room. Hell, I’m not a scientist or anything like that, but not exactly something I see is as very plausible or even necessary (considering Batman could’ve fought through that entire building without the sonar vision and nobody would really have thought anything strange about it).

  • J.P.

    I thought the film was terrific yet flawed in places. Honestly, the movie moves so fast I didn’t really notice that we don’t see Joker leave the Dent Fundraiser until I got back here and read about it. I guess you can assume the police made their way and Joker had to leave. As for the Bat Sonar, I too found it a little silly. That was certainly the movie at its most “comic book-y.” Comics tend to have preposterous devices like the Bat Sonar. At the same time I was like, “Hey, bats ‘see’ by sonar, so it’s kind of clever.” Whatever. I was also a little confused by the very end and the need for Batman to be hunted.

    As for Stephanie Zachareck’s review, she’s a very good writer. My only quip with her review of TDK is that she spends a deal of time making comparisons to Hitchcock. I’m sure Nolan was influenced by Hitchcock, but I personally doubt that is what he was trying to achieve here. I don’t think you should fault a movie for failing to reach something it may not have been reaching for in the first place. I also question the fact that she panned WALL-E and TDK but seemed to enjoy Rush Hour 3. But hey, that’s her call.

    There’s no need to be condescending to the fans of this film (just as there is no need to be condescending to Ms. Zachareck.) The only critic I really care about is me. How do I react when the images and sounds reach my brain? The fact that a few critics didn’t enjoy this film as I did won’t change my opinion. And I’m no comic book fanboy, I just happen to enjoy the Batman storyline.

    To those concerned about the overwhelming reaction to this film I say relax. It will subside. Credit Warner Bros. for doing a boffo marketing job. They started a year ago with the dual websites and which led you to images of Dent and the Joker. They got me hooked with the first trailer back in December which made me realize Heath Ledger potentially gave a powerhouse performance. It’s opening weekend, and almost a year’s worth of hype has reached its apex. Don’t worry about the IMDB numbers. If I recall correctly, The Fellowship of the Ring spent a brief stint at #1. Now it’s at #20 or thereabouts. The numbers will right themselves.

  • RichardA

    Indeed. Why so serious?

  • Alfredo

    I’m sorry maybe I am a Fanboy (wanna fight about it?) but for those of you who were confused about anything that was happening in the film were clearly not paying attention. For example, Gordon was only presumed dead for less than 24 hours…thats not enough time for a funeral! This has a lot to do with how the film was edited and the perception of time in comic books. Ryan is correct in his assessment of the editing. Those of you who feel it was incoherent or muddy must of NEVER read a Graphic Novel in your lives (as Stephanie clearly hasn’t). Comic Books and Graphic Novels can at times be jarring with their jumps from one thing to another. Many times I go turn the page back thinking I missed something but no. The action has just been moved to another location. I think this is what the editors of the Dark Knight were trying to go for. I guess to make it more obvious we just needed a narrator saying “MEANWHILE at the BatCave…”

    With that said, TDK isn’t without its flaws. It has quite a few. I agree that the Bat Sonar thing was too “comic-booky” for this world that Nolan had created. Also I do feel the Two Face storyline was a little rushed but whatever small quibbles compared to grand scope of this film. It definetly deserves all the praise it gets.

  • Ryan Adams

    Early numbers on IMDb are always inflated for movies that excite film fans. There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men both hit the IMDb Top 250 in the teens, before finally settling in to their solid and more realistic positions at #74 and #75 (aww, side by side!)

    At one point after it first opened. I think No Country was #12.

    One reason is that people who care passionately about movies are the same ones who have registered at IMDb and frequently rate movies. Another reason, naturally, is that the people who are most excited about a movie are the ones who see it opening weekend.

    In following weeks, less rabid moviegoers will see and rate the movie, and give it highly respectable 8’s or 7’s. There will be tons of 1’s too — which is as ridiculous as a 10.

