'Batman' In Buenos Aires Bob Mondello, NPR's movie critic, catches the opening of Dark Knight during his vacation in Argentina.
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'Batman' In Buenos Aires

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'Batman' In Buenos Aires

'Batman' In Buenos Aires

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(Soundbite of music)


Usually, when I talk to our movie critic, Bob Mondello, he's about five feet away, sitting right across from me in the studio. Today, he's 5,000 miles away at the BBC studios in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Bob, what's got you so worked up that you had to interrupt your vacation to tell me about it?



MONDELLO: You've got to flip out over Batman. You just have to.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEABROOK: And I understand, Bob, that you saw it at a theater Thursday in Argentina, and we had to wait until Friday here in the United States. It's a Hollywood movie.

MONDELLO: That's right. I always assumed that these pictures only opened in other countries after or maybe even the same day that they opened in the United States, but apparently that's not true.

Friday was a school holiday here in Argentina, and so they opened it on Thursday to take advantage of all the kids who were going to be out of school, which makes excellent sense, and of course you'd expect them to do that, except that, you know, there's always been that fear of piracy. They're so worried about the prints getting out ahead of time, and apparently that doesn't scare people quite as much as it once did.

In fact, it opened on Wednesday in Australia and Egypt and the Philippines, and as a result, Warner Brothers has had some $4.5 million U.S. worth in the till just in Australia before it opened anywhere else in the world, including Argentina or the United States.

SEABROOK: I just say that's no fair.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SEABROOK: So what was it called down there?

MONDELLO: Well, it's "The Dark Knight" in English, and to suggest darkness, they do "El Caballero de la Noche." Actually, they pronounce that cabajero(ph) here, "El Caballero de la Noche," the gentleman of the night, very dark.

SEABROOK: Oh my goodness, you know, I have to say it was frankly a little too dark for me.

MONDELLO: Oh really?

SEABROOK: Yeah, I did not - I do not appreciate being wrenched around as much as this movie does.

MONDELLO: You will. It happens a lot. On the other hand, it's a very exciting picture, and one of the things that's appealing about this is that they basically decided that they didn't have to worry about making a new comic book film, that they had to something that was more substantial and that it had to be a good movie and so it involves ideas and so it goes into character, and you know, with comic book movies, what you usually get is a lot of special effects.

You get a lot of people getting thrown into walls, and then the walls break, and that kind of thing is unrealistic but explosive, it's kind of cool to watch, but it makes comic book movies not interesting for people who don't already want to see that kind of stuff, whereas this movie, I think, has enough with this whole notion of vigilantism and it being not a good thing, even when it's done by the guy we think of as the good guy that he's still kind of in trouble legally when he's doing this stuff.

That is an interesting concept, and that makes this movie more interesting than the typical superhero.

SEABROOK: And relevant.

MONDELLO: Yes, I agree. Well especially, you know, the Heath Ledger character, The Joker, could be regarded as sort of a terrorist, right?

SEABROOK: A terrorist, yeah.

MONDELLO: And I think this is an interesting topic for movies generally. You know, other pictures have sort of alluded to that idea. There's a bit in the "Iron Man" that actually takes place in the Middle East, but this is much smarter about the way it does it.

SEABROOK: True, I do enjoy the ideas. It's the violence that turns me off.

MONDELLO: Well, there's a lot of violence in pictures these days. This one's rated PG-13, I think, which suggests that you have to be at least past your early teens, but it's - yeah, it is, it's a violent picture, and it's a dark one.

I keep telling people that the little glimmers of light that you get, the twinkle in Michael Caine's eye and that kind of thing, those are not enough to dispel the overwhelming gloom of the picture, but it is exciting, it is about something, and I've got to say, Heath Ledger's performance is just amazing.

SEABROOK: That is true.

MONDELLO: You know, he plays The Joker in here. It was the second-to-last performance, the last one that he actually completed, before he died in January. It's just a riveting performance, and I think it's arguably not a supporting performance when it comes Oscar time. I suspect he'll be nominated for Best Actor.

SEABROOK: NPR's Bob Mondello on vacation in Buenos Aires but still watching movies.

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