Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Not the Christian thing to do.

By now, I assume many of you have heard the audio of Christian Bale's angry outburst from the set of Terminator Salvation. The rant happened back in July, but the tape--courtesy of the dirt diggers at TMZ.com--surfaced just this week. It's fairly amusing, but mostly it gives me the springboard for my long-awaited assault on the very much overrated Bale. First the audio clip:

It's not that Bale is a bad actor---he's not (sort of). But most people I know seem to adore his talent and would easily consider him one of the top leads today. In truth, Bale is enormously talented...at selecting the right projects to work on, and the right people to work on them with. One of his earliest roles, of course, was as a child in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun. When your first major acting job is the lead in a Spielberg film, the "talent bar" has already been set impossibly high. He would go on to work with directors like Werner Herzog, James Mangold, Christopher Nolan, and Terrence Malick, some of the best in the biz. No wonder he lost his shit when McG's director of photography walked through his line of sight during a scene. Bale is spoiled, and I can't really blame him. I'd be, too, if I routinely worked with the talent he usually gets to work with. I pray his career never gets reduced to straight-to-video tripe, lest he end up murdering a just-out-of-school director who deigns to shoot a scene one more time to make sure he's got enough coverage.

But as good as films like Dark Knight, The Prestige and Rescue Dawn may be, they're good in spite of Christian Bale, not because of him. I'll be blunt about this---Dark Knight is a very good film. A very good film with a fairly awful lead performance. When donning the bat costume, he delivers his lines with something akin to the breathy implausibility of Rocky Balboa as a phone sex operator. The first time he uttered his lines in Dark Knight I had to keep myself from bursting into laughter. Here's an actual scene from the movie. Actual scene!

Okay, not an actual scene. But it captures the essence of Bale's performance, I think.

Here's how not good Christian Bale is: The Prestige, a film which I considered to be one of the very best of 2006, also stars Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johannson. That it managed to be that good with that cast (and let's not forget Michael Caine and David Bowie for good measure) is astonishing. That it managed to convince me that Jackman is a far superior actor to Bale is unforgivable. Hugh Jackman. The same Hugh Jackman seen lip synching (badly) his way through a Rolling Stones song on Viva Laughlin last year:

The only real difference between Jackman and Bale is that Jackman does stupid shit like agreeing to do Viva Laughlin. That, and Bale is physically bland enough to not be as distracting as the too-obviously-a-movie-star Jackman.

Before I hate on Bale too much, I should point out that I look forward to his movies since he's reliably in good movies. To make a baseball analogy, Bale would be a starting pitcher who wins 20 games, but one who does so with an awful ERA and a lot of run support. He's Jack fucking Morris, and Heath Ledger and Christoper Nolan are Allen Trammell and Lou Whitaker. Of course. He did, however, give me Equilibrium...which I consider to be his perfect game.


Blogger Morgan said...

How can you talk about Christian Bale and leave out his masterpiece Newsies?? He had the amazing support of David Moscow. And Bill Pulman.

Go watch this right now:

February 4, 2009 at 8:39 AM  
Blogger Kraig Smith said...

You might not believe this, but I actually had a whole two sentences dedicated to Newsies and YOU. But then I decided that it should be, as usual, all about me.

February 4, 2009 at 9:47 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

I agree, he's awful as Batman, and a little bit better as Bruce Wayne. But all the Batmen have all been awful, so I'm not sure how indicative of his ability it is. I would have to say Keaton (or West?) is the best, with Bale (or West?) as the worst. Slightly ahead of Bale is the guy in that clip you posted.

My favorite role for him was as Patrick Bateman, where his blandness and obvious rage found their perfect union.

But the real question is, why do you know enough about 80's Detroit baseball to make an analogy about it?

February 4, 2009 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Kraig Smith said...

Oh, Brian. You're SO Frank Tanana sometimes.

February 4, 2009 at 4:16 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Yeah, I think Christian Bale is pretty terrible, but he gets a pass because women think he's hot. (I guess now we men know how it feels the other 95% of the time, when we're inflicting talentless sex bombs on the world.)

Is Chet Lemon taken? Can I please be Chet Lemon?

February 5, 2009 at 1:30 AM  
Blogger Kraig Smith said...

Honestly, John, I always saw you as more of a Johnny Grubb. But I like you. Chet Lemon it is. This still leaves Dan Petry and Lance Parrish available. I'm Kirk Gibson, of course.

February 5, 2009 at 1:59 AM  

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