    The IMDb list is pretty terrific overall though. A basic “must see” list for visitors from another planet (I’m lookin at you, Spock 😉

    IMDb regulars are some of the most well-informed filmgoers on the web, and those readers are not all fanboys. (sorry, Sasha, I don’t much like the term. It’s used too dismissively by a lot of people, though not by you.)

    The scores at IMDb are excellent guidelines for movies that are not on the Top 250 list too. If you take the IMDb score and multiply it by 10 — for any movie — you’ll usually find that number is right in line with the metacritc and RT percentages.

    IMDb film fans care about movies and they know their shit. If voters in general political elections were half as well-informed and intelligent as IMDb voters, we’d be preparing for President Gore to leave office right now.

  • Ryan Adams

    btw, I feel like I need to publicly vow from time to time: I’ve had a crush on Stephanie Zacharek for years, and it’ll take more than a handful reviews that don’t jibe with my own feelings to ever kill my infatuation. Her shimmering review for I’m Not There makes up for her not liking TDK. (But see, that’s how girls will do you. 😎 She wouldn’t be my femme fatale if she didn’t seduce me before she screwed me.)

    I think there were plenty of major reviews online when Andrew and Stephanie made this video. Andrew says to Steph, “Your review is online now,” and Salon is usually among the last of the major sources to post their reviews.* So that’s why I take issue with the characterization of “some fanboy reviews.” The emphasis on “some” is there too. The inflection is on the video. There was no doubt that TDK was a critical success from the very first few days reviews began trickling in, so remarks like that seem journalistically slippery. Hate to be media watchdog but … no wait, I love being media watchdog.

    (* Spoken with the authority of somebody who’s compulsively refreshing movie at 10 p.m every Thursday night, long after all the other major critics have filed.)

  • Ryan Adams

    ok, the cellphone sonar was a little gimmicky, but it’s funny nobody called Iron Man on his habit of rocketing into the stratosphere or Gwyneth sticking her entire arm into his chest.

    I know, different standards of reality, and Nolan specifically sets out to ground his film in realism. But it’s still comic book physics, guys. A man doesn’t jump 5 stories down a parking-structure ramp to land with enough force to crush the top of an SUV — and not break both legs in multiple compound fractures. But a Batman with bloody bones sticking out of his thighs would suck as an opening sequence.

    Likewise some of the issues with the way Gotham City News does not follow CNN standards. (more like FOX standards, if you want to argue about it 😎 )

    It’s a gitty reality, but it’s still a heightened reality. It all depends on to what degree we want to suspend our disbelief (and that goes for any movie).

    For me the bat sonar worked because I liked the dual dramatic purpose it served: (1) as a cool-looking effect, and (2) as a commentary on overstepping appropriate boundaries in authoritarian surveillance. For me, getting that message in there was worth the iffy premise.

    Besides, we’ve all seen the satellite imaging that pick up heat profiles within a house, so that people can be seen behind walls. That’s the kind of resonance between real and near-future technology I like to see. Cellphone sonar is nothing as outlandish as what we saw in Minority Report (another tech-stretching movie I love.)

  • Sam Juliano

    Fair enough Ryan, on Stephanie. I am going to search out that review of I’M NOT THERE within minutes. Any critic who can handle that film with authority and critical acumen can do just about anything. Among the women, I still prefer Ms. Dargis, but hey I could be wrong, and I agree with you on so much, so let’s see.
    I admit the good review for that terrible JOURNEY, and the indifferent ones for WALL-E and THE DARK KNIGHT did have me wondering, but hey, do you know what friends were saying to me when I liked THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and hated LOST IN TRANSLATION………….I won’t even go there…………..LOL!!!! Of course, I am a layman, and Stephanie is the real thing, I well realize that.

  • Paul Outlaw

    No Bat love, no ABBA joy: Zacharek also slaps down Streep & Mamma Mia!:

  • Sam Juliano

    Paul: Putting down MAMMA MIA! is the easy thing in the world.

