I was worried that my Holy Hyperbole, Batman! Advocate was jumping the gun – maybe the initial gushing overpraise for the movie was all that we would get, and I would look like a guy simply scowling at those kids on my lawn. Then I went to the junket for The Dark Knight this weekend and found that the word ‘masterpiece’ was still being tossed around willy nilly. Then I was sent a link to what is easily the most ridiculous piece of hyperbolic writing I have seen on the internet since… well, Jesus, I don’t know if there’s much that’s going to top Alex Billington of First Showing’s claim that The Dark Knight is a cinematic revolution.
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: who the fuck is Alex Billington? He’s this guy who steals the content from other websites – like exclusive video and posters, as well as entire stories – and then pays people to put his stories on Digg and give him lots of traffic. He’s also a guy who told me on the set visit for Friday the 13th that he doesn’t ask questions at junkets or set visits (yesterday he ‘broke’ a story from the Hellboy II print junket, with Luke Goss saying the Tekken movie would be rated R. Wonder who asked that question, which Alex ran home and ran on his site like it was his own? I honestly don’t know – if you were at Alex’s roundtable and asked that question, let me know).
He’s also a guy who never heard of Rebel Without A Cause. When Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out, Movieweb ran a list of the ten movies from the 50s that most influenced the latest Indy adventure. Alex copy and pasted to his site the entire list*, as well as Movieweb’s text explaining what each film was about and how they inspired Crystal Skull. Every word. He also put the story up on Digg (or had his paid agents do it for him). He put a header and a footer on it, and in the footer he said the list was awesome because besides Them!, he had never heard any of the movies on it. Including Rebel Without A Cause.
So when this guy tells you a movie is a cinematic revolution, he really knows what he’s talking about, right? I mean, his deep knowledge of film history really gives him a leg to stand on here. So let’s examine his claims – what is it about The Dark Knight that makes it so revolutionary?
First off, Alex wisely hones in on the IMAX aspect of the film. The scenes shot in IMAX are often breathtaking, and the action in the movie is more immediate and real and alive for it. But beyond the fact that it looks good, Alex is right in noting that a big, huge projection format is revolutionary, and The Dark Knight, with it’s twenty or more minutes in IMAX, now takes the title of Most Revolutionary Movie Ever from How The West Was Won, which was shot in Cinerama, meaning it was THREE 35mm films shown side by side, creating an incredibly wide scope. I know that Hollywood was wondering when a movie would overtake How The West Was Won as one of the most important cinematic landmarks ever in history but here it is.
Next up, Billington focuses on the movie’s expensive and lengthy viral campaign (I just got a Citizens for Batman t-shirt in the mail yesterday. It’s actually pretty cool looking. Would wear). Surely this is revolutionary – after all, the quality of movies is directly tied into how they’re sold to you. Billington understands that viral campaigns have been here a while – AI really pioneered them for mass entertainment – but he’s impressed with how the ‘alternate reality game’ ties directly into the movie. The game mentions Gotham Ferries… and there are ferries in the movie! It mentions Harvey Dent’s campaign, and features his campaign slogan… and he’s been recently elected in the movie! Using that slogan! Mind, you’ve been blown. I’m just glad that this revolutionary, paradigm-changing ARG didn’t take a page from the Lost book, because their viral campaign and alternate reality game actually introduced and explained elements two years ago that wouldn’t come to fruition on the show until the end of this season. Surely it’s better – and more revolutionary! – to have an ARG that simply reflects the reality of the fictional world instead of building it up and filling in gaps. Oh, and Lost is on TV, and Billington is like, totally a cineaste.
Billington saves his best for last. Here’s what he says: “The last major element that will incite endless discussion is the potential for The Dark Knight to change comic book movies forever.
As for how exactly, it’s tough to get into that discussion without the
entire world having seen the movie already, but for the first time ever
I actually cared more about the story and the progression of the characters than the action.” Bold face his. And I agree – while watching Ghost World I very much felt that the bits in between the major action set pieces were just placeholders. And don’t get me started on how little I cared about what happened to the characters in American Splendor. Just get Harvey Pekar into his next cosmic battle, already!
Okay, maybe I’m being tough on Alex here (and I’ve sort of lost the energy to maintain my satirical tone. This kid is making me depressed already), and let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he means ‘superhero movies,’ rather than just ‘comic book movies.’ He certainly wouldn’t be the only writer to ever conflate the two, and he definitely isn’t the smartest or best writer to make that mistake. But even taking that statement as being about superhero movies, I have to wonder how much he hated the Spider-Man films, which work so perfectly because they capture the personal elements of Peter Parker’s life possibly even better than they do the superhero aspects. Spider-Man 2 isn’t my choice for the best superhero movie because of the endless, groin-stamping action, but because of the way that Sam Raimi works Peter’s humanity into the story, the way that he works Doc Ock’s humanity into the story. Nolan and company do similar things with The Dark Knight, and they do it well, but that’s not revolutionary anymore. Plus I’d ague that one of The Dark Knight‘s flaws is that it doesn’t have a strong storyline – there are too many detours and sidetracks, and the film climaxes at the end of the second act and, in many ways, becomes its own sequel in the third act. That’s not a major problem – the movie remains good and compelling – but I think the story is disjointed enough to render it non-revolutionary.
I actually like The Dark Knight (we’re looking at an 8/8.5 out of 10 right now), and it’s a movie that deserves the big opening weekend it’ll have and the fans are going to love it. Non-fans will likely love it as well. I doubt it’ll make my top ten, but I wouldn’t begrudge or make fun of anyone for putting it on theirs. But let’s keep our feet on the ground here.
* When the entire community of film sites yelled at him, Alex took the piece down, claiming he had only copy and pasted a whole article plus art from another site because he was sleepy.