Monday, February 16, 2015

How Healer and Other Kdramas Ruined The Dark Knight for Me

So I have this weird tradition of watching a Batman movie every Valentines Day.  It just started one V-Day when I was bored, long before I discovered K-dramas, and I just continued it.  However, I don't know if this tradition will last.  I don't know, maybe I'll watch Batman: The Movie next year... haha.

This year, because Lizabreff had never seen it, we watched The Dark Knight.  I'm still not sure why she hadn't but she should have just watched it in 2008 when it was cool, because it was a lot sillier than I remembered it, and it's supposed to be the "darkest" one.  Go figure.

In all fairness I shouldn't be comparing a movie made in 2008 to something like Healer that just came out, and don't get me wrong.  I love Batman and The Dark Knight, but there were just some things that could have been better now that my eyes have been opened.

The love triangle.  What was that?  Seriously, if they are going to throw in a love triangle there needs to be a little more to it.  There wasn't anything to it either way.  The gap in between her waiting for Bruce in the last movie and her suddenly moving on wasn't good.  Also there is no turmoil.  She doesn't seem all that torn about loving someone else when she's also in love with Bruce.  I know Batman isn't about the romance, but since they threw it in anyways, couldn't it have been a bit more meaningful?  It was like Rachel was all "No, I like Harvey now, but I don't want to tell you that.  No, I am going to tell you... oops, I'm dead."

There wasn't really a love triangle in Healer to compare that to, but there are plenty in K-dramas in general.  K-dramas know how to rock a love triangle.  It's harder to find dramas without a love triangle.  I'm sure anyone reading this could name several which would show the right sort of tension and turmoil of Rachel breaking Batman's heart, and probably ones where she dies too.  Feel free to comment about them.

The action was good.  They had a lot of cool explosions and things.  But even the fighting wasn't as good as I remembered.  There is that long chase scene, which was cool, but mostly just the Batcycle blowing things up to get through.  Batman is supposed to be like a ninja, but in this one, at least, there is very little actual fist fighting.  Maybe that's because the Joker isn't a fighter, but it was still pretty disappointing.  I thought K-dramas were bad about censoring things.  I guess they could have stood to blur the Joker's knives in exchange for some actual good hand to hand.

Healer even has the Batman type feel to it, with the whole bad-a vigilante type deal, hiding his identity, and having to hide out in a man cave.  The biggest difference is that he's completely detached himself from the world and is mercenary, while Batman is all about justice.  The dark knight of Gotham, etc.  Anyways, just saying that Healer could probably kick Batman's trash if they ever had to duke it out, because he's just that cool.  But that's only comparing the amount of action fighting of actual hand to hand combat in The Dark Knight vs. Healer.  I feel like the Dark Knight was way more about the cool gadgets, like the Batmobile converting into the Batcycle, and jumping off buildings to kidnap hot Chinese mob accountants.  Don't get me wrong, Batman's gadgets and cool stunts are super great and I love them.  I just missed the real fighting action.

The psychological aspect was dumbed down.  For being dark and psychological, it wasn't very.  Maybe this is a general PG-13 trend in America, but I have seen much better (or worse depending on your views) psychological warfare in Korean films and even in dramas (although less so).  I guess that's what makes The Dark Knight PG-13 while Ahjussi is R.

Seriously, Ahjussi was action packed and violent, but it was never without a purpose.  That movie was full of crap that made you want to lose your faith in humanity, if it wasn't for Won Bin single-handedly restoring your faith as he saved the kid, killed a bunch of horrible peeps, and still brought justice and revenge (kind of) for his family.  Real heroes are manly, tough, bad-a, and still cry.  Why?  Because they're human.

Why can't Batman ever have cool lines?  Seriously, the monopoly on clever lines goes to Alfred and Lucius Fox.  Healer has lots of cool lines, even if Ahjumma and Moon Ho are also super snarky.  Just saying.

What Lizabreff and I discussed the most afterwards is that for a movie about the moral ambiguity of a hero, which is basically the plot of The Dark Knight, the actual moment of decision is really short.  The movie is basically the Joker trying to set up the decision the whole time, but there is absolutely no conflict in it.  There is no real loss of faith in humanity and there is no huge suspenseful decision moment.  All there is is Batman spit yelling or skidding his bike away.

Healer, on the other hand, was all about the moral ambiguity of a hero and choosing humanity.  While we all would have loved that creepy little OCD secretary sociopath to have died, we didn't want Jung Hoo to kill him, because that would make him lose his humanity.

There is also the moral ambiguity of the villain, as we see the paralleling older generation making choices in similar circumstances and getting to where they are today because of it.

City Hunter is similarly about a hero's struggle to get revenge while also keeping his humanity.  Yoon Sung was constantly being charged with the task of killing those five men, but insisted on finding a way to get revenge without killing, all the while his loved ones were being put in more danger.

Then there was all that trying to push the girl away because she was in danger, etc.  That's what Batman could have been like, but instead the girl dumped him with no signs of remorse or conflict and he just yelled angry cheesy lines all the time while all good stuff was said or done by the Joker.

