Archives For Dark Knight

I think the biggest story in the online film world this week, outside of the forthcoming release of The Dark Knight Rises, was probably the vitriolic response that a number of critics got from Rotten Tomatoes users to their less than 100% positive reviews of that film. There’s been plenty of writing on the subject of Batman fans’ reactions to those reviews, and the whole story is wrapped up nicely by Matt Singer over at Criticwire. Some have said that these responses, which have included horrible misogynistic comments and death threats, are the result of some sort of insanity specific to Batman and Nolan fans. I don’t take this view, maybe because I consider myself a huge fan of Nolan’s work and his Batman films, and I also consider myself a fairly reasonable person.

I don’t think it’s fair to single out Batman fans. We saw the same sort of thing happen to several critics who dared to point out the flaws of The Avengers before that film came out. You know what? I kind of sympathize with those terrible fans. I kind of get where they’re coming from. I love Nolan’s work and I love his take on Batman. I look at The Dark Knight Rises, which I haven’t yet seen, and I do very much want to enjoy it. I want it to be great. When I see a negative reaction to the film from a critic, I don’t want to believe them. I don’t want them to be right. I consider their opinion, and even if it’s just for a moment I forget that it’s an opinion and my mind assumes they must be wrong. It’s a silly thing, but I get the impulse. It’s not that I know they’re wrong, or that they can even be wrong, but that I just don’t want to believe I might end up agreeing with them.

Given, then, that I somewhat sympathize with these so-called fans, why then am I not so vitriolic? Well, I think the answer lies partly outside the fans themselves, and at the online, fan-centred, movie news industry and blogs. It’s us. We created the monsters. Click to read more.

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The Summer Hype Cycle is quickly shifting over from The Amazing Spider-Man to the true juggernaut of July, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. As such, I’d like to look back at the previous film in Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight. Specifically, I’d like to talk about how that film’s true strength lies in its nonsensical plotting. In most cases, a plot that falls apart under any kind of closer examination is a serious problem, but Nolan subverts that, building it into the characters and the themes.

Where the plot all falls apart is with the Joker. Not the portrayal of his character, which is memorable and amazing, but specifically how he relates to the plot. The only thing that makes sense about the Joker is his motivation, and even his motivations are weirdly unmotivated. Christopher Nolan has described his Joker as being like the shark from Jaws. He’s a force that cuts through the film with little explanation; there only to bring chaos. The Dark Knight is all about chaos and the various responses people have to chaos. The plotting of the film reflects that. Click to read more.

Last night, I finally re-watched Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret, the long-in-post-production film, shot in 2005, released in late 2011. I ‘d seen the film here in Toronto when it was released for exactly one week in the Fall. I fell in love with what I saw, ultimately naming the film my #2 of 2011, a ranking I’m still extremely comfortable with. Interestingly, before I saw the film I was aware of its tortured history, in which the Lonergan was unable to get it down to the contractually obligated 150 minutes maximum running time. This had led to years of edits and re-edits and fighting back and forth and litigation that is still ongoing. What I remember at the time was a beautiful film that had some idiosyncratic cuts, but also some areas where it truly felt like chunks of story were missing. I’d remarked at the time that it felt like a longer movie cut down to size, but my main takeaway was that I could’ve spent far longer in the world Lonergan had created. The movie was 150 minutes, but I’d just as easily have sat through a 4-hour cut of the film or longer.

The version of Margaret I saw last night is a nearly 3-hour cut available on the upcoming DVD. It’s not clear that this is a true “director’s cut” because it’s only officially referred to as and “extended cut.” It’s quite possible that while Lonergan put this cut together and approves of it, there is a still longer version out there that he’d be even happier with. Or not. Who knows. Directors can be fickle. Importantly, at roughly thirty minutes longer, the extended version of Margaret doesn’t feel any longer. In fact, in some ways it feels quicker, smoother and better paced than it did back in the Fall. Subplots that were previously dropped in confusing fashion are now transitioned out of in a more delicate way. The story has a flow, a more natural progression. It’s not just a case of the longer version being better because it adds more detail, but because it actually ends up feeling like a tighter film, and without feeling any longer. I said that I would gladly watch four hours of Margaret and the same remains true. It’s a breezy three hours.

All this got me thinking about long films. Click to read more.

Hollywood has become obsessed with the franchise. Sure, there were always sequels, and there have been plenty of series that went on for way more movies than anyone ever wanted, but lately it’s become a way of doing business. It’s impossible to get money for a big-budget spectacle unless the plan is to kickstart a potential series of money-making sequels. I’m tired of it. Sequels can be good, but this idea that every movie is nothing more than a product meant to set up the next movie that’s nothing more than a product to set up the next movie, etc, is extremely frustrating.

As evidenced by the ending of Prometheus—which I will not spoil except to say it purposely leaves things in such a way as to tie in with the Alien series and set up a sequel—all this process does is hamper the movie at hand. Prometheus has plenty of problems outside of the ending—the characters aren’t perfectly drawn, the dialogue is sometimes too oblique, the plot often moves purely for the sake of moving—but no problem is more frustrating than the final ten minutes in which the film is more focused on dealing out the cards for a sequel than creating a truly satisfying conclusion. That it happens at the very end of the movie leaves an unfortunate taste in my mouth, which does a disservice to all the things I enjoyed about the movie before its ending. The movie isn’t ruined by the ending, but it’s certainly brought down a peg or two. Sadly, this is the case with many films these days. Click to read more.

Matt Zoller Seitz and Simon Abrams had a great chat over at Indiewire’s Press Play about the problems with the superhero genre on film. What the piece comes down to is Matt making the claim that superhero films are rote, boring and rarely inventive within the genre. Simon, however, argues that while