So I finally got around to watching both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. I'm not a big fan of comic-book movies for a number of reasons, but my man crush for Christian Bale along with Inception were plenty enough motivation for me to see what I was missing.
Christopher Nolan makes pretty soulless films that are way more about plot points and "cool" things than they are really about characters. I mean, honestly he never lets two chracters stay in a scene and just talk for more than 20 seconds. They never start to feel like people to me. That's okay, it can work, just as long as you pack in enough cool shit and awesome plot points.
|There's no Cat button...Defrost?|
In The Dark Knight, Batman takes a bullet hole in a wall, not even the shattered bits of the bullet, then takes this hole and runs computer simulations to reconstruct what the bullet was like that created the hole. I suppose this could work to determine what kind of bullet or gun caused it, but no. Batman's computer model gives him a fingerprint on the bullet. That's right, he finds a hole in a wall and his computer back-engineers that into a fingerprint that was on the bullet. Do I need to explain how completely non-sensical this is. I thought the whole idea was that this was supposed to be the gritty-realistic Batman...Not bad CSI Batman. It's supposed to be just an awesome technology. Batman has several of these and they make sense, none of them are magic, they have a grounding in reality. But this idea that you could take a bullet hole and recreate a finger print that was on the shattered bullet is ridiculous and will never be possible.
Batman saves Maggie Gyllenhall from falling to her death by grabbing her and holding her as they both slam into a parked car. I guess Batman's suit spreads the forces out over his body and that somehow cushions the blow. It doesnt' really make a lot of sense, but fine. However, Maggie is just landing on him landing on a car. Think about it this way, how are the forces acting on her any different if he's holding her or not. Either way she's decellerating from free fall speed to stopped. Either way it's like running into a brick wall at 60 mph, are you telling me Batman's moobs act like airbags?
This is one example of an epidemic in Hollywood, the magic grabbing/holding effect. Falling a huge distance is fine as long as someone holds on to you. How often do we see Spiderman or Superman or other super heroes chase after someone who is falling, only to bring them to a dead stop by grabbing them just shy of slamming into concrete. Phew. Wait a second...Why is it bad to crash into pavement at 100 mph? Because you stop suddenly. It's the acceleration that hurts, not the fact that it's concrete. So when superman grabs you and stops you just inches from the ground, you're telling the audience that his arms are somehow super cushiony. If he really did it, it'd be like jumping fifteen stories onto steel girders shaped like arms. Bet they'll catch you all cushiony.
The Over-the-top Bad Guy
When creating a villian, there are three main ideas.
1. The Completely Evil Bad Guy
2. A villain that has different goals from the main character, but also isn't just evil for evil's sake, they see things differently. Sometimes they're simply a competitor who selfishly wants the same thing the MC is after. Other times their different world views are the source of their differences. For example, In the Matrix, Agent Smith sees humans as a virus or a disease, as an AI, he sees things differently. Although what his goals really are is kind of up in the air, so that makes him more like a Category 1 bad guy. Another example would be Se7en, where the bad guy is a sort of religious nut who thinks that he's going to put the fear of god back into people and make them live more piously, and thus he thinks he's probably saving souls by doing the evil things he is doing. See how much better that is than Sauron or Voldemort simply being evil looking,sounding guys that want power..
3. The Villain with the same goals as the MC.
If the Villain and the MC want the same things, suddenly there's a lot more depth here. The real disagreement isn't over the goal, it's about how far you're willing to go to accomplish it. The Bad guys are of the "The ends justifies the means" crowd, while the MC has some super-moral code they adhere to and will fight against their own goal because the bad guy is willing to go to far to get it.
In Minority Report, the bad guy is willing to kill in order to keep Pre-Crime running, because on the whole, it saves many more lives. The Main Character thinks murder is always wrong and ultimately fights to dismantle pre-crime. So at the end of the film, Pre-Crime is ended...thus returning us to a world with murder...Thanks Tom Cruise for getting rid of future-seeing cops that stop murders before they happen.
