Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Give that man an Oscar!

I'm just kidding. I wanted to get my view about that up before I saw the movie because I didn't want the quality of the performance to affect my judgement. It's just a fact, actors in comic book action movies don't win Oscars. I also hold the pretentious view that most people can't really judge the relative quality of Hollywood actors. All I can tell is if I think the character is cool and I assume that it takes skill to do that, but I think the quality of all Hollywood actors is very high.

Anyhoo... I unhesitatingly declare The Joker to be the best movie villain ever and the movie to be totally awesome. I also hope that readers agree that my prediction was borne out, if anything the last half hour was worse than I expected, but the first two hours compensate and then some.

I'm still sorting through thoughts about The Joker, but I wouldn't hold my breath for a future post because none of them have been especially novel, though I will suggest that he starts becoming a more conventional baddie towards the end and so lost a bit of his mystique. But holy crap, there's some cool shit in there.

One of the most annoying habits of movie reviewers is to celebrate action that has no CGI effects in it. I say bring it on, but it was striking how simple the best bit of action was, even by the standards of mediocre, low budget films. A truck flipping sounds lame, but I've never heard an audience respond to anything the way they did to this scene. Awesome. Genius. One of the best things I've ever seen on film.

I've never game theory presented so explicitly in a film before, which was cool. And I'll even claim it as an illustration of Weingast's tragic brilliance mechanism. Batman and Dent truly threaten the bad guys who respond with terrifying random violence and people blame Batman! Things suck with a huge and well organised mob in town, they prey on the people. But they have an interest in keeping violence down and most victims of violence are involved one way or another. The gang will take steps to prevent any new gang emerging, things can be pretty stable and violence more or less suppressed. Tackle their privilege really hard and maybe they can credibly threaten everything and people will want things to go back to the way they were and blame the good guys.

One small observation though (I don't even mean it to be a gripe) is that the Joker's claim to shun planning isn't plausible. He's always one step ahead of the very smart goodies and has some evil ploy read for them, doing it in crazy style doesn't mean you're not planning. But, evil terrorists who genuinely don't plan don't pull off anything big (except through pure luck) so they did really well with the premise and there are lots of details –his lack of personal hygiene, his genuinely erratic behaviour (moment to moment rather than longer term thinking) and his almost eager recklessness with his own safety- which make his success credible.

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