    Again, she loves JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH but hates MAMMA MIA! Something is seriously amiss here.

  • Sam Juliano

    OK Paul, I just read Stephanie’s review. Neither the writing nor the insights impressed me. She is droll, doesn’t go for humor, but still throws around insults like inserting that needless “Keep her day job” between the director’s first and last names. When one reads the likes of John Simon, who is a terrific scholarly writer in both an academic and analytical sense, at least you are entertained by the way he twists words to bring out humor. With Stephanie, it’s unimaginative dismantlement. Anyone who compares her to Pauline Kael, as some other poster did earlier in the week……….well, I won’t go there. Honestly, nothing in her sentence structure, her use of language and disarming humor of any kind resonates in her writing.

    She is grossly overrated. Now Manohla Dargis, now that’s another story.

    I still will keep my promise to Ryan now, and read her I’M NOT THERE review.

  • haroldsmaude

    Just saw TDK, so I’ll wade into the pool.

    Don’t hate me, but I liked the first one better.

    I’m happy for everyone involved that this movie is making a gazillion dollars, but it just wasn’t as entertaining to me, or as coherent as the first one. This one might have been technically superior, but the first had more balance. And, at the risk of opening the same kettle of fish yet again, I can safely jump on the wagon now supporting Ledger’s nomination – for best supporting actor. Anything more than that is just overreaching.

  • Sam Juliano

    I liked the first one less, Harold. But as I gave the Dark Knight 4/5, I can’t really evince any serious disagreement with you myself. But I can’t speak for the others here.

  • Ryan Adams

    Haroldsmaude, your feelings are a parallel to The Godfather vs. The Godfather II debate, and nobody here is gonna bash you or hate you for having an individual preference at this elevated level. (if they do, they’ll answer to me 😎 )

    I tend to see these sets of sequels by the same directors as one extended vision. It’s like having favorite chapters of the same novel for me.

    I’m happy about the “gazillion dollars” too — because it tends to lock down the likelihood for chapter 3 (and justifies a lavish budget).

  • k


    People are taking this way too far.

  • Chris Price

    Dark Knight was great. Who cares if it isn’t perfect? I mean, the fact that we’re all holding it under a microscope with such high standards is a testament to the film’s quality in and of itself. It’s thoughtful, intelligent, entertaining and well made. In IMAX this movie has the capability to take your breath away. But, I mean, the editing is choppy in certain scenes so the many people who now count this movie among their favorites (one is my brother who called it the most satisfying experience he’s ever had in a theater) are completely overestimating and need to “re-evaluate” their thinking, right? C’mon guys, this aint Rashomon. But it’s pretty fucking awesome.

  • richard crawford

    Gosh, you guys. Stephanie Z. is the best.

    I stayed home and worked in my garden and read.

    Watched MEMBER OF THE WEDDING. Lovely movie.

    Tried to watch WEST SIDE STORY & it is unwatchable. A terrible movie musical.

    Cheers & beers……

  • Ryan Adams

    Stephanie Z. is great, richard crawford, but the day I sheepishly let her dictate to me which movies I should like and which ones I should “demand” more of is the day I might as well get a lobotomy.

    She just doesn’t have much regard for all the same movies I admire, and vice versa. That doesn’t make her wrong. It just makes her reviews less useful to me as a dependable barometer of what’s worth seeing.

    [*”That doesn’t make her wrong.” I really mean it. How can her personal feelings be wrong for herself? I only wish she and Andrew O’Hehir would have the same respect for people who don’t see things their way, instead sitting on their thrones and puzzling over us peasants as if we’re ignorant naifs.]

  • Sam Juliano

    OK Richard, let’s engage in hand to hand combat.

    WEST SIDE STORY as Stanley Kauffmann aptly states in his magnificent treatment in “A World on Film” “in the way it conveys the spirit of a subject is the greatest musical film I know.”

