Double Faced issues…

25 09 2010

When The Dark Knight was released, some two years ago now, I had a problem with it after my first viewing.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a good film, and is now one of the more watched DVD’s in my admittedly small collection. However, I still have a problem with it. Not so much the entire film as the last quarter of an hour or so tagged onto the end. I blogged briefly about this back at the end of 2008. It was a small gripe, but one which, for me, spoils the film.

Two-face is a complex and under-appreciated Batman villain. He is one of the more complex Batman villains conflicted by various factors to the point where making a simple judgement is left up to fate. He was deserving of a film to himself. And yet they tagged his story onto the end of the fabulous Joker one.

Of course, past experience probably counted for a lot, and Tommy Lee Jones’ turn as the epitome of a split persona in Batman Forever perhaps convinced the writers of the ‘new’ Batman movies that Two-face was not a character who warranted development. They were wrong. The origins of Two-face in The Dark Knight are to be applauded. We are given a monster who is driven by absolute anguish to avenge the death of the woman he loved. This character not only looks the part, his story is one which tells of a fall from grace into the world he tried to destroy. All for the love of a woman who didn’t love him. The potential for Two-face was huge. And yet the writers killed him in a story which seemed to be tagged onto the end of The Dark Knight, ruining, for me, what was, otherwise a great movie.

My preference for the story of Two-face would have seen him developed in the next movie. A man blinded by rage but restricted by chance is one which I would have looked forward to receiving. The more interesting point is that Two-face, unlike the Joker, and other villains, is not motivated by unveiling Batman. If we run with the story begun in The Dark Knight, Two-face is motivated by revenge, he doesn’t want to see Batman unmasked, he actually wants him dead. A plot based around this, supported by another villain (although I would be reluctant to pair it with the rumoured appearance of the Riddler again as it would draw unnecessary comparisons with the aforementioned Batman Forever).

The long and short of it is that there was something of a contrived ending which wound up explaining to the audience why the movie was called The Dark Knight. This was, I thought, pretty self explanatory from the movie, without the ending spelling it out for me (“Why’s he running dad?”…). We didn’t need the piece with Two-face and his ultimate demise. It was, I felt, something of a cop-out, and spoiled the end of the film for me.

I am, however, still looking forward to the next movie, which if Christopher Nolan is to be believed, is to be the last under his stewardship. This is a pity, and I hope they do not spend the entire movie being preachy about right and wrong, good and evil etc etc etc. The pity is that Two-face will not be a part of the ending.

Original Sin…

12 09 2010

I feel I should mourn. It is, after all, the end of an era. A moments silence would suffice.

Despite this, I am not in the mood for misery. I am, instead, celebrating. It is, after all, the end of an era.

In case you missed it, Big Brother finished on Friday. The ten-year televisual travesty has finally come to an end, thus freeing up hours of programming time for something, nay, anything else. I don’t know how long it took for my hatred of this programme to develop, I do remember being slightly interested when the first series launched as a social experiment.  I remember being less interested the second time round. By series four I was lost, I had no interest in the increasingly freakish bunch who had been thrown into a confined space in the name of entertainment.

It was not just Big Brother though. It was what it did to television and, by extension, society. It became representative of an increasingly dumbed-down society, one which immersed itself in the culture of celebrity, embraced the world of It-girls, talent shows, z-list stars, cheap magazines filled with gossip columns written by people with little talent for researching and writing any other form of story. Big Brother, in my mind, epitomised everything that was wrong with British society.

There’s more than that though. It effectively spawned reality television as a genre. It paved the way for Pop Idol, X Factor, I’m a Celebrity…, Strictly Come Dancing, Hole in the Wall et al. It suddenly gave television producers a way out. They didn’t need to think about their programmes, or their programming. They could suddenly block out entire hours of television with no-brainer programmes. They didn’t need to pour money into intellectual programmes, into new dramas, into home-grown talents. The schedules became clogged up with ‘reality’-this, or ‘celebrity’-that. Alongside this, of course, Big Brother rolled on. If it wasn’t on in the summer, it was in the winter with a celebrity version.

