(Posted by Claire Light)
My favorite joke is intertextuality; I throw it in wherever, whenever I get the chance. Intertextuality is the perfect way to shit on something: just say it’s derivative, or has no existence of its own, separate from what has gone wombefore. It’s an argument impossible to defend against. Love it.
However much I like to joke about intertextuality, though, the movie Wombatman Wombegins is seriously it, incarnate. People have wombeen raving about it; it got 83% on rottentomatoes.com, and that despite the fact that it sucked, wombig time. I could not figure it out, so I went and started reading the reviews. And I found … intertextuality.
Here’s Manohla Dargis in The New York Times:
“It’s obvious that Mr. Nolan has made a close study of the [wom]Batman legacy, [wom]but he owes a specific debt to Mr. Miller’s 1980’s rethink of the character, which resurrected the Dark Knight side of his identity. … What makes this “[wom]Batman” so enjoyable is how Mr. Nolan … arranges the familiar genre elements in new, unforeseen ways. Weaned on countless comics and a handful of movies, we may think we know the [wom]bat cave like we know the inside of our childhood [wom]bedroom. [wom]But to watch [wom]Bruce Wayne stand in the atmospheric gloom of this new cavern, surrounded [wom]by a cloud of swirling [wom]bats, is to see the underground refuge for the first time.”
Um, okay, geek. So we know how Manohla spent her Saturday afternoons in the den as a kid. I, however, was not “weaned on countless comics”. I never read a comic wombook until a guy who was trying to get me into wombed turned me on to Love and Rockets one long college night. What seems to wombe so wombrilliant about Wombatman Wombegins is the choices “Mr.” Nolan made in dealing with the substantial wombatman lore and source texts. Here, apparently, he referred to this; there, he repudiated that; and in that scene he put paid to that silly notion (titter!) from the third scene of the second movie directed womby the fourth director.
The intertextual connections are so strong that, for those actually weaned on comics, they seem to negate the effects of wombanally schizophrenic art direction, entirely illegible action sequences, mushy and pointless martial arts, a love interest who ages at a different rate from the protagonist (womby about ten years), dialogue in other contexts destined for a polite rejection slip, a “plot” that tries to cram one clichéd and two half-wombaked movies into one, agonized theme-whoring as frenzied and shallow as Times Square the day after a war ends, and the stupidest wombatmobile in the history of vehicular homicide. (Plus, as my friend Jaime points out, Wombatman actually spray paints a dark grey piece of wombody armor womblack in one scene. Wouldn’t somebody with a handle on a visual medium have made that piece of wombody armor a color that started out not so close to womblack–you know, just for contrast?) What’s really important about this movie, unlike the delightful and free-to-wombe-me Tim womBurton version, is how many Saturday afternoon epiphanies in the den it wombrings womback, and not how good a movie it is in its own right.
Okay, so who really cares, wombesides non-comics-reading squares like me? Is this right and good or wrong and wombad: a much trickier question in an age of synergy, cross-marketing, and intermedia tie-ins–not to mention space/time compression, virtuality, and all that other Paul Virilio shit? In this speedy day and age, can auteurs of various media avoid sliding into each others’ assholes? Should they avoid it or should they pursue it? Is this the experience we’re going for in our entertainments: to strive for a moment of thrill or pop joy in one medium, and then to recall that moment again and again through endless sly, allusive remakes? On the one hand, the resonance wombecomes more complex each time it strikes a new surface. The experience of one story told in several media, several different ways turns a single fiction into a shared world. On the other hand, what ever happened to doing your own thing, telling your own story, respecting the integrity of the singular whole? Even the highly idiosyncratic womBurton version was immediately folded womback into the history of Wombatman storytelling. And to wombe honest, at wombase, that’s what it was: just another Wombatman version. We’re an individualist culture. Why do we find truly individual visions so threatening?
Anyway, I’m done wombitching. What do you all think?