Sunday, July 27, 2008

Report Rotten Reviewers: The 2nd Worst Dark Knight Review I've Read (and it's from M&G)

First of all, I am reading a book titled: Batman and Philosophy, The Dark Knight of the Soul, De Waal's title for his review is The Dark Knight of the Soul. I could end there but I won't.

If you're writing a review with that title you might expect a little gravitas, even a little philosophy, especially if you'd thought up the title to begin with. As such, it's odd De Waal opens up his review with multiple allusions (in two separate open paragraphs) to Batman's camp beginnings. I'm not sure whether even referencing this is relevant given the subject matter at hand, and the space there is to talk about this HUGE flick. You could argue that it is relevant, but then I'd ask (perhaps intuitively) why you chose such a soulful, philosophical, non campy title for your piece. The review then cherry picks it seems from a bunch of reviews I've read, referencing homoerotica, nipples, Alfred as Q, and other non serious, snatch and grab epithets (by the way, de Waal even uses the word 'epithet' in his review.) So for his title, the amount of distracted levity in the piece itself is surprising.

Personally, I wonder whether the following epithets add value to the writing:

The Dark Knight, er, returns to that style... [Ums, ers and aahs...what's that about?]
In the early 2000s (or the zeroes, as I like to call them)... [Too much information thanks]
The title alone announced that we were back to Genesis... [Stick to the plot, this is a comic book hero, not the Bible, and the words you're looking for are 'origin or creation stories/myths]
What that indicates in moviespeak is that a film has a realistic feel... [So you're telling us what words like 'dark' mean... in the special language that only you as a move reviewer, fluent in moviespeak, understands. Intwisting]
Christian Bale, of course, returns as Batman, plausibly butch without being a bonehead...[Bale, butch, bonehead. Of course, you're simultaneously insulting and complimenting your hero, but perhaps you needed to decide what it was that you actually meant to say or convey, rather than just using lexical choices.]
Freeman, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Maggie Gyllenhaal are likewise returnees... [Is a returnee like an employee?]
...there's talk of a posthumous Oscar [Yes, there is. Anything else?]
And, yes, it is indeed "dark"... [Indeed]
...because he's not really a superhero in the way Superman, say, is a superhero. [You don't say]
...I dare say it will be restored... [Don't you dare.]
The movie is undoubtedly skillful in the highest degree, but it did make this reviewer at least long for a dose of full-on over-the-top fantasy. Roll on Hellboy II, I say. [Are you sure that's what you are longing for? You don't want to let us know more of your personal longings while you're at it? Anyway, so long...]

There are a lot aren't they, and I found all of them incredibly irritating. On the other hand, the review itself became an interesting study for how not to write a review, and it was on that basis, that depraved sense of satisfaction, that I bothered to read the rest.

I don't know why we have to read an entire review only to be referenced - at the end - to another movie that the reviewer feels more in the mood for. Could we get a reviewer to write about a movie because they really enjoyed watching it, or at the least, want to stick to writing a review about the movie? There is also something glib about reviewers who do one of two things in their writings:

1) demonstrating their incredible wit and intellectual acumen in a way that distracts - the reader is trying to get past all that self referencing smart alecky twaddle
2) two many spoilers - vomitting up 70% of the plot, thereby robbing the audience of the surprise, but making the reviewer somehow seeming to be the owner, or benefactor of a franchise they have virtually zippo to do with.
This (1 and 2) reminds me of young children who use tracing paper to draw the outlines of cartoons, and then hold these up proudly as 'their picture'.

What I did like in this review was this:

Batman Begins had the realistic style that another British director, Paul Greengrass, used so successfully in The Bourne Supremacy a year before that.
Even the Joker, a real pantomime villain if ever there was one (only the Penguin beats him at that), is transformed here into a convincing psychopath. The characterisation is helped considerably by the fact that he's played by a real actor, Heath Ledger -- and there's talk of a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal. Ledger's Joker isn't funny in the way Jack Nicholson's was: he is simply very scary.

So far the two worst reviews I've read were written by:
1) a woman who appears in general to hate movies
2) a man who didn't seem to like this movie, but otherwise appears to like men, or himself excessively

Both reviewers fail because the focus is on them, how clever they are as wordsmiths (and somehow I'm not sure if that compliment extends beyond Stephahnie Zacharek+).

I would like to offer constructive criticism, so here it is:
The first and best Dark Knight review
My review - keeping it simple and giving away the minimum

One more barb before I sign off. De Waal - isn't that an Afrikaans name? So is English this guy's first or second language? Reason I ask is I taught English in South Korea and two colleagues were second language okes (Afrikaans guys) teaching ESL. I remember the one guy used the word 'rather' in almost every sentence. Even the English aren't that english. The other guy used words like 'realm' and other grandiose sounding words I can't even remember. You can over anglicise* English, but only idiots (and a handful of poorly educated Afrikaners) think it sounds any good, in fact it never sounds any better than the real thing.

I think publications that are interested in selling newspapers, and movies interested in exposure, ought to steer clear of rotten reviewers who compulsively bring themselves into the picture when everyone is trying to get past them (as in, get over yourselves) to find their enthusiastic search for enthusiastic attention for some or other flick rewarded. I also think more reviewers need to say in the very first line: I hated this film/I didn't like this film/This film isn't my thing/I find my job a drag/I find life in general a drag/I'm depressed/I have an inferiority complex and need my ego stroked/I'm not really sure what to say or whatever is the case. That way audiences who know what they are looking for in a review (wise, original, insightful, fresh, passionate responses) can actually find it.

+De Waal does write an intwisting and well written piece entitled SOCK IT TO ME which may provide added background to his fascination with nipples and homoerotica.
make English in appearance, make fit for, or change to suit a new purpose

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh Nick - the rewrite of the review was brilliant - think I will still be laughing when I go to bed 2nite- thanks for livening up a dreary Sunday