Dark Knights and strange days

July 21, 2008

A few years ago, I thought we might be headed for a cultural bottoming out when I read that Steven Speilberg really doesn’t read — all his movies were inspired by other movies. (I haven’t been able to find the quote since, so maybe I dreamed it, or maybe it was George Lucas). I think the bottom is either here or very close. The top two opening weekends in movie history, and three of the top five, now belong to films inspired by comic books. (And one of the others is based on a theme ride.)

The critics are ecstatic, of course:

The Dark Knight” is not a simplistic tale of good and evil. Batman is good, yes, The Joker is evil, yes. But Batman poses a more complex puzzle than usual: The citizens of Gotham City are in an uproar, calling him a vigilante and blaming him for the deaths of policemen and others. And the Joker is more than a villain. He’s a Mephistopheles whose actions are fiendishly designed to pose moral dilemmas for his enemies.

Batman is good, but complex. The Joker is more than a villain. That such an analysis would be made in all seriousness says something important about the United States, but I’m not sure what — it’s been years since I read comics, after all. Maybe we’d better brush up. With Obama in the Middle East and foreign policy questions now ascendant in the presidential contest, we will need as sophisticated an understanding of good and evil as possible.

TODAY’S BONUS: Figuring out the No. 1 movie of all time can be tricky, because what the industry counts — gross revenue — is subject to inflation and other factors. If you go by number of tickets sold and try to adjust for inflation, what’s the top hit in American history? Hint: It’s been seen by far people more on TV than it even was in the movie theaters.

4 Responses to “Dark Knights and strange days”

  1. nnall Says:

    “A cultural bottoming out”? “That such an analysis would be made in all seriousness says something important about the United States”?

    When did the man who worships Bill Monroe become such a snob?

  2. Leo Morris Says:

    I’m not a snob about such movies. I’ve enjoyed some of the comic-book-inspired ones, and I’ll probably like “The Dark Knight” as well. I guess I’m a snob about (I’m discovering) taking such things soooo seriously. I don’t go around pretending I’ve heard the Boston Symphony after a good bluegrass festival. And if bluegrass dominated the music scene the way the comics dominate the movie scene, I’d probably freak out about that, too.

  3. Bob G. Says:

    Nothing like watching Batman Begins on TV while listening to Allison Krauss on the stereo…that’s for sure!!

    Leo, you ARE a Renaissance man. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise…you just don’t believe it yet…lol!

    Personally, I find Batman one of the more intriguing characters because every one of us has the potential in him/her to be JUST as complex.
    “It’s not who we are, but what we do that defines us.”
    Same can be said for what we DO NOT do as well.



  4. Doug Says:

    These are our myths. I’m not sure why Batman is supposed to be minimized culturally while Odysseus is an appropriate cultural icon.

    I’ve always like Batman because he didn’t have super powers – just unlimited funding, a lot of training, a strong will, and an enormous chip on his shoulder.

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