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Dark Knight' mob attacks defenseless film critic

Darkknight Not that it matters of course, when it comes to a pop-culture tsunami like "The Dark Knight," but so far most of America's much-maligned film critics have embraced the Christopher Nolan-directed film, which is due to set all sorts of obscure box-office records this weekend. (Is there, for example, a record for biggest July opening during a presidential campaign year?) But there's always a skunk at every wedding. When it comes to "Dark Knight" fans, the skunk is New York magazine critic David Edelstein, who had the temerity to slag off the new Batman film, calling it "noisy, jumbled and sadistic."

And that was just the beginning: Edelstein hooted at the action scenes ("spectacularly incoherent"), the director ("Nolan appears to have no clue how to stage or shoot action") and the movie in general ("it's all fits and starts, fitfully suspenseful, fitfully scary... with jolts of brutality to keep you revved up"). "Dark Knight" loyalists did not take this lying down. Edelstein has been bombarded with so much e-mail abuse since his review posted that he felt obligated to respond to the vitriol. (The New Yorker's David Denby didn't like the movie much either, but he's somehow escaped being tarred and feathered by the angry mob, perhaps because everyone was more enraged by the Obama cartoon on the cover of this week's magazine.)

I'm not going to get in the middle of this maelstrom, since sadly, I'm such a cultural slacker that I haven't seen the movie yet. But I feel a pang of sympathy for Edelstein, who notes that the Batman fanboys seem to want to have it both ways--calling him a snob for taking the movie seriously, then mocking his pretentiousness for offering more than a "Wow!" as a critical response. The ranting and name-calling all takes us back to the primal question of today's moviegoing age: Do critics still matter?

You should read Edelstein's entire response, but here, in a nutshell, is his argument, which is worth pondering:

"There has been a lot of chatter in the last few years that criticism is a dying profession, having been supplanted by the democratic voices of the Web. Not to get all Lee Siegel on you, but the Internet has a mob mentality that can overwhelm serious criticism. There is superb writing in blogs and discussion groups ... but there are also thousands of semi-literate tirades that actually reinforce the Hollywood status quo, that say: 'If you do not like "The Dark Knight,'" you should be fired because you do not speak for the people.' Well, the people don't need to be spoken for. And a critic's job is not only to steer you to movies you might not have heard of or that died at the box-office. It's also to bring a different, much-needed perspective on blockbusters like 'The Dark Knight.' " 

Photo of Christian Bale as Batman in "The Dark Knight" from Warner Bros.

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Dark Knight is the movie of the year so far and will be hard to beat. Never have I've seen an actor capture his pre-ordained character personality than Heath Ledger portraying the Joker. Those critics who bashed Ledgers performance and Nolan's directing choice with the Joker obviously are not fans or missed the true aura of the Dark Knight comics.

1 critic said it was nuisance to consider the Joker's ability to plant a bomb in a hospital for the 60 minutes he gave Gotham City. Those who are familiar with the Joker's true self and not the washed down version of the 90s knows that the Joker is a schemer though he denies it. He makes grand scale schemes for no apparent reason except chaos. It wouldn't be surprising for the Joker to have already planted bombs in Gotham City for his disposal at any given time.

Anyhow, Heath captured the Joker perfectly. From his brutality, to his unpredictability in his speech and actions, and even more than the rest his ability to capture Joker's struggle between keeping himself serious and loony. Countless times in the movie does Ledger transforms the high-octave voice of Joker in a deeper version of itself that to listen to Joker talking is chilling itself without even considering what he was saying.

There's not much to say about the movie without giving up too many spoilers so go check it out. This is by far the greatest superhero movie I have ever seen, Jack Nicholson has truly lost his throne as the Joker. Ledger will definitely win an Oscar.

I can't speak for all the "fanboys" out there. All I know is, I saw it, I really liked it, and I cannot find anything tangible in the film to support the critic's claims and negative reviews. The only assertion I can make is that this reviewer either has a hidden agenda or is extremely prejudiced against some aspect of the film. My gut feeling tells me that this reviewer had the intention of writing a bad review before the film was even released. Therefore, I can no longer trust the validity of the critic and his reviews, and will no longer subscribe to the New Yorker. He has a complete right to his opinion, I just have zero trust and confidence in it.

As for Ledger being on drugs, well, that's just silly. He died without a single illegal drug in his body, possession or home. That hardly makes him a druggie. Moreover, Julie Andrews was admittedly drunk off of peach schnapps during Sound of Music. Does that lessen her performance?

