After surviving months of Dark Knight hype, viral outreach and tastefully overblown praise for late co-star Heath Ledger, Defamer finally got its chance at a screening Tuesday to see what all the Bat-fuss was about. And as editor Seth Abramovitch and senior editor S.T. VanAirsdale discovered in their second installment of Defamer Instant Reviews, not everybody is ready to validate its Second Coming status quite yet. Is it good? Absolutely. Is it the best film of the summer? That's where things get complicated — on AIM, of course, because this watershed cultural moment deserves no less.
Follow the jump for their respective two cents — mostly spoiler-free for even the most casual followers of the film, and naturally among the finest criticism available anywhere online.
STV: We should probably go into this acknowledging that the film is review-proof and completely saturated with things too interesting to spoil.
STV: That said, I just thought it was pretty good.
SA: I thought it was excellent!
STV: Yeah, yeah, fine. It's fitfully brilliant, but so heavy-handed. Did I miss something?
SA: Nope. This was the summer 2008 superhero movie for people who enjoy feeling awful, and thinking about feeling awful, and expressing what makes feeling awful so gosh darn wonderful.
STV: Iron Man this is not.
SA: It's misanthropy porn. It's also the bluest superhero movie I've ever seen, in every sense of the word.
STV: Right. From the start, too — those billowing blue flames, the Hong Kong horizons, Gotham at night.
STV: And yeah, everyone's depressed as hell.
SA: But that said, I don't think a single scene passed by that I didnt feel worked. And it was a long movie.
STV: What about the story? I was lost.
SA: The story was fine. Corrupt city government. Crime infested streets.
SA: It was sort of The Departed with bat-gadgets.
STV: But the Joker shows up wanting a piece of Teflon goombah Eric Roberts, the Russians, the blacks, and a Hong Kong money-laundering syndicate.
SA: Its the Mafia Olympics!
STV: Even if Gotham City is totally corrupt, it's the most equal-opportunity corruption in history, which I guess should be commended.
SA: Speaking of the Joker, what did you think of Heath?
STV: Heath was annoying.
STV: It's not his fault. Nolan couldn't rein him in.
SA: I was prepared for him to be annoying, but I actually really enjoyed him.
SA: I mean, its The Joker! This isn't a portrait in subtlety. You want hyena cackles!
STV: But look — and this is my problem with the whole movie: The audience is overwhelmed with moralizing.
SA: Yes, I'll agree it got bogged down in speechifying.
STV: The Joker is the default "Man, this world is fucked" mouthpiece, but his actions — just his very look — defy the monologues, the hamminess.
STV: He needs an origin story like the Burton Joker, right? Who the hell is this guy?
SA: Yeah — their not committing to his backstory was a strong choice, but I'm not sure it really helped them.
SA: But I think they were trying to say, "What does it matter where he came from?" Like, what does it matter where any psychopath comes from? He's chaos. But then you have no psychological in, so he's less interesting.
STV: Alfred the Butler touches on it: "Some people just want to watch the world burn."
SA: Yeah, but that doesn't satisfy dramatically.
STV: Even that was kind of overbearing.
SA: Nolan was reaching high with this. He obviously wanted the monologues.
STV: He's a great director, though, right? I mean, this film looks, feels, sounds amazing.
SA: That's why your quibbles don't bother me. This is his ride, and it's spectacular, and if he wants his speeches about human nature, I'll listen to them.
SA: He chose great actors to deliver them.
STV: But he's so much better at subterranean truck chases and high-altitude kidnappings. I want overturned big rigs!
SA: Well, luckily there's tons of those. And 180-degree, wall-flipping Bad Pods.
STV: And the Bat-Blobile. What was that? The Batmobile was a hulking blob of scrap on wheels.
SA: It was batass.
STV: OK, give me one-line summaries of the following actors' performances: Christian Bale.
SA: Obscene caller voice.
STV: Aaron Eckhart.
SA: Boringly delicious!
STV: Maggie Gyllenhaal.
SA: Made the most of the whiny token female.
STV: Michael Caine.
SA: Should have let him out of the fluorescent Batchamber more.
STV: He's basically a cockney Jiminy Cricket serving breakfast. How about Morgan Freeman?
SA: If God and Q had a kid.
STV: Gary Oldman.
SA: He gets swallowed up in it. He's one of the best actors ever.
STV: I think he's the best thing about it.
SA: Is he?
STV: He's a guy pulled 15 different ways, very flawed, vulnerable, and at his best when things are out of his control. He gets to work when shit hits the fan, while everyone else just sort of... talks.
SA: What did you think of Batman's voice?
STV: I didn't quite get it.
SA: Me neither. It was silly.
STV: He never closes his mouth when he talks, either! It lets all the air out of the big, portentous balloon.
STV: Is Heath Oscar-worthy?
SA: He'll definitely get a nomination.
SA: I sort of think the movie itself deserves a Best Picture nomination. It's just so ambitious and epic and so expensive-looking.
STV: This movie is going to make a fortune, right? I'm calling $140 million for the weekend plus $2 billion in damage caused by rioting fans worldwide.
STV: And I am a believer in IMAX.
SA: Oh, definitely. Those scenes were so cool.
STV: Bad format for preachy screenwriter moralizing, excellent format for hospital implosions and 10-minute chase sequences.
SA: OMG — that hospital. Yeah, I really loved this movie.
STV: It's not bad. I'll stick with Iron Man.
SA: Iron Man was fun; this was a nice compliment.
STV: The Dark Knight: Nihilism for the whole family.