Saturday, January 26, 2008

This week's column

Why so serious?

There are very few movies I look forward to like it's a holiday. The next installment of the Batman franchise is one of them.

That's why I became deeply concerned when I heard Heath Ledger, 28, was dead. I imagine it shocked a lot of people. He was a pretty decent actor and you rarely heard anything bad about the guy.

Ledger plays The Joker in the The Dark Knight, the next film in the Batman series. The movie was finished when the actor died, so it looks like it'll stay on track for its July 18 premiere. Judging from the previews (which is always a mistake, by the way) Ledger's performance is dedicated and unique.

But the question for Warner Bros. studio is: Should it keep Ledger in its ad campaign for the movie? The appearance of Ledger's Joker was a key component in the early marketing of the movie. Fans played online games to reveal the first images of him in costume. Early posters for the movie show a cloudy picture of Ledger scrawling "Why so serious" in blood.

Another weighty question is whether director Chris Nolan should write the Joker character into sequels?

My answer to both is: "Please, God, yes."

Look, a dedicated actor like Ledger wouldn't have wanted his death to be a showstopper. And comic book movies are a form of cultural reverence. The Greeks had Zeus. Americans have Superman.

Every decade or so, we get to relive the same old battles against the same old villains. The actors change, but it doesn't matter. There's probably some Carl Jung-related mumbo-jumbo I could throw in here, but you get the idea.

Keeping Ledger in the previews shouldn't offend the fans and neither should a recast of such an iconic character.

'Manhunt 2'

It won't take me long to dispense with this overrated title from Rockstar, developers of the uber-cool "Grand Theft Auto" series.

The Wii version of "Manhunt 2" is a graphically dumbed-down version of an even dumber concept. You wake up in a mental hospital and have to kill all of the guards.

If you enjoy vomiting on people you just whacked with a crowbar, this one's for you. It's controversial and lame at the same time.

Let's give it 21/2 buttons. And lets all enjoy the "Grand Theft Auto IV" trailer, shall we?

'Call of Duty 4' on DS

Not satisfied with my 30-plus hours playing "Call of Duty 4" for the PlayStation 3 every week, I needed a little pick-me-up. "Call of Duty 4" for Nintendo's DS is a surprisingly good shooter with DS-centric controls.

The game play is a bit like getting on a ride at Disney World. It moves the character along, giving him heads-ups about when to shoot. But it's still pretty challenging. The bomb defusing and charging levels require a bit of puzzle solving, in true DS fashion.

Not bad, not bad. It gets 31/2 buttons. It's no substitute for the PS3 version but it works.

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