But wait...If Bruce Willis modified the virus from something that kills billions of people, into one that just destroys surrogates and doesn't harm a single person with a few keystrokes...couldn't Cromwell have just made a virus that didn't kill everyone in the first place. See what I'm getting at. The bad guy wants to stop people from using surrogates. He's also the president of the surrogate company. He has the power to destroy all surrogates, and stop building new ones, thus stopping the use of surrogates. INSTEAD of doing that, he tries to kill billions of people and writes it off as "they're already dead." Oh okay. Thanks for giving us an ethical dillemma by being completely over the top evil.
When the MC and Antagonist only disagree on how far you should go to accomplish your goal, you need to make both of their views make sense in order to create an actual ethical dillemma. In Minority Report, the bad guy actually seems to be in the right, because the ends seems to really justify the means. Killing one or a few people in order to prevent thousands of murders seems like a fair trade. So that leaves the main character as making a stupid stand to destroy something good because they can't see the big picture. OR they go the other way and make the villain just go completely over the top in how far they are willing to go.
So in Batman Begins, Liam Neeson and Batman both want justice and to punish bad guys. Batman thinks you should do this by enforcing the law, let the courts and prisons do the punishment, he's no executioner. So you'd think the counter point would be another vigilante who will just kill bad guys and not bother with the justice system, the problem is that there's no oversight, how do you know you're killing really bad guys for sure? no trial, no jury, etc. It creates a real ethical dilemma. Maybe Liam accidentally kills a handful of innocent people, and Batman then has a dillemma: do you allow Liam Neeson to keep being a vigilante who enforces justice but also makes mistakes sometimes? Instead of that, Liam Neeson wants to give everyone in the city crazy juice and then let all the bad guys out of jail in order to create total chaos and destroy the city so that it becomes a symbol or something.
His way of creating justice is to DESTROY AN ENTIRE CITY. How logical.
To make the villian with similar goals work, you need to set up both of their positions as logical, that way there is actually a dilemma to be had.
In Apocalypse Now, the real conflict is about whether a war should be fought according to rules, with R&R, barbecues, rules of engagement, etc. OR if you should just go ahead and do whatever it takes to win and end the thing. Kurtz thinks if you're going to fight a war, then take the gloves off and actually fight it. The main character is on the side of the Army, who wants to keep the public image good to keep the war going, so they want to stop Kurtz. The Army gives Willard the assignment to stop Kurtz. So here's Willard's dilemma. Do you assassinate Kurtz, the guy who the Army says is going too far, but in accomplishing your goal you will have yourself actually gone beyond what people in the Army are supposed to do. OR do you join him in his quest to actually win the war? Again, it's a real dilemma, it's something that the MC has to think about and so does the audience.
So whenever Bruce puts the suit on, he talks in a super deep scary voice. That's fine, he's masking his voice so people can't figure out who he is. Makes sense. Up until he starts interacting with people who know his real identity, but he keeps using that voice anyway. Suddenly he's talking to the girl and dressed as a bat and talking in a fake deep voice. At this point he just looks like an idiot.
I enjoyed these films as a gritty more realistic take on the superhero film, but I feel like sometimes they go to far in trying to make cool things, and when it comes to villains have avoided subtlety at all costs. If they want the series to really go anywhere, they better come up with a villain that isn't so ridiculous. Apparently Liam Neeson is coming back as the villain for The Dark Knight Rises, even though he died at the end of Batman Begins. Supposedly he's Ra's al Ghul, which wikipedia tells me is a sort of immortal assassin whose goal is to save the planet from evil human pollution. Rather than going all Al Gore on everybody and trying to spread awareness and invent green technology, his method is to kill lots of people as a way of reducing our carbon footprint. Sounds like we're gonna have a real ethical dillema on our hands with this guy...