Monday, September 27, 2010

Defending The Dark Knight

*Warning, the following contains major majors spoilers for "The Dark Knight". Do not read this post unless you have seen the movie. Also, several of the sites and or videos I link to may contain harsh language. Be advised.*

Guess what? I like Batman. A lot. I've said this before, but what I'm not sure if I've said is the fact that The Dark Knight is my all-time favorite movie. That's right, The Dark Knight, is my favorite movie. Ever.

Now, I suppose many of you find it odd that the blog post is titled "Defending The Dark Knight" when the film was both a critical, and box office success, which is like saying that World War II was a minor scuffle. The movie made a billion dollars. That is a metric crapton of money. The film has a 93% rating on IMDB, and a 96% rating from the users of the site. The film is one of the biggest film success stories ever.

So why would the film need defending? Because, some people have criticized the film, pointing at a few supposed weak points, and claiming that the film is an overrated disaster because of it. Well y'know what, no. I am going to tell you exactly why this is my favorite film of all time and why most (though not necessarily all) of these criticisms are invalid. Why? Because I can darn it. I will do this by justifying and explaining my opinion to the most important elements, and common criticisms of the film.

1. The Plot

This is the biggest one, so let's get it right off the bat. (No pun intended.)

Some people have claimed that the plot is non coherent, and has major plot holes in it. Many people have said that while the dark tone is good, the writers left a few ridiculous plot holes in it. The most pointed to plot holes are conveniently given in song form in the following video.

*Caution, some harsh language*

Sigh.... Alright, let me start by saying I love this video. I really do think this video is a quite funny. But, I also think it completely misses the point of the ENTIRE FILM.

"And The Joker pulls crimes in such an orderly manner, he must write it down in an evil day planner. His henchmen are Psycho and expendable, and yet they're completely dependable."
This is the complaint I hear the very most about the movie. The Joker's plot. By all rights, in order for the plot to work right, he would have to had known how EVERYTHING would unfold from the start, a feat that would require nothing short of clairvoyance.

Now, I honestly would agree with this, and this would take away from my absolute love of this movie if it wasn't for ONE FACT. One line. You can find it in this clip (0:51). It's the one line that ties the entire film together. "Do I look like a guy with a plan?"

The Joker's "plot" seems disjointed, as if he couldn't possibly have been plotting it the whole time, because he WASN'T. He was playing it by ear. He was improvising.

The most plan he ever had, was for one step at a time. He had a plan for the bank robbery. Once he robbed the bank, he decided to go tell the mob he was going to kill Batman. And from that point on, he played it by ear. One. Step. At a time. His plan wasn't to corrupt Harvey from the beginning. His "plan" really was to just kidnap the both of them. He kidnapped Rachel and Harvey, rigged them both up, and decided to see what happened. And guess what? Harvey lived.

So he took advantage of that.

Then he saw what happened.

The Joker is an agent of anarchy. People are completely missing the point of the character to criticize his plot for being too random.

"And why is Morgan Freeman all ****ed at me? He seemed to resign kinda randomly. It's OK to build me an armored tank car, but OH tapping phones, that's going too far."

The difference between building an "armored tank car" as they put it in the song and the Bat-Vision that he uses at the end of the film is an invasion of privacy. The difference between building someone a large powerful vehicle, and a machine that can literally allow you to see everything everywhere is BIG. The Bat-Vision was an invasion of privacy. Morgan Freeman's character, Lucius was disgusted by the fact that Batman would, in his opinion, finally cross the line he's been treading on so closely for so long.

"And what about Ms. Dawes? It's like you forgot her!"
I don't get this, I felt they showed Bruce's mourning of Rachel very well, and kept the relationship really well done for the entire film.

"How does Harvey Dent do a total 180? Well he barbecued his face, and he lost his lady."
This one actually answers itself, but I want to elaborate on this. The point of the way Harvey changed into Two-Face is because it shows that The Joker has won. After everything they tried to do, The Joker was still the winner. The Joker just wanted to show that his philosophy was true. The Jokers philosophy is that one bad day is enough to turn the best men among us into psychopaths like him. That's the point of his "ahead of the curb" line in the interrogation scene. That's the point of turning Harvey. By turning Harvey he proved that Harvey Dent, Gotham's White Knight, who's entire campaign for the DA position was "I believe in Harvey Dent", could be turned just as crazy as himself, after just one bad day.

"And how did you have time to rig up both of those boats?"
The Joker has hundreds of Henchmen, and it's implied that most of the cops in the city are under his payroll. Somehow finding time to put some barrels on a boat doesn't seem so impossible to me.

"Like why the **** did I agree to take the rap, Harvey Dent killed those people, who gives a crap?!"

This is the biggest one. Why would Batman take the blame for all the murders Harvey Dent committed? Simple. Remember how I said The Joker won? They couldn't let the city believe that. Harvey was more than just a public figure, he was seen as Gotham's LAST HOPE that good men still existed in Gotham. Also, remember the line about how all those mobsters wouldn't be convicted any more if Harvey crossed a line? Well, I'd say multiple homicide crossed a few lines, wouldn't you?

