When Joker Met Scully

I caught The X Files: I Want to Believe at the drive-in last night and – after it was over, turned my chair around to watch the last 40 minutes (or so) of The Dark Knight. Mild spoilers follow.

A few impressions:

– I love the way Chris Carter didn’t feel pressure to make the next big summer blockbuster. In an established universe where alien invaders could land at any moment, he chose instead to make movie that was remarkably intimate – almost a character sketch of the two leads.

– X-Files was dripping with spiritual questions. Is God out there? Why does he allow suffering? Are there limits to who he will forgive? If not, how does he act to redeem the worst among us? How is it that the people who claim to be God’s followers can often be the most harsh of all?

– “Lets get away from the darkness.” Scully says. Mulder’s reply: “I don’t think that’s how it works. I think the darkness finds you.” Yet, somehow, they come to this realization without despair. One of the subtleties that makes this franchise work so well for me.

– The montage behind the closing credits of X-Files was just beautiful.

– In the meantime, the moments I caught from The Dark Knight were really good, but it floundered a couple of places for me: two face was completely uninspiring (and predictable), and Batman’s speech about the “goodness” in people was unnecessary cliche – the audience can “get” the point of this scene without the Caped Crusader’s sanctimony. But…

– I think that superhero movies are made or broken by their supporting cast. What makes for good film is not the hero himself/herself, who is already well known – but the way everyone else plays off of the hero. Speaking of which…

– Heath Ledger’s performance was sheer genius. I could see him winning a posthumous Oscar. He manages to make the Joker repulsive and yet funny, insightful and yet insane, all at once. (I almost hate to say this, because Jack Nicholson is a great actor, but he makes Nicholson’s effort at the same character look pretty weak.)

– “We are destined to do this forever” Joker tells Batman (or something to that effect). There is a certain mythological feel to that observation that is weighed down with truth. Its still stuck in my mind.

– I also love the way the last few scenes of Knight were not typical of Summer blockbusters. Instead, the creators went for a tighter, more personal approach – and it really worked for me. I hope filmmakers learn from this: you can make a really good action/drama without blowing lots of stuff up at the end.


3 Responses to When Joker Met Scully

  1. My son came home from Nashville last night and told us he had recently watched the Batman movie two times because he thought it was so good. Space opera (Star Wars and Star Trek) and Super Hero shows used to fascinate me to no end. But sometime in my mid forties I had enough. Sounds like this one merits further consideration.

  2. Richard says:

    Jana and I saw Dark Knight last night. I agree with the observation about the mythical nature of the final Batman/Joker exchange. Quite a neat screenwriting touch. I also thought it genius (and you might need to see the whole movie to notice this) at how the stories the Joker told about how he got his scarred smile kept, creepily and insanely, changing. Again, it was another great writing move.

    I have yet to see the X-files, but will see it this week.

  3. Darren says:

    TDK was fantastic. The wife and I saw it in IMAX in Dallas last weekend.

    Ledger now permanently and forever owns the role of The Joker. Cesar Romero’s joker came across as a sissy, Nicholson’s Joker was smarter than everyone else in the room but not quite so malevolent.

    Ledger’s Joker is established immediately with ‘The Pencil Trick’ (if you missed it, you need to see the movie from the start), and proves to be the kind of sociopath that would make Hannibal Lecter check for flights out of town. The quality of any action movie is, IMO, determined by the quality of the bad guy — Die Hard isn’t a classic because of Bruce Willis, it’s a classic because of Alan Rickman’s ‘Hans Gruber’. Oscar for sure. Ledger’s Joker is playing a deeper game than everyone else, for higher stakes than his opponents usually realize to begin the encounter, and he’s absolutely amoral.

    There had been some buzz on some blogs of a Batman-GWB connection, that the movie was semi-sympathetic to a character that faced a vicious enemy and was willing to sacrifice popularity for doing the right thing. Did you get that at all? That concept only really made sense to me at the very end.

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