July 18, 2008

Will The Dark Knight Suffer From Sequel-itis?

On the way out of Hellboy II last night, a line of college kids had queued up for the midnight screening of The Dark Knight. One kid had a vintage 1989 Batman t-shirt on, and another needy teenager was wearing Joker makeup + hair, very similar to the Heath Ledger makeup from the trailer. That's a pretty bold move, isn't it? You have to be pretty confident in a sequel to dress up in honor of a performance you haven't seen yet! What if the movie sucks? I have a feeling that this kid's aesthetic sensibility isn't refined enough to care.
I have been looking forward to a new Joker since the last scene of Batman Begins in 2005, when Lt. Gordon shows Batman the iconic playing card. However, the trailers, early reviews, and word of mouth have me worried about this sequel. I am posting this in order to go on the record in advance with my concerns about this sequel, and to chastise myself for learning nothing about sequels from all my experiences in the past.
During casting, shooting, and promotion, most of the news has been good: All the principals were returning for the sequel, except the one actor I was happy to see missing: Katie Holmes was too busy raising Tom Cruise's alien child; Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced her.
However, there are some signs that the new movie will suffer from Sequel-itis.
The Symptoms Of Sequel-itis
  • Characters from the last movie return for no good reason&nbsp• We'll see if it's worth it bringing back Rachel Dawes as Bruce Wayne's love interest. The some more egregious unnecessary encores include Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters 2 and Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 3.
  • The protagonist gets less screen time than the antagonist&nbsp• This problem got worse and worse in the Batman sequels of the 1990s. It's almost as if we learned everything interesting about Batman in the first movie, so there's no new character development in the sequels. Therefore, the development of the villains takes center stage, and the ostensible hero of the movie becomes secondary. In a non-superhero context, John Lennon once complained that he felt like a supporting player in the full-color Beatles sequel Help! in favor of wacky, Indian hijinks.
  • The superhero gets new gadgets or vehicles&nbsp• Do we really need to give Batman a Bat-cycle?
  • Too many opponents&nbsp• Batman Begins somehow managed to include three bad guys and make it all work: Ras Al Gul, The Scarecrow, and the mob guy Falcone. Only because this first movie pulled this off so successfully am I not too concerned about this issue in the sequel-- besides The Joker, Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face at some point, which seems like overkill? Isn't the Joker enough character for one movie?
Will The Dark Knight suffer from sequel-itis? Click here to find out!

Stub Hubby & Batman