This is less a confession than a criticism veiled with apologetics.
Christopher Nolan is a man whose work I admire greatly. From the first time I saw Memento sometime in 2003/4 I have been hooked on his work. It is intelligent without being pretentious. It well written and directed. The ideas which make his movies are just fantastic and absorbing.
But he can’t do comedy.
Or more precisely, he can’t do one-liners. Every time he does so it makes me cringe to my very soul. They are so bad in fact that they are capable of ruining entire movies, if I let them.
This was almost the case with Batman Begins, which is a fantastic film in almost every regard. It was a dark and brooding and even though it was about a man who dressed up as a bat, it made sense. As a character study and an action movie, it all worked. Except for one line.
Batman’s vehicle for the movie, The Tumbler, shoots some missiles at something then drives off. Sgt. Gordon (as he is at the time), who has witnessed the event says, “I got to get me one of those.”
That is the line, but it was really disappointing. It felt shoe-horned in and served no purpose. I doubted the character would have said it and it took me out of the movie and placed me in the world of watching movies, which a subtly different states of being. It’s also trope of the action movie and is uttered every time some gadget is shown to be awesome. It reminded me that Batman Begins was an action film made with express intention of pleasing audiences. It was dumbing down. Yes, only for a line but that is all it takes to break the illusion.
This information had be repressed by my mind, unwilling to take any criticism of Nolan seriously. It was only with The Dark Knight Rises that the horrors of this line and Nolan’s fallibility came flooding back.
It was in itself a massively disappointing films with so many plot holes and logical inconsistencies as to make it the most disappointing blockbuster of the year (taking over the mantle from the ridiculous Prometheus). But still, there are arguments for why the plot holes are justified for the greater sense of the movie. What is indefensible is the shoehorning in of more ill-judged, crowd pleasing one-liners. The most obvious that spring to mind are when Catwoman disappears and he says “oh, so that’s what that feels like” and the immortal, “it’s not a car”. They had exactly the same effect as the line from Batman Begins and the movie would have been vastly improved without them and the others scattered throughout.
Just to clarify, I am not against humour in the Batman movies, only their timing. Having Bruce Wayne in party mode cracking jokes is to be expected, that is his persona. The anarchic mayhem of The Joker is funny in a dark way, but that again is his character. They feel natural and at place within the context. They give us a greater understanding of the character and their personalities.
Yes, I’m probably taking a series of films about a man who dresses as a bat and fights crime a little too seriously. On the other hand, the films set them up seriously. They create characters and stories and arcs and then deviate for no reason into Hollywood crowd pleasing puns the presence of which undermine the value of the films.
In a dumb Hollywood action movie like Independence Day, Will Smith can get away with it.
In something that tries to be intelligent like Batman Begins, Gary Oldman can’t.