It ‘launched’ the careers of nobodies, it gave people about whom we would otherwise not care, exposure beyond their wildest dreams, and their wildest abilities. There is no reason why we should care about what eccentricities people come up with whilst stuck in a house. Yet people did care, and kept tuning in. Why? What was so enthralling about odd people in an entirely odd situation acting odd? I still don’t know. In my mind, it’s the same as watching a bunch of prisoners in jail, and I have no compunction to do that.

In a similar way, why should I then want to read about these people once they have stopped fouling up my television set? The amount of tabloid inches, webpage columns, and radio interviews which occurred with the departed cretin was quite frankly ridiculous. People shouldn’t care about what a nobody thrust into the public concious think about their time stuck with other nobodies. Yet they did. And I’m still struggling to explain it.

Of course, what we are now left with is hope. Now that the original sin has gone there is hope that some others may follow suit. We can but hope that the likes of X-Factor, Come Dine With Me, Strictly et al will go the way of the Brother. We can but hope.


5 09 2010

I don’t know how old I was when I stopped believing in a god. I’m not even sure it was any form of concious decision on my part not to believe, more of a sub-concious overtaking founded by an almost innate desire for rationality. Try as I might, I cannot marry together the two notions of science and religion, I just can’t. At this point, it is perhaps best to admit that I really don’t know what I’m going to write. The debate, fuelled spectacularly by Stephen Hawking’s apparent rejection of the notion of a god, is one to which there is obviously no right or wrong answer. There cannot ever be. No-one will successfully prove or disprove the existence of a deity, thus for a large part the argument is trivial to the extreme.

I just don’t believe. I have nothing against people who do, but I simply don’t. I do have various views on some elements of religion however, such as the long-held belief that religion causes more problems than it solves (the Middle east is the classic example of age-old religious problems, but throughout history nearly every conflict has been, to some extent or other fuelled by religious intolerance). I also cannot shake the nagging thought that religion was initially conceived as a tool of the rich to control the poor (again, for me the Bible is prime evidence of this, written as it was by educated people for rich people). If we couple these thoughts with the notion that somewhere beyond time and space there is a deity sitting/standing/lying/existing somewhere then it becomes clearer to me why I do not believe in a god.

There is a more fundamental problem too. What does this ‘god’ look like? Most stereotypical images have an elderly man in a white robe with white beard. Yet it is a typically human trait to imagine things in our form. Take the idea of aliens for example, practically all film/television aliens have easily identifiable human features, eyes, mouth, legs or arms. They are there to provide familiarity to the viewer. The same applies to a ‘god’. God created us in his own image is the line that is spewed forth by religious folk, but this seems somewhat egocentric to me. Why must this all powerful deity have a face, or a body at all? It may be something completely unrecognisable to us humans. Something beyond our limited imaginations.

There are a number of other practicalities which do not add up in my mind. Why must the god in question have a book to pass on his word? I feel that this ‘god’ cannot have it both ways, it cannot sit back and watch our world objectively, far removed from any input; whilst simultaneously expecting us to surrender our lives to it based upon the ‘teachings’ written in a book of whichever god we are going to choose to believe in. If there is to be objectivity, do not have a book with your lore in it, there cannot be removal from the subject if there remains interference.

Which moves me back to the problem with the book. Any religious text had a starting point. Of course it did. Most were written by people who were literate, born out of stories designed to inspire fear, and generate control. As with any story, the drama of it made the tale worth telling. All the stories had a moral. All had a point to make. And most finish with some version of the apocalypse raining down upon us. Of course this was another storytelling feature, there had to be a consequence to the tales, something to keep the people in line. Some form of warning about the dire outcomes of not heeding the teachings of the book. Of course, scientifically, this is not far wrong. We all know that eventually our sun will explode, swallowing the Earth and destroying whatever, if any, forms of life that may be left. Truly apocalyptic, and yet known fact too.

Which moves me neatly onto the problem of science. I am no scientist, I do not appreciate the intricacies of physics or biology or chemistry. I do, however, appreciate that they are there. I appreciate that there are fundamental rules which dictate to us how the world works, and why it continues to do so. There is a rationality to science which appeals to me. Cold, hard logic dictates to me that there cannot be any god. It is the oft-quoted Sherlock Holmes which sums up the world best, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. This is how science seems to work in my mind. Scientific fact continues to press home my own understanding of the world. Science, which can do so many things, cannot do the one thing it really needs to however. It needs to disprove a god. As demonstrated this week, that cannot be done.