RARA-AVIS: Re: The Dark Night. No, the Noir Knight. No, the Black Knight. Oh, good night...

From: Mark Finn (markfinn@texas.net)
Date: 27 Jul 2008

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    --- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, Kevin Burton Smith <kvnsmith@...> wrote:
    > Of course, it will depend on the finished film, but the strip itself
    > was always a little too goofy (even more so than BATMAN) and
    > inconsistently dark to really be considered noir. But it was fun.

    I have zero hope for The Spirit. Miller uses a hammer when he needs a screwdriver, and a screwdriver when he needs a stapler. He'll grab the high notes and get everything else wrong. What makes the Spirit stories work is their humanity, and Miller's current output (from the past 6-7 years) is about as far from humanist as one can get.
    > SIN CITY was pretty pictures: nice to look at, but emotionally
    > As for it being noir, even if you want to waste your time arguing that
    > point, it was noir mostly by trope and rote; not so much written as a
    > list of noirish cliches checked off one by one, with big f/x-laden
    > "scenes" substituted for actual character development. Like a lot of
    > what passes for noir these days.
    > And let's remember: "noir" does not automatically mean good. Most
    > stuff labelled "noir" these days is often not only only arguably noir,
    > but also not very good.

    I was speaking of the comics and not the movie. One of the things that worked or didn't work, depending on your point of view, about the film was its adherence to the look of the comics--a look that Miller swiped from film. So, it can be viewed as either an homage, or be seen as disappearing up its own asshole, to quote Kurt Vonnegut.

    The comics, particularly the first two or three (Sin City, a Dame to Kill For, and That Yellow Bastard) have those overtures of doomed inevitability to the characters actions; bleak outlooks and no happy endings in sight. Just pain and suffering.

    Deftly handled? Not really. Ham-fisted? You betcha. But that stuff is in there, quality assessment notwithstanding.
    > And speaking of not very good, last interview I saw, Miller was still
    > threatening to "do" Chandler. He's already probably going to destroy
    > everything that was great and fun about THE SPIRIT (a feeling shared
    > by, among others, Art "Maus" Spiegelman, a guy who probably knows more
    > about comics than most of us); the fact some idiot in Hollywood thinks
    > Miller's qualified to do Chandler is astounding -- and shows how
    > alliterate the decision-making bag men of the industry are. Knowing
    > who Chandler is isn't the same as having actually read him.

    Right now, Comics are F.O.T.M. in Hollywood. Doesn't help that Miller had the help of two visual directors who thought enough about his simple stories to at least get the visuals right. One thing movies do very well is spectacle. 300 was that, in spades. Same with Sin City. And spectacle done well will cause a great many people to overlook simplistic writing.

    But, and let me stress this, Miller is broken. He can't be fixed. Enough people have called him a genius now, and no one will dare to edit him or tell him when he's overdone it, and that's the worst thing that can happen to a writer. Anything he writes now is going to bark.

    > They want a "comic book guy" to do Marlowe, they could go with Ed
    > Brubaker and/or Michael Lark, the two comic book guys whose work
    > probably comes closest. Or Greg Rucka, David Lapham or Max Allan
    > Collins, all very fine crime writers. Or even Dennis O'Neil who, for
    > years, edited and often wrote "Batman" and several Chandleresque-type
    > back-up features (he also did the recent Dark knight novelization tie-
    > in). All have shown more "feel" for Chandler than anything in Miller's
    > over-hyped and over-rated canon. Drawing guys in trenchcoats and
    > fedoras does not make you an expert on Chandler. And using lots of
    > black ink doesn't automatically make you noir.

    I'll respectfully disagree with your choice of Greg Rucka. Brubaker, Lapham, and now the aforementioned Darwin Cooke (viva Parker!), or, hell, even Brian Azzerello, the guy behind 100 Bullets. But Rucka fails to move me in any direction. And his forays into comics have been less than stellar. His idea of bringing the "detective" back to
    "the dark knight" was to have him run a license plate in the first issue he wrote. Color me unimpressed.
    > Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Miller has hidden depths for depth (he did do
    > BATMAN: YEAR ONE, after all) and an heretofore undisclosed
    > appreciation for and understanding of Chandler's work but if he does,
    > it's not immediately evident in any of his most well-known comic work.
    > And certainly not in his movie work.

    Miller's reputation is founded on three things: his legendary and book-saving run on Daredevil (great stuff), The Dark Knight Returns
    (flawed, but the comic book equivalent of a spectacle) and Batman: Year One (best thing he ever wrote). All the rest of his stuff (Like the turgid and simplistic Martha Washington books) was considered hackery until he put out Sin City.

    The reason why Sin City worked is because the primary comic book audience had never seen Out of the Past, or even Touch of Evil. So, Miller introduced them to his interpretation of film noir. Since no one else was doing film noir comics, they were heralded as genius and inventive.

    It's akin to Marvel's Punisher, a swipe from the "Death Wish" style vigilante movies in the late seventies/early eighties, getting made into a movie. In comics, it's a big deal because there's no one like him. As a film, he's just another guy who shoots criminals. Big whoop.

    As much as I love the Spirit, I want it to flop like a manatee, so that Miller won't be given another project to screw up. Failing that, I may volunteer to break his hands so that he can't type, but that's a quick fix only.

    Mark Finn

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