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This week at the movies

I've been on a veritable orgy of movie watching this week. Major plot spoilers for all three films beneath the cuts:

I think it does not bode well for this film's box office receipts that there were only 25 people at the first showing today. (In contrast, the first showing of Batman Wednesday was nearly full, and same with Hancock on Thursday.) I realize my little home theater is not necessarily representative, but yikes.

And it's too bad, because I really thought the movie was excellent. I had very low expectations going in--deliberately, since Chris Carter has done nothing but break my heart ever since I was a wee X-files fan in the early 90s (my first real fandom! Well, simultaneously with TNG). But I've always been in love with Mulder and Scully, and that was enough for me. But the film offered a lot more.

Let me start with the only negative, to get it out of the way: Why the HELL did they have to make the main villain gay? And sticking his lover's head on women's bodies? That was just...gratuitous. And while I'm happy that Callum Keith Rennie continues to get work, I really really wish he got cast as a good guy once in a while; everything I've seen him in lately has him playing psycho bad guys.

Other than that, though, this movie was pure fanservice, as far as I'm concerned. I was never really into the mytharc episodes of the series, especially after CC's crazy plots got so convoluted I'm sure he couldn't even make sense of them any more; I always loved the monster of the week episodes better, *especially* when the MOTW caused Mulder and/or Scully to do deep psychological soul searching, which both DD and GA are so good at conveying. And God, this whole film was full of that. Really it's barely even a MOTW, compared to most episodes of the show; the villain is purely human, and it's only the psychic pedophile priest that draws Mulder and Scully into the case. I'm sure that will disappoint some people, but I thought it was a perfect angle into a story that was all about the possibility of believing.

In fact, I was pretty amazed at how they managed to make fresh the central conflict of the show--Mulder's default is to believe in the supernatural (as long as it's not religion) while Scully's main faith is in science (with an overlay of Catholicism)--and make it fresh because of the changed circumstances of Mulder and Scully. At the beginning of the film Mulder seems to be lacking in purpose and direction, while Scully has recreated herself as a physician at a Catholic hospital, where she can still play the skeptic (vis-a-vis the priest/administrator of the hospital) while using her faith in science to heal people rather than dissect them.

One gets the sense that she brings the case to Mulder mostly because she's worried about him, but the case itself threatens their relationship because Mulder of course can't contain his passion for investigating the supernatural, once it is unleashed, but Scully soon becomes convinced that this path is just going to lead to a downward spiral into darkness, like their time in the FBI. And matters aren't helped by the fact that Mulder is putting his faith in a pedophile priest. I really loved Scully's reactions to the priest; her outrage at the idea that he could be an instrument of God (through his visions) struck me as *so* Scully--lapsed Catholic or not, she can't forgive a "man of God" who could hurt children in that way. And then her own struggles when his prophecies turn out to be true, which just ratchet up her tension with Mulder, because the more she believes the more his beliefs seem a challenge and a threat to her---it all just gave a wonderful psychological edge to the storyline. And I kind of love the ending, with the acknowledgement that they can't escape the dark, and that they just have to not give up and keep fighting in their own way.

Oh, and just when I thought Skinner wasn't going to make an appearance at all, not only does he help Scully save the day, but there was a totally gratuitous "Skinner holding Mulder in his lap" scene that was *clearly* a gift for slashers.


Wow, I had heard that this movie was dark, but I had NO idea. Holy CRAP. I mean, it was a brilliantly made film, and Heath Ledger definitely deserves the posthumous Oscar he's going to get--forget him being the best *Joker* ever, I think he surpassed Hannibal Lector for me and has become the scariest villain ever--but HOLY CRAP that was depressing.

I will say I am very grateful for my lovely flist, because watching this unspoiled I had no idea that Jim Gordon's death was faked. In fact, I spent the half hour or so after he died onscreen--before his return, I mean--going "Holy SHIT I can't believe they actually killed off Jim Gordon." I was really devastated--Gary Oldman's Jim Gordon is probably my favorite character in the whole series, and I guess it's a testament to how dark the film was that it never even occurred to me it was a fakeout.

