I went into The Dark Knight expecting to watch it the way I would any other movie: You know, admire the actors and get caught up in the story, with a few mental detours to check out the clothes and wonder where all my Sno-Caps went.
But watching the new Batman movie, I had a very different experience. It went something like this:
Wow, Heath Ledger really does look weird. Scary. And yet strangely...comical. Those wrinkles under that makeup. That lizard tongue. And that voice, that accent, he sounds like someone, I can't quite place it....
I wonder how Christian Bale gets so hunky and then so skinny over and over again. What kind of diet does he go on? What's his training regime? Would it work for me?
And speaking of thin, Maggie Gyllenhaal looks pretty good. But is she suposed to be the same exact character that Katie Holmes was in the last movie? If Batman's so powerful, how come he doesn't notice she's a different person?
Why is that Chinese guy taking all the money to China? And why is Batman going to China to get it back? Why does he care about the bad guys' money? I'm a little confused though I'm sure it will all come clear.
Heath Ledger's voice. It sounds kind of Midwestern, kind of effeminate. Maybe someone who used to be on TV....
So is Morgan Freeman supposed to be God? He's always God. Why does Batman need both him and Michael Caine, who seem to be two versions of the same character, i.e. old people who know their place as wise but deferential lackeys?
Oh no, I'm really not following this. Maybe if I start paying attention to the plot, I'll pick up the thread.
Cars racing. Buildings exploding. Lots of people teetering on the edges of very high places, making my hands sweat.
Is Maggie Gyllenhaal dead or alive? Is Gary Oldman honest or corrupt? Is Aaron Eckhart tall or short? Is Gotham City supposed to be New York or Chicago? And why, whenever I hear Heath Ledger's voice, do I think of Carol Burnett?
I've got it! He sounds just like this campy gay actor who was on Carol Burnett and then on Hollywood Squares, Paul somebody, Paul Paul Paul: Paul Lynde!
I was relieved, when we came out of the movie, to discover my husband hated The Dark Knight as much as I did. But when we told our 18-year-old son about it, he looked at us like he wanted to take us out behind the garage and put us down now, before we crumbled into dust all on our own.
The Dark Knight is a highly revered film, he told us, with "an 82 metascore." The most esteemed critics on the planet were calling it a masterpiece and Heath Ledger's performance legendary. Heath Ledger's troubled life and death have made his performance above criticism, and way above ridicule. So obviously we were wrong, due to being hopelessly out of it.
The lesson: Don't admit to anyone, especially anyone under 30, that you are baffled by or hate The Dark Knight. But just between us, on the Paul Lynde thing: Am I right or what?
Pamela Redmond Satran writes How Not To Act Old.