But even the Joker could have been better.  He was amazing, and Heath Leger was super amazing in it, but the script didn't fully develop the Joker to his fullest potential.  Maybe that's because they only had two hours to do it in, but still... well it was 2008 when superhero movies were just barely becoming popular.  The scriptwriting hadn't been developed yet.

Even King 2 Hearts, to a point, has that same question of moral ambiguity as Jae Ha and Hang Ah are battling the terrorist group Club M and Kim Bong Goo, who literally is the same sort of villain as the Joker (although not as classy or crazy) since he practices psychological warfare to cause organized anarchy to make money.  While it would be easier to just get rid of him by cheating or killing, they work twice as hard to take him out the right way.

So can we talk about Harvey Dent?  According to Lizabreff (and I completely agree) they completely wasted him as Two-Face.  Apparently he was her favorite villain.  He is a complex character, a good man turned bad, who still has the good side trapped inside of him.  Literally he has two faces.

Aaron Eckhart was just an annoying justice dude who then went bat-shiz crazy serial killer.  Instead of being a huge complex multifaceted bad guy, he stayed one dimensional the the entire time.  A one dimensional hero (who is just an annoying, pushy control freak) to a one dimensional crazy person.

I know this might not compare that well, because he's not crazy, but there is a way better complexity and moral ambiguity in Pinocchio with the older brother Jae Myung being a nice person who then ends up killing people for revenge.  But still we see the conflict of his choices.  Pinocchio is another well written drama about moral ambiguity of a hero seeking revenge, who is constantly having to check himself so he doesn't fall into the same bad ways when trying to bring down the bad peeps.  It was all about that conflict and moments of realization.  Amazing moments that Batman should of had, but didn't.

An even better comparison for Two-Face I just thought of is Wol Ryung in Gu Family Book.  Because of circumstance he is betrayed and turned into a monster; a 1000 year demon who sucks souls with an insatiable hunger.

Yet his good Gumiho self is still trapped inside, threatening to fade away, so there is lots of struggles there.  The struggle for humanity within the demon, killing and being saved.  Wol Ryung is a very complex character that we feel for, not just because he's super sexy, but because he is a victim struggling within himself, against the conflicting sides of himself.  It's powerful.

I guess what it all comes down to is that Americans don't like to see their heroes struggle with moral ambiguity, even it that's what the plot of the movie is about.  In that sense our heroes can sometimes be just as one dimensional as our villains.  But what is wrong we seeing that struggle and process?  As long as the result is the right one, it's good.  It makes them more human to see that struggle.  It makes it more compelling.

Whatever.  I'll still like Batman, but I see that I won't be able to look at it the same anymore.  I guess now that I've "seen the light" there is no going back.  I just realized that I look at everything differently now.


  1. LOVE this post!!!!!!!!! Sometimes I think that western film makers just got lazy with some of the drivel coming out of Hollywood. Not that there isn't good stuff, but yeah. K-drama seems so much better at fleshing out human struggles and interpersonal struggles and relationships. There is just so much feeling and emotion in it. I was also thinking about K-drama fight scenes in general and I think that there are two main reasons why their fight scenes are better. In the US, guns are so easy to obtain and to have that they just end up with all this shooting. You don't need much hand to hand combat to shoot up everyone. Korea has really strict gun laws and it's not that easy to have a gun, so the characters have to reply on knife fights and lots of hand to hand combat. And then the second reason: there is a really great tradition of various martial arts in Asian cinema. Lee Jun Ki was even a martial arts fighter before he became an actor and his fight scenes in K-drama are always so awesome! In Time Before Dog and Wolf, he was posing as a Muay Thai fighter and was just amazing at it. Anyway. I often find western TV can just be so 2D and boring. There is also something about writing about film/drama that makes you pay attention to details a lot more.

    1. I did consider the martial arts tradition when it came to the fighting, even though Batman is supposed to be a ninja (based on Batman Begins especially) I still shouldn't expect him to fight like a Kung Fu movie all the time. I watch enough Kung Fu movies too, so I think that also might have been a problem because I hadn't seen as many last time I watched the Dark Knight. It made me want to watch a Donnie Yen movie after, just to get lots of fighting action... but anyways, I didn't consider the gun laws part, and you are probably right. Although it makes complete sense for the Joker to use guns as much as he does. That's just him. He even makes a statement about it. But Batman never uses guns, so you'd think that there would be some hand to hand at least, even if the Joker is the type to just beat him up with a metal pipe while he's down. Those scenes were very up close and hard to follow so that might be another reason why it disappointed me. But the part that really bothered me was the length of the scene where the Batcycle was blowing things up to get to where the Joker was, versus the actual scenes where fighting was happening were really short. All the times were really short. It was like, what is this action scene actually about? The meaningful parts were over so quickly too. Not that they had to be long, but just long in comparison to the action for action scenes.