So I've defended the films plot. So what makes the film my personal favorite movie?

2. Heath Ledger's The Joker
The Joker in this movie, played by the late Heath Ledger, is one of the best performances ever captured on the screen. Heath Ledger gave life to this character unlike anything ever seen. Now don't get me wrong, I love other incarnations of The Joker character, and in fact, Mark Hamil is in my opinion the definitive Joker (his voice acting is incredible in every instance he's done the character.) but Ledgers version of the character is completely DIFFERENT from any other.

It's dark, it's creepy, it's just... So good. In fact, a lot of people say the reason for Ledger's tragic death was partly because of this performance.

He took the character and made it his own. This version of The Joker just stole the screen, in a way that is rare for a character to do. The Joker is already such a great villain, and Ledger both completely changed him, and kept him true to his roots. Part of this is in the way his backstory is explained multiple times, in conflicting ways. Part of it is just the insanity of Ledger's performance. Part of it is from that magic trick. Thankfully he did get best actor for this performance, despite the film getting snubbed even so much as a best picture nomination it most certainly deserved. Either Way, Ledger's Joker is one of the main reasons this film is so great.

3. Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent

It's almost a shame Ledger was so good, because he completely overshadows a fantastic performance by Aaron Eckhart, an actor I had not heard of before The Dark Knight. Eckhart's performance as Harvey Dent, the DA of Gotham was not only perfect for the character (in my mind, he owns this role now) but he tied the plot together perfectly. Some people have complained that Two-Face was only in the movie briefly, but that was partly the point. Two-Face wasn't the villain of the movie, Dent was one of the heroes. And to see him changed into a villain over the course of the film was great. I loved the line in the beginning about either dying a hero, or living long enough to see yourself become the villain. It was a really good line.

Plus you could really feel his pain when Rachel dies, and totally understand why he became Two-Face. I loved his performance in the film, and I really think he could have been strong enough to carry the movie if it had focused on just him instead of Ledger's Joker as well.

4. Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne

Note that I say his "Bruce Wayne" and not his "Batman". This is because while he was a FANTASTIC Bruce Wayne, he was only an adequate Batman. I mean, he wasn't BAD as Batman, although he did go a tad overboard on the rasping, but man, he blew Bruce Wayne out of the park in my opinion. Honestly, if he hadn't been as good a Bruce Wayne I would've disliked the casting, but as it is, he's a great Bruce Wayne, and an... Ok, Batman.

5. The Setting

The Dark, edgy setting of the film really helps knock this movie out of the park, and make it my personal favorite. It was mostly shot in Chicago, and man, the city looks amazing. You can just see the dark crime side seeping out of every facet of the city. Even the jails manage to look corrupt and evil.

Overall, because of these reasons, and just because of some really strong writing, and directing, I consider The Dark Knight to be my personal favorite film. Why? Because it's freakin' awesome. That's why.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Graphic Novel Review: The Long Halloween

I've covered my love of Batman before. More than once. So, it may shock people when I say I've never read the comics. Like, at all.

Well, I haven't I love Batman, but I've never read the comics. I've just never really been able to get into comics. Something about the format doesn't appeal to me as much as it does to a lot of other people, only getting one chapter of the story a month, I dunno, I've never been able to get into them. Perhaps I will some day, perhaps not.

The other day however, I purchased a used copy of "The Long Halloween" graphic novel, from a nearby bookstore. And the graphic novel format appeals to me a LOT more than the comic format.

For those who don't know, a graphic novel is basically just a collection of a complete series in one tome when a series has run it's course. "The Long Halloween" for example was a 13-part storyline that ran in 1997.

The comic begins with some quick plot exposition. Carmine "The Roman" Falcone (A name that may sound familiar to fans of The Dark Knight, who haven't read the comics, such as myself.) is a mobster who essentially controls Gotham. His "Roman Empire" rules the city with fear, and an iron fist. Much to the dismay of three of the only good men left in Gotham, Jim Gordon who is one of the last good cops in Gotham, Harvey Dent the Gotham District Attorney, and of course, Batman. And so the three make a pact to take down Falcone. Gordon makes sure to tell the two others that they "Can bend the rules, but [they] can't break them."

This pact is put to the test, when a criminal nicknamed "holiday" begins picking off Falcone's men one at a time, each murder on a holiday. What follows is an exciting murder mystery that will not only keep you guessing, but features a large portion of Batman's rogue's gallery. The Joker, Poison Ivy, Solomon Grundy and many more are all featured in the story arc spanning over a year.

This murder mystery itself is interesting, and all of the characters involved in the mystery are fleshed out in a way that gives almost every character in the comic motive, and the murders themselves are shown in a way that you never know who it is until the very end.

The art is gorgeous, the characters all feel very much like themselves, and... Well... It's Batman!