I'm sitting here laughing at this by "mini-me" above: "Particularly pretentious and selfish movie critics will occasionally grandstand with deliberately contrarian views, hoping they'll stick out and someone will notice." Mini is right, What universe do you live in, pal? I've been reading criticism closely for years and I can't think of anyone--even Armond White--who offers deliberately contrarian views to stick out. Most critics strive to be cheerleaders and be quoted in newspaper ads. I have no idea if if the critics who hated Batman are right or wrong, but the only pretentious boobs I see here are the ones attacking people in very personal (and idiotic) terms for not embracing the Standard Line that the Dark Knight is a masterpiece.

Alright, maybe everyone in this whole arugement is taking this too seriously. There's a mob over a critic who shouldn't have even been taken seriously in the first place. And now it's become a huge ordeal. Can't people just relax and give 2 positives and one negative about the movie, because everyone is only acting like a bunch of immature kids.

Yes, I ALWAYS see the first showing of interesting movie releases. Yes, Heath's performance was probably drug enhanced. Yes, Christian Bale is a far better actor than the script and numerous stiff-fisted fights indicate. The most eerie thing about this film is Heath Leger's performance. Like Jack Nicholson's Joker he was weird, cynical and maniacal. Parallel to Mr. Ledger's senseless passing is the senseless need to show brutality. Let's see some REAL writing. We all know that evil exists. Why promote it? Remember the quote - All that is needed for evil to reign is for good men to do nothing. Let Batman become a good guy. A decent guy with a mean set of "toys" to fight evil. I tire of this endless tirade of black thoughts.

This Edelstein guy is just such a pretentious snob. He's not just a pretentious critic. He's a selfish, narcissistic guy in general.

Just look at his latest email response.

You'd expect that his response to the hate-mail that he's been getting would be entirely about addressing the freedom that a person has to express an opinion that goes against the masses.

But instead of that, he talks about how what he's doing makes him better than us. He thinks that he's like a savior of non-mainstream movies. He's basically saying that he's better than everyone cause he knows more movies.

And, he's basically saying that all those other 170+ PROFESSIONAL and TOP movie critics are WRONG in their opinion that The Dark Knight was a masterpiece.

He's trying to cover up the fact that the only reason he's doing this is to get attention, or to get quoted in some intellectual movie analysis. He knows that if he agrees with other critics, then his voice will get drowned out in the masses of critics who gave TDK positive reviews, and no one will notice him.

I believe everyone has a right to an opinion. But quite frankly, yours does not matter Mr Edelstein. And neither do the opinions of those other dissenting critics. Like Edelstein, they just simply want to stand out.

What a jerk. Get a life.

I haven't seen batman but I agree with Edelstein about the 'mob mentality that can overwhelm serious criticism'. Most reviews by the MOB are preaching to the choir and I'm getting sick of it. How many times can you read 'The BEST' or 'I LOVE THIS'??? I salute Mr.Edelstein for his chutzpah.

it's perfectly fine for a critic to not like a movie on a personal level. however, if he's squeamish about violence, perhaps he should watch something else and not this movie. this movie is based on a COMIC BOOK. the character of the joker has no empathy and he's a psychopath, what does the critic expect him to do, be nicer to people? not kill anyone? i saw the movie yesterday, it's amazing. it's very brutal, but done well. heath ledger is beyond incredible. you do not think you are watching an actor "act" for one second during this movie. you believe that heath IS the joker. that's the mark of someone who is great at their craft.

for all the holier than thou people who keep posting in here about heath being a druggie, etc. - whatever personal problems he did or didn't have (and we don't really know do we? it's all hearsay. other than that he had trouble sleeping and had a prescription for sleeping pills, of which he very unfortunatly took too many on the nite of his death), if there actually was an addiction problem, it certainly didn't affect his performance in this film. it was masterful. if you're only going to praise artists who are perfect little alcohol and drug free angels, well, that narrows the list down quite a bit doesn't it? one flew over the cukoo's nest - no good. apocolypse now - no good. easy rider - no good. any movie with marlon brando, richard burton or dennis hopper in it - no good. i could go on, but i think you get the point.

There were a couple of people who mentioned in their posts, that they wondered if Heath L. was actually on drugs during his performance in Batman. The answer most likely, is yes. The hillbilly heroin that he was eating like candy, is not an easy thing to look at in the morning, and then walk away from. Nearly ALL of the drugs found in his system, are highly addictive, which is one of the reasons why he's dead.

Having intelligent conversations between takes, does not a sober person make. If anything, it is more likely that the *intelligent* conversations were helped along by his various medicines. All you gotta do is walk into a room full of hippies, and you'll see what I mean.

I thought the movie was good, over-hyped for sure, it's certainly not the 2nd coming, but I don't think it deserves the hate David Edelstein attached to it. His personal viewpoints are taking the front seat when they should be sitting in the trunk while he does his job.


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