And you thought this would be a Dark Knight-free week on here


Actually, very little to say, really — most of the economic landmarks the film was expected to reach have now been. On the unadjusted chart, only Titanic tops it, and it’s steadily making its way towards $500 million, which on the adjusted chart will then soon take it past Shrek II as the number one domestic film of the decade. Worldwide, it’s the biggest film of the year. Even though it’s no longer number one it’ll chug along as it does, and a billion dollar haul, though hardly guaranteed, isn’t unlikely.

Shoehorning of The Dark Knight as a theme or reference into unrelated posts and topics continues as well, that’ll stay the case for some while to come. Etc. etc. etc.

As for myself, I’ve definitely decided against a fourth theater watch at this point — it’ll keep the memories a bit fresher for my now inevitable DVD purchase (and I should say that this is a very rare thing these days for me — not in a ‘well yeah everyone uses Netflix instead’ sense, since I don’t in fact use Netflix (too slow! the legal download technology/market is going to render it irrelevant shortly, much like the illegal one has nibbled away at it all this time), but in a ‘I want to keep the amount of extra stuff I own to a minimum’ sense). Other things have taken up my time and interest since then, including what’s been a good, wide-ranging discussion among a variety of friends over the Watchmen film, covering a lot more ground than I might have thought. It’s a private discussion, though, so I won’t say more here.

There is something else that references Watchmen briefly but in interesting fashion, though, and it’s the reason why this post — namely to call your attention to David Bordwell’s recent post ‘Superheroes for sale.’ Bordwell I know by name thanks to a film studies textbook of his regularly appearing on reserve here at UCI, but I hadn’t had a chance to read him yet at all. This proved to be a good starter point as well as a fine self-contained essay on the rise of the superhero film as established niche that covers everything from questions of film style to larger economic interests and back againt — an integrated study of ‘film’ in general rather than a separation of spheres, something which is fairly rare in my experience, at least.

Bordwell’s wide-ranging discussion uses The Dark Knight as its major example, and he’s not a fan of it, explaining so in quick but deft fashion near the start and then further references as the essay progresses. One of his best moments tackles the overarching tendency of reading a particular political point of view into the film, and it’s worth quoting here:

I remember walking out of Patton (1970) with a hippie friend who loved it. He claimed that it showed how vicious the military was, by portraying a hero as an egotistical nutcase. That wasn’t the reading offered by a veteran I once talked to, who considered the film a tribute to a great warrior.

It was then I began to suspect that Hollywood movies are usually strategically ambiguous about politics. You can read them in a lot of different ways, and that ambivalence is more or less deliberate.

A Hollywood film tends to pose sharp moral polarities and then fuzz or fudge or rush past settling them. For instance, take The Bourne Ultimatum: Yes, the espionage system is corrupt, but there is one honorable agent who will leak the information, and the press will expose it all, and the malefactors will be jailed. This tactic hasn’t had a great track record in real life.

More than most pieces Bordwell’s made me stop and think a bit before continuing reading, if only to puzzle over a point or reflect on my own contextual experiences that parallel his. (His third endnote in particular, while not detailing something I point-by-point resemble, matches my own generally distanced experience with the superhero comic in general.) Well worth a read, as this strange, knotted and still-unsettling film fades gently into the well-worn familiarity it will yet exhibit sooner than we all think, the blockbuster tentpole painted black, casting shadows.


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