What really did surprise me, though, was that they actually killed off Two-Face. Throughout the first part of the film, I thought the whole Dent storyline was setting up the sequel and the new villain; I wasn't really expecting the film to continue past that point, though I guess it makes sense with the whole White Knight/Dark Knight theme they had going. (Excellent Two Face makeup, by the way--it really freaked me out and I could barely stand to look at him). But I'm not entirely sure the film needed both villains, when the Joker was already the most effective terrorist EVER. Seriously, I couldn't believe how catastrophically efficient he was--he truly was the perfect foil for Batman, and to be honest I've never actually believed that of the Joker (or any Batman villain, with the possible exception of Ras al-Ghul) before.

The other thing that really worked for me in the film, sappy and predictable as it was, was the sequence with the two ferry boats. Again, I think it's because of the darkness of the film; I wasn't actually expecting the cliched "people making the right decision" ending--I was expecting the prisoners to try to blow up the other boat and end up, of course, blowing up themselves and just preventing the other boat from doing the same by seconds. So the fact that that didn't happen really made me happy.

Although I really do like Christian Bale, I find his Batman voice so annoying that the only scenes I really enjoyed him in were when he was being Bruce Wayne, annoying asshole--for example, that brilliant bit where he convinces Gordon that he wasn't trying to save his employee, just running the light--but then he gives traitorous employee that *look*. I got much more of a kick out of Morgan Freeman's encounter with that employee than anything Batman actually did.


I'd heard mixed reviews about this film, but I have to say I honestly loved it more than Batman, if only because it had a more hopeful ending. Again, I was completely thrilled to have been unspoiled because the twist at the end surprised the hell out of me, and made it a lot more interesting to watch. I had guessed that Charlize Theron was somehow Hancock's ex --there were too many strange looks between them for it not to be something like that --but I thought that Hancock was faking his amnesia, and they both knew about it, and had, you know, both been exposed to meteors or nuclear radiation or one of the countless other ways mutants in various mythologies gained powers. Having them actually be doomed immortal divine lovers was kind of a cool twist, especially the doomed part.

I was *really* worried they were just going to kill off Charlize Theron, especially after watching what happened in Batman, so I was actually quite happy with the resolution. And I couldn't help but love Justin Bateman's character--he was really just such a nice guy, and in his own tired beaten-down way just as heroic as Hancock. And God, all the coaching scenes were comedy gold. Though I embarrassed to say I laughed hardest when the bad guy got his second hand cut off--normally I don't even like that kind of comedy, but for some reason, maybe just the tension from the preceding scene? --I laughed so hard at that point I almost fell out of my chair.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 26th, 2008 12:08 am (UTC)
Oh thank goodness you liked the X-Files. I had seen the previews and I wanted to see it but I'm not so sure I could convince anyone to see it with me. I shall do so now. Yes the Batman voice certainly did seem OTT most of the time which was a shame. I really did have to retsrain myself from laughing out loud at it when he first spoke. Also - my suspension of belief was sorely tested by the whole Dent/Two Face becoming so vengeful that he felt holding a gun to a kid's head was appropriate. To Gordon's head or even his wife? Believable, but not to a kid's head. I'm not buying that.
I did like Hancock very much although it left me with a hell of a lot of questions....I wonder if this is based on anything? A novel a comic I haven't heard of. The scene where Jason Bateman's character is on the phone and Hancock is threatening to tell is just comedy gold.
Jul. 26th, 2008 12:21 am (UTC)
Yeah, I think anyone who watched the X-files for Mulder and Scully (as opposed to watching specifically for the aliens/supernatural elements) will like this movie.

I really think Dent's fall was rushed a little bit, and would have been more believable stretched out over two movies.

I think Hancock *is* based on a comic, but I'm not sure why I think that--fannish osmosis, maybe?
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 26th, 2008 06:15 am (UTC)
I now have a bookmark list of "vids and youtube clips to watch when I'm next at a computer that's not dial-up", and that Batvoice thing is on it, but I haven't seen it yet.

I really think if you liked the X-files, you'll like the film. It's like a really thoughtful MOTW episode, so it's not spectacular in the revelations or special effects, and it doesn't really try to synch up with the series finale; it's just a *great* Mulder and Scully character vehicle.

And Hancock was really fun--absolutely hilarious before it got to the more philosophical bits. Will Smith was, as usual, completely awesome.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


Nora (KK glasses)
Nora Norwich

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