With The Dark Knight matching America’s dark mood, shattering box office records, the superhero movie vogue is bigger than ever. Next year’s Watchmen will test the limits.
** WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN? If Hollywood has its way next year, a great many of you.
The phrase is from the classic Latin question with regard to a self-governing society: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Which begins to get at the philosophical implications, if not pretentions, of Watchmen, slated to be an even edgier superhero movie in March 2009.
Which also begins to get at the question of what on Earth is this strange trailer atop the NWN Weekend Edition, which plays in theaters before The Dark Knight.
The Dark Knight has continued and expanded upon the recent vogue of superhero movies. This weekend, this dark and edgy new iteration of the Batman saga smashed yet another set of domestic box office records. In only 10 days of release, it has taken in over $314 million. It’s now likely to be the first movie to challenge Titanic‘s $600 million domestic box office take in the late ’90s. (I don’t think it will catch it. It’s not a date movie, and it’s more disturbing than uplifting.)
But it has just blown past the fourth Indiana Jones picture, at least in the domestic numbers, in only its second weekend of release. And Indy 4 was set to be the biggest movie of the year prior to The Dark Knight.
For all its darkness and edginess, Dark Knight may not be as dark and edgy as Watchmen. That’s based on a mid-’80s comic book series turned into a graphic novel — written by Alan Moore (who also wrote V for Vendetta, From Hell, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and illustrated by Dave Gibbons — which is the only work in its genre to win a Hugo Award for science fiction and to be named to Time Magazine’s list of the best novels of the 20th century.
Not to give too much of the plot away, but it posits an alternate history America in 1985. Richard Nixon is in his fifth term as president. Re-elected after America’s victory in the Vietnam War — and the timely murder of two young reporters named Woodward and Bernstein, probably by someone who calls himself The Comedian — his administration works with and then mostly outlaws a rather motley crew of “superheroes,” or masked vigilantes, or costumed adventurers. Who, though mostly retired, are suddenly being killed off. Only one of whom actually has superpowers.
That would be a brilliant scientist dematerialized in an accidental nuclear experiment who later rematerializes as something called Dr. Manhattan. (After the Manhattan Project.) Who wins the Vietnam War pretty much singlehandedly and gives the US the upper hand in its nuclear stand-off with the Soviet Union. The good doctor, now in blue superbeing form, was to have been played by some guy named Arnold Schwarzenegger when the book was first to have been made into a movie. But director after director found the material unfilmable. Finally Zack Snyder, who made last year’s neoconservative favorite 300, about the Spartans fighting the Persians, stepped up.
Incidentally, speaking of the right, some are now claiming Batman is equivalent to President Bush. Not kidding about that one, folks. I’m prepping a piece on The Dark Knight and its underlying politics. And while it’s hardly a liberal movie, though it makes clear that escalation brings its own unforeseen and frequently adverse consequences, it’s certainly not a conservative movie, either.
** SUNDAY SHOWS. Barack Obama appeared on Meet The Press, taped previously in London, and John McCain appeared on ABC’s This Week. Obam acquitted himself well. He was not asked about the end of the week controversy over his cancelling out of going to the Landstuhl military hospital. He was asked about his opposition to the surge, which the media has decided is a success. (I think it’s a success, too, as expected, but not the only factor in the current improvement in Iraq.) Obama pointed out that there are multiple factors in Iraq’s improvement, and the key questions are whether or not the invasion was warranted and whether we should be moving to withdraw.
For his part, McCain attacked Obama for not appearing at the military hospital. (I’ll get into the details tomorrow. It’s not a clearcut situation either way.) He denied questioning Obama’s patriotism when he said that Obama “would rather lose a war than lose a campaign.” He insisted that the decision to invade Iraq was correct and that Saddam was preparing weapons of mass destruction. He walked back from his seeming embrace of a 16-month timetable for Iraq withdrawal late on Friday. And he said that payroll tax increases may be necessary to preserve Social Security.
** MCCAIN’S THIRD STRAIGHT TV ATTACK AD. John McCain’s campaign rolled out its third straight TV attack ad late Saturday. It goes after Barack Obama for supposedly not supporting the troops. I’ll get into a full analysis of it for Monday, here and elsewhere. Campaigns, as you know, get into steady attack mode when they have some problems, and after last week, McCain has some more problems.
** SUNDAY — WHERE THEY ARE TODAY.
Barack Obama is in Chicago. He addresses the Unity conference of ethnic journalists.
John McCain is in Sedona, Arizona.
Both men appear on Sunday talk shows. Obama has the entire hour on Meet The Press, taped in London with Tom Brokaw. McCain is on ABC’s This Week.
** SATURDAY — WHERE THEY ARE TODAY.
Barack Obama is in London and Chicago. He’s already met with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the special Mideast envoy, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Conservative Party Leader David Cameron. I’ll have video on Monday.
John McCain is in Sedona, Arizona, holding a barbeque for top backers and advisors.
** SIX REASONS MCCAIN’S LUCKY HE DIDN’T MAKE IT ON THAT OIL RIG. From my other blog.
** JOHN MCCAIN’S WEEKLY RADIO ADDRESS. Click here to listen.
Good morning. I’m John McCain, and this week the presidential contest was a long-distance affair, with my opponent touring various continents and arriving yesterday in Paris. With all the breathless coverage from abroad, and with Senator Obama now addressing his speeches to “the people of the world,” I’m starting to feel a little left out. Maybe you are too.
Back here in the country that we are competing to lead, a lot of folks were having trouble trying to square Senator Obama’s multiple positions on the surge in Iraq. First, he opposed the surge and confidently predicted that it would fail. Then he tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge. But now that it’s clear that the surge has succeeded, and brought victory in Iraq within sight, Senator Obama can’t quite bring himself to admit his own failure in judgment. Instead, he commits the even greater error of insisting that even in hindsight, he would still oppose the surge. Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory. That’s not exactly my idea of the judgment we seek in a commander-in-chief.
Oddly enough, my opponent advocates the deployment of two new combat brigades to Afghanistan — in other words, a surge. We’re left to wonder how he can deny that the surge in Iraq has succeeded, while at the same time announcing that a surge is just what we need in Afghanistan. I’ll leave all these questions for my opponent and his team of 300 foreign policy advisors to work out for themselves. With luck, they’ll get their story straight by the time the Obama campaign returns to North America. …
** MCCAIN TRIES TO COUNTER-PROGRAM A WAVE. You know, Obama’s new flood of foreign policy cred. Resulting in a somewhat confusing, rather sulky, kitchen sink approach. With full analysis of the two new anti-Obama attack ads, first of the general election. One is arguable. The other is preposterous. From my other blog.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the new Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti.
While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, which I know as a former DemRussia advisor, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND U.S. ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. After crashing over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, crude oil closed down on Friday at $123.26 per barrel. The drop of over $24 per barrel came amidst multiple signs that the weak US economy will cut future demand and fresh signs of a rapprochement between the US and Iran.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.