Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

“Some People Call Me The Space Cowboy …”

Last week I posted a review of the new Batman flick, The Dark Knight, in which I said I liked the movie a lot, not least for its use of a comic-book hero to posit some very interesting philosophical questions vis-à-vis the nature of crime and justice. Was Adrian McKinty convinced? Nope. Herewith be his thoughts on why the success of The Dark Knight augers ill for the future of mainstream cinema, to wit:
For all its visual brilliance, special effects and story telling zest, The Dark Knight was like eating an entire box of Cocoa Pops on a Saturday morning. Enjoyable at the time, but later I wondered how I was so easily seduced.
  It’s tough to go up against a movie that has a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Every critic in the world seems to have loved The Dark Knight. A few complained it was too long, but that was about it.
  Its length didn’t bother me, but I did start to get bored with the Joker’s constant ability to outwit everyone in Gotham City, and maybe at some point it would have been nice to see someone get clobbered in the face and see it actually, you know, hurt.
Anyway, Batman has made 300 million dollars in the US alone and will probably gross a billion by the time it’s done. Hollywood will make more make films like Batman because that’s clearly what you people out there want.
  By going to Batman and Wanted and Ironman in droves and staying away from a thriller like Tell No One, your message is loud and clear: don’t worry about giving us a logical plot or realistic situations just make it stylish, loud and fast and we’ll go.
  It’s interesting that as thriller novels get more and more complex, thrillers in the cinema seem to get less so. If you want to pick up a clever thriller in paperback these days it’s very easy. Patrick Anderson, mystery critic of the Washington Post has written a book called THE TRIUMPH OF THE THRILLER examining this trend, and even smart mainstream novelists like Salman Rushdie, Cormac McCarthy and John Banville have jumped into the thriller/mystery genre.
  Funnily enough, in the 1970s the situation was exactly the opposite of today. Intelligent thrillers were nowhere to be found. Airport novels dominated the genre and the really interesting stuff was happening at the movies. Remember when a film like Coppola’s The Conversation could actually get an audience? Movie thrillers back then were funny, clever and tightly plotted. Could today’s studios give us The French Connection or The Taking of Pelham 123 or The Parallax View or even All The President’s Men?
  I’m sceptical. I think the trend will be to make superheroes increasingly conflicted, not to give ordinary people interesting situations and problems. Hollywood follows the money. For every Departed that makes a profit there’s an American Gangster that underperformed. Why should producers take the risk? The failure of every single Iraq movie and the success of almost every comic book movie is not a good sign for those of us who like a bit of politics in their films, for our heroes to hurt when they get hit, and for them to use their heads to solve problems instead of their fists.
  Hmmmm. Meanwhile, over at Confessions of a Film Critic, John Maguire has this to say:
This is a haunted tragedy that recasts the ancient myths of the hero in an ultramodern nihilism, achieving a complexity of feeling that is difficult to achieve in any kind of art, let alone the multi-million dollar studio summer movie.
  The Big, Big Question: who to be more afraid of disagreeing with, McKinty or Maguire? They’re both very scary men …


John McFetridge said...

Well, I have to agree with McKinty. Maybe it's just "Mc" but he does make some good points.

"It’s interesting that as thriller novels get more and more complex, thrillers in the cinema seem to get less so."

What I find interesting is how it's TV that's moving to the front of this pack. Stuff like "The Sopranos" and "The Wire," even the old "NYPD Blue," (and, I`ve heard rumours TV shows are actually produced in the UK) manage to have large ensemble casts and slowly developing stories full of insight, character development and no easy answers.

"Could today’s studios give us The French Connection or The Taking of Pelham 123 or The Parallax View or even All The President’s Men?"

No, what they give us are over-simplified remakes. There's going to be a new "Taking of Pelham 123," but I bet, like "The Italian Job," and Òcean`s Eleven,`they'll change the ending, give it what Sidney Lumet called today's, "Yuppie happy ending."

"For every Departed that makes a profit there’s an American Gangster that underperformed."

Nice. I thought I was the only one who though "The Departed" was silly. And really, what's with only one woman in the whole thing?

pattinase (abbott) said...

I was disappointed. The darker the films makes Batman, the farther it drifts from narrative sense in terms of its roots. Especially when they insist on putting him in that costume. If you want me to take him seriously, find a metaphor for the paraphernalia he wears. Otherwise go for sentimentality, history or camp. The Joker so occupied screen space that I think he was the Dark Knight of the title. Trying to comment on the times diminishes the movie too IMHO. He should be timeless, existing in the fictional netherworld of Gotham.

Declan Burke said...

I still haven't seen The Departed, chaps ... Am I out of the gang?

Patti - I'm no fan of the comic books, but wasn't the original incarnation of the Batman a rather dark one?

Cheers, Dec

adrian mckinty said...

Is the Boston accent really that hard to do? Watch 'The Departed' and find out. Also an Irish movie set in South Boston and no one's drinking Guinness?

John said...

I'm not that scary Dec, it's just that we always meet in the mornings, before the four cups of coffee required for me to crack a smile.

Declan Burke said...

Sound, John - I'll bring along a couple of lattes for you tomorrow morning ... Every little helps, right? Cheers, Dec