The only shortcomings are that with as many of the villains as are featured, a few of them feel a bit wedged in, as though they were just trying to get the villain into the arc somehow, when it really would have been better without them in it. Particularly Poison Ivy. She appears for all of 5 or 10 pages before disappearing into obscurity. However, this is a minor complaint, as a lot of the villains were given their due, while still focusing on the Holiday murder plot line.

And the Holiday murder plot line is extremely well done. It not only kept me unsure of who Holiday was until the very end, but even at the very end it surprised me. More than once, actually. There was one detail I was a bit sketchy on, which I can't mention without giving away a MAJOR plot point, but overall it was still an extremely well done plot line.

Overall, The Long Halloween is a great graphic novel that's most definitely worth your time.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Old Weather Flying Isn't Cool Guys!

Sigh. Blizzard, I really really want to love World of Warcraft, and for the most part, I do. I think it's a great game. It's definitely not art, but hey, it's a fun game.

But then you do thing like this.

"We’ve added a new flying skill called Flight Master's License. When World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is released, players who purchase the expansion will see this skill available from flight trainers for 250 gold once they reach level 60. This new skill is required for flying around all Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms zones, including the new level 80-85 zones."

Sigh. Alright, now I know a lot of the people who read this don't play WoW, so let me explain why the above statement is really, REALLY, irritating.

So, in World of Warcraft, as you level up, you get mounts. These are various creatures you can ride around on, ranging from the natural, Horses, to the more exotic, like Raptors. At level 20 you can get the basic one, which makes you move 60% faster. Then at level 40 you get the armored "epic" ones, which double your speed.

Then at level 60 you can get Flying Mounts.

Now, these mounts, apart from being even faster, allow you to, as the name implies, fly! Hooray! This makes flying over enemies you don't need to fight a possibility, and makes the leveling up experience much easier, and faster. Also, some of them look awesome.

Then, at level 70, you lose the ability to fly again.

To be more specific, you can only fly in Outland, one region of the game, and Northrend, the level 70-80 area, is too cold. But it's ok, because at level 78, you can learn "Cold Weather Flying" for only 1000 gold! Yaaay!

Ok, so, this is annoying, but understandable. When Wrath of the Lich King, the expansion that added Northrend, was released, Flying mounts were not obtainable until level 70, and they didn't want people skipping the 70-80 experience by flying over it. I get that. They should have made you learn it from a quest or something instead of making it and expensive ability to learn, but whatever. The cost was a gold sink. What is a gold sink you ask?

Well, the way a normal economy works is that there is a finite amount of money, and more is created at a controlled rate. As more money is slowly created, we have to deal with inflation. But, inflation is also stopped by the way that money, over time, decays. Something like 90% of the US Dollars that are printed every year are replacing money that was destroyed in the previous year.

But, the way a GAME economy works is not nearly as easy. There is an unlimited number of, well, everything. Money? A small amount of money is generated every time you sell something to a Non-Player Character, or loot money off of a dead person.
And, since it's virtual money, it doesn't decay. It stays there, clogging up the economy until every player generated and sold item sells for an absurd amount.

A gold sink is the solution to this problem. Simply put, you create a desired object, and make players pay money to a source that, essentially, deletes it. A non-player character. For example, after time, your armor and weapons in WoW will break, thus, you must repair them, for let's say 100 gold, by giving the 100 gold to a non-player character. Now, since this is a non-player character, the money doesn't leave back into the economy. Instead, the money is gone.

In this case, however, the amount was larger than, 100 gold, it was ten times that, thus forcing every single character (it's almost impossible to get to level 80 without Cold Weather Flying) to pay 1000 gold at level 78 to a source that deletes it forever. There are, of course, more expensive gold sinks, the fasted kind of flying in the game costing 5000 gold, and some of the more rare mounts costing in the neighborhood of 20,000 gold. But those are generally not "necessary" unlike Cold Weather Flying, and armor repair, which are.

Then, when "Cataclysm" announced that it would be adding flight capability to the areas of the game from levels 1-60, many people asked one question, in fact, at Blizzcon 2009 someone, during the press conference yelled out, "BUT WILL WE NEED TO BUY 'OLD WEATHER FLYING'?"

And the thing is, they said no. They said, to fly in the old world, you would need to buy nothing but the skill to ride flying mounts, and the flying mount itself. No Old Weather Flying.

And then the above quote was released. Sigh. Nice.

Ok, so here's what I really REALLY don't understand. WHY THE HECK IS OLD WEATHER FLYING BOUGHT AT LEVEL 60?! It really reeeeeally seems to me like it should be bought at level, well, 85, the new maximum. Y'know, so people won't SKIP THE NEW CONTENT BY FLYING OVER IT?!

But what really baffles me is the price. If you were trying to make it a gold sink, why did you make it cost a mere 250 gold?! 250 gold is a pittance! It's nothing! A gold sink should either be something cheap you pay for over and over again, (item repair) or something that's reeeeally expensive, you only buy once.

In other words, this makes literally no point. It's like they completely forgot the purpose of Cold Weather Flying in the first place.

Sigh. Whatever Blizzard, whatever.