    I concur. It is the greatest movie musical of all-time, edging out SINGIN IN THE RAIN, LOVE ME TONITE, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, the 1936 SHOWBOAT, THE BAND WAGON, CABARET, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (yes dear Pauline had that one called right!) et al. We can argue about the transcription from stage to screen all week, but the “essence” of the film—the greatest score ever written for a stage musical–by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein–the greatest, period–Kern’s SHOWBOAT is solidly second though—is irrefutable. In a filmic sense, though, it’s terrific choreography, deft editing and montage sequences and maintenance of the stage show’s arua keep all artistic elements in place.
    I know, you will come back at me with Richard Beymer’s “wooden” performance, and the dubbing of Marni Nixon’s beautiful voice, etc., but all that is avalanched by the electrifying nature of the entire film. I know there are dissenters, but no one who loves opera and truly great music, will offer up a very convincing argument.
    I agree with you on MEMBER OF THE WEDDING though.

    You keep Stephanie (even though I did like her I’M NOT THERE review very much, as Ryan assured me I would) and I’ll keep Manhola and my priceless film anthologies of Pauline’s reviews.

    “k” I answered your post at Miranda’s “Cinematic Passions” site. It is awaiting moderation.

  • Ryan Adams

    [I have to say, richard c., arriving at the games brandishing disregard for West Side Story, like swinging a baby around by its ankle to use as a medieval mace — not the best opening gambit 😎 ]

  • richard crawford

    I’m sorry fellas, we disagree. Richard.

  • sartre

    I prefer Manohla over Stephanie, but only because her opinions more consistently gel with my own. They’re both terrific writers and personalities. I’m not sure how one can ever convincingly argue that any one of the top rank of critics is better than another. They all have their exceptional moments and consistently fine craft. Why not celebrate them all and recognize that we need quality critics who we often or sometimes disagree with as much as those who generally validate us. Both help us clarify and consolidate our own takes.

  • Ryan Adams

    Richard, all teasing aside, I’m really curious if you have any personal intuition about how the legendary Ms. Kael would react to the trend in movies based on graphic novels.

    I know she reviewed the original Superman, but I think we can agree the genre has matured since then. (And anyway, I’m not asking what she would think about the genre. I’m more curious to hear your first-hand impression of how she might feel about the very best examples that we’re seeing lately.)

  • richard crawford

    Well, I have not see the movie. I am trying to reach Pauline’s daughter….Gina who was joined at the hip with her Mom when it came to movies…she read and made suggestions on EVERY REVIEW. Gina even typed them up…..Pauline wrote in longhand. Joe Morgenstern was very close to Pauline….and they differed a bunch.

    Sam you may want to read or re-read Kael’s review of WEST SIDE STORY. Pauline and Gina saw it together….

    Pauline told me:”Stephanie Zacharek, Charles Taylor & David Edelstein are the best young critics around.” DE does not have much space to write in NEW YORK….I sometimes read him….but he does not interest me as much as Z & T.

    Gina LAUGHED & LAUGHED when i asked her what PK would have thought of CRASH…..”sometimes Pauline LOVED to write about stinkers……Richard…..” Those of us close to PK believe she would have thought the STINKERS SZ gave thumbs down to ( Your list of movies, Ryan) were……..well, stinkers. We all think Pauline would have had a ball writing about BROKEBACK. Big stinker.

    I disagreed with Charley & Stephanie on LARS. Ah loves Lars mucho. And I did not like the look of Hellboy….but otherwise, I agree PRETTY MUCH with Stephanie. And yes, i am going to see JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH v. soon……..

    The day I accidently knocked over I LOST IT AT THE MOVIES at Marshall Field’s in Chgo….1962…was a happy one…..6 months later i had my first note from Pauline Kael.

    As I said above: Sorry fellas, we disagree. Guess where I got those words from? Veronica Geng, Pauline and I were walking to dinner in NY when someone came up and started to give her hell about SMASH PALACE. “I’m sorry, we disagree”, Pauline replied and we continued on walking to the restaurant.

    I will say that Pauline did not suffer fools gladly.


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