      I love Lee Jun Ki. I need to just watch In Time Before Dog and Wolf... it's on my list, along with Ilgimae, of shows I want to watch eventually. I should just watch it.

    2. I think that US actors just don't have the physical prowess and skills to pull off the martial arts. It's just so deeply intrenched in Asian tradition, that it makes sense for the fight scenes to lean more towards that. It's really interesting how cultural tradition can influence a fighting style in film so much. I know that when Asian directors like John Woo get involved in a western film, there is a lot more martial arts fight scene stuff. And I guess my comment about gun laws was more just a comment on things in general. Guns are like water in the US. Just everywhere. I have friends who have concealed weapons permits, but in Korea, I don't know a single friend who even likes going shooting. Maybe they do, it's just not part of the cultural identity as much. I also think that action scenes are hard to shoot and unless you have a really skilled director, they can be really sucky. Even a drama like Secret Garden, which is a rom-com, centered around stunt people. I swear I've seen more stuff about stunts while watching K-drama than I ever have in western TV. Just thinking about the new Superman movie, which was really good until all the action and fight scenes. They were about 45 minutes too long and not well done at all. Oh well.

      Time Before Dog and Wolf was one of the best dramas I have ever seen, until the last episode. bustered and I watched it together and we were hooked...and then the last episode came and we were like, WTF?!?!?! It's still really good though. I also want to watch Ijimae. Ah!!! So many dramas!!!!

    3. That's true, it takes a lot of effort to bring fighting to an Asian standard in an American film. I don't think I would be as harsh on The Dark Knight if they hadn't made Batman train like a ninja in like China in Batman Begins. But you're completely right about American action scenes. I feel like they are completely explosions and up close, jerky, blurry fights that we can't even see. Every time I see a movie and see all the explosions and destruction I always think about those people who just lost everything in one moment. I didn't bother watching that Superman movie... Superman = not my favorite hero (who is in fact that lamest super hero out there), but I did hear about how the 45 minutes of destruction was pretty lame.

      I'm sure the US's gun culture probably stems back to the wild west and how the US was basically built on the use of guns to protect and hunt, etc. It is interesting to hear about it from other countries' perspectives though.

      I really want to watch Time Before Dog and Wolf, but I haven't found a super good place to watch it yet. It's only on a Viki fan channel and not even in my region, which are usually pretty crappy, or like Youtube... super lame.

    4. Oh that's right! He did train like that in Batman Begins. Oh well. I am totally with you with all the crazy explosions!!! It drives me crazy!!! I am like, do you know how long it is going to take to rebuild that? Property damage? Insurance? And then the thousands of innocent bystanders are the the things that get me the most!

      I think you're totally right about the wild west culture prevalent in US culture and film.

      I ended up buying Time Before Dog and Wolf on DVD because I couldn't find it subbed anywhere. It's really good. Have you tried looking on Crunchyroll? Sometimes they have dramas. I am wondering in MyAsianTV has it as well. Who knows. Sometimes dramas are just hard to find.

    5. I know! I am always thinking things like: "are you going to compensate them for that?" "What if there were people in that car/building/train/etc.?" There is no way that thousands of people wouldn't get hurt in action scenes like that. I like fighting, not senseless explosions.

      I've had to do the DVD thing before. That's how I watched Save the Last Dance (so bad! What I do for Ji Sung!) only I had Netflix DVD back then. Crunchyroll doesn't have it, but I would think that they would have sent it over to SoompiTV if the did have it, but Soompi doesn't have it either. At least DramaFever has a page for it like they had it at one time or are trying to get it. Literally it is only available on sketchy sights or youtube (with the annoying little box to the side thing, ew). Sigh. I'll just have to keep looking or suffer through a crappy site.

    6. Right?! All that silly blowing up. Sometimes you just have to leave your logic behind when you watch a movie ;)

      I am sorry about the availability of TBDW. Sometimes drama watching is hard. It's like they want you to not be legal. Jk.

    7. Haha, that's exactly what they're telling me. Don't be legal. Support sketchy sites.

    8. If I had a dollar for every time I've said that corporations don't understand the Internet and its consumers, I would be a billionaire by now. I just had a friend whose blog (on Blogger, though I've had other blogging friends where the same thing happened to them) was completely taken down for copyright infringement. The thing is that she didn't even know what she had done wrong. So they deleted her blog. It makes me so mad. And the film industry and all the red tape and licensing between countries is a nightmare. Sorry. I will stop my rant.

    9. Yeah, that's a jar of worms that will have us ranting all night/day if we let it. But it is dumb, I agree. Idk, maybe if I requested it they would put it on DF. It worked for Go, Single Lady. That was a happy day.

    10. Do it!!! My guess is that there are licensing issues. A lot of older dramas seem to be hard to find. Which reminds me, I really want to watch Joseon X-Files. I think that Viki had it...I can't remember. Oh well.

    11. DramaFever has it, it's called Secret Investigation Record there. It's in my queue right now because I have also always wanted to watch it.

    12. That's who had then ^^ One day I would like to actually finish recapping a whole show like that. One day.