Mamma Mia! It’s the Dark Knight.

I’ve seen three movies in the last two weeks. One of them good, one of them wonderfully bad and one of them incoherently bad.

The good one was Hellboy II, which is indeed better than the original which I liked a lot.

But enough about that let’s talk about Mamma Mia! (wonderfully bad) and The Dark Knight (incoherently bad).

Mamma Mia! as Mrs. CollateralDamage put it, “is the Rocky Horror Picture Show of 2008.” I’m expecting sing-alongs, throwing toast and dancers, lots and lots of dancers — many of them in swim trunks and scuba fins. It is to be sure a bad movie. The characters struggle to get to two dimensions despite the valiant efforts of some fine actors. The plot is beyond hokey. The music … well, the music is ABBA. One reviewer said the group’s lyrics were “English-like” and that pretty much nails it. You either hate ABBA or you love them or, like me, both. I laughed throughout. Sometimes even at parts that were meant to be funny.

Pierce Brosnan gives the bravest performance you will see on a movie screen this year. It is also the worst. The man can’t sing, but that doesn’t stop him from trying and I have to admire him for it. He is at his best in Meryl Streep’s Especially Big Number where he is called on to look dashing. He does it superbly.

And now to The Dark Knight. If anyone actually cared about my opinion I would doubtless be pilloried for what I am about to say. It’s a mess. It is not one of the best movies ever made. The only movie I’ve seen this year that falls into that category is WALL*E. It is not even the best superhero movie of this year — I would place both Hellboy and Iron Man (which did a superb job of reminding me why I loved comic books as a kid) in front of it.

Dark Night was too long and too confused. Its reach exceded its grasp. CollateralDamage Jr. said that it should have been batman 2 & batman 3. If they’d just told us what was essentially Harvey Dent’s back story and left it there I would have been happy and it would have made sense. but then came the rest of it which needed a whole additional movie to develop. Emotionally it basically built up to hitting a high C and then held it for an hour. While that is an admirable feat to be able to pull off it isn’t very interesting to watch.

The late Mr. Ledger was great as was the rest of the cast (especially Gary Oldham — you ever see Syd & Nancy?). Mr. Bale had my sympathies because his character really didn’t change in the course of the movie so he got stuck playing someone who starts out as a slightly conflicted superhero only to end up as … a slightly conflicted superhero.

I am glad to see Two-Face finally getting his due. Billie Dee Williams played Dent in the Tim Burton version but they never did anything with him.

Also it had a number of little things that irked me — who has paper money to steal these days?

I enjoyed it on a summer blockbuster level but on substance my superhero pick of the summer is Hellboy with its story of the risks and responsibilities of love and how two creatures from another dimension can make Barry Manilow so essential.

Press release of the day: “Can Batman Teach Spiritual Truth”

Shouldn’t questions have a question mark at the end of them?

We too have a superhero that came to rescue us from evil and an eternity apart from Him. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. And our Superhero shows us that life is only found by using our great gifts and power to serve others and rescue the desperate. We need to become Robin to His Batman. We are part of the team and He’s counting on us to respond.

Lord, deliver us from your followers …

Iran blames Barbie for undermining traditional values

The top prosecutor for the Iranian Republic says that Barbie, Batman, Spiderman and Harry Potter are all conspiring to subvert the youth of today.

Ghorban Ali Dori Najafabad said Iran was the world’s third biggest importer of toys and suggested this posed a threat to the “personality and identity” of the new generation. “The unrestrained entry of this sort of imported toys … will bring destructive cultural and social consequences in their wake,” he wrote. He added many toys were smuggled into Iran and accused importers of concentrating on profits at the expense of cultural values.

Man, this puts me in a bind. While I am certainly down with Bats, Spidey and Mr. Potter, I have always been troubled by Barbie. While the original (right) was a human shape and had a fairly sassy look in her eyes, later models became the absurd and subservient creature we all know today. However compared to more recent hyper-sexualized dolls like Bratz, she is positively demure and the personification of feminism. (Feminism (noun), a set of beliefs predicated on the notion that women are people too.)

Given that I guess I’m cool with Barbie doing a little subverting of one gender stereotype by displaying another one. It kind of reminds me of Slavenka Draculic’s wonderful book How We Survived Communism And Even Laughed. In it she writes about her feminist friends in the West would be shocked when Draculic, a Yugoslavian back when that meant something, would visit them and wear lipstick and frou-frou clothes. They saw this as acquiescing to a stereotype. For Draculic it was just the opposite. These things allowed her to assert her individuality while living in a nation that was trying to eliminate the individual. I suspect Ms. Draculic would (or does) approve of Barbie as revolutionary.

And, can I just say that if your belief system can be subverted by Barbie et al., then it really doesn’t have much of grasp on its audience.

I love the fact that this came from the Iran’s top prosecutor. How absurd is that? I mean can you imagine the US attorney general doing something similar? Like covering the breasts of a statue of blind justice because of its threat to the nations morals? Oh wait, never mind …

“Holy product placements, Batman! It’s the Energizer® Bunny Bat signal!”

supesOr more on why Marvel & DC Comics both suck. When last we heard from our dastardly duo they were trying to trademark the word superhero. But now quoth the Wall Street Journal: In July, Time Warner Inc.'s DC Comics, home to characters such as Batman and Aquaman, is launching "Rush City," a six-part miniseries that boasts visible promotional support from General Motors Corp.'s Pontiac. As part of the series, a new hero known as "The Rush" will be prominently featured driving a Pontiac Solstice in the comic book. … Over the past few months, Marvel Entertainment Inc. has begun putting the "swoosh" logo from Nike Inc. in the scenes of some of its titles, such as "New X-Men." 

Why DC and Marvel comics both suck

Before the Red Sox and even before Ernie Banks, my first true religious devotion was Marvel Comics. My buddies and I felt about the difference between Marvel (Spiderman, Thor, The Avengers, et al) and DC (Superman, Batman, etc.) the way people today feel about Apple/Windows, but at least we were arguing over something important. I worshipped at the alter of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, John Buscema and countless others. I highly recommend Lee’s Orgins of Marvel Comics, it’s a fun read (but you can’t have my copy, it’s autographed. My mom got his autograph for me while attending some academic conference, nyah nyah.) If you admitted to liking DC you were beyond the pale (suffice to say many of us strayed in the privacy of our own collections, but that’s another story). And when Kirby went over to DC? Serious theological issues…

Over the years I have become more ecumenical in tastes. Books like Kingdom Come (in which Superman very seriously has doubts about his legacy) and others have shown me that DC could indeed be good. (One big distinction between the two brands when I was young: All of the dialogue in DC comics ended in EXCLAMATION MARKS! Marvel, it seems, had discovered the period.)

 

But know I say, a pox on both their corporately owned houses. They have teamed up to form a Dastardly Duo of idiocy by jointly filing a trademark on the word “super-hero.” They are using it to harass indie comics. And worse, quoth BoingBoing: The latest trick in its move to steal the word is using the ™ symbol in the bumpf for its California science centre show — they’ve recruited a science museum to help them steal “super-hero.” Y’know, I was actually looking forward to that show until I read this. This is just loathsome, stupid corporate tactics. It’s a waste of company resources and an insult to the people who buy your product.

Now that’s super villainy. C’mon True Believers, it’s CLOBBERIN’ TIME!™

FYI, too prove I am still the geek I always was…my list of comic books you really should read.

  • Astro City: Superb story telling and a great vision of what it might be like if Super-heroes™ existed in the “real world.” The book that re-ignited my interest in comics after about a decade away from the breed. Sadly it now seems to be on a “whenever we get around to it” production schedule, so check out the collections.
  • Top Ten (written by Alan Moore): Super-heroes™ meet Hill Street Blues.
  • Marvels: The problem with having Super-heroes™ around, from the point of view of the rest of us.
  • Powers: Super-heroes™ as film noir.
  • Sandman by Neil Gaiman: What great post-modern myth-making is all about. Pretty much impossible to over-rate. Also the Bible of The Goth Movement. The only thing better in the graphic novel category is Spiegelman’s Maus, which just exists on a whole different level of art.
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (written by Alan Moore): Victorian-era Super-heroes™ Quartermain, Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man and Capt. Nemo confront Wells’ invaders from Mars in an odd parable of morality and mortality.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: The ultimate fascist Super-hero™ vs. the ultimate fascist state. Fine political satire from the 1980s that has aged very well.
  • The Watchmen (written by Alan Moore): The first great re-imagining of Super-heroes™. Definitive.
  • Cerebus – the first two volumes are essential and hillarious, after that creator Dave Sim wanders far, far off the reservation. Still it’s an interesting, if unnecessary, trip.
  • Uncle Sam: Strange and interesting political satire. Uncle Sam as a Super-hero™ vs Uncle Sam as icon (no tm as of yet).
  • Marvel 1602: After many failed attempts to re-imagine its characters in a new setting, Marvel gets it right. To no surprise, that’s because it was written by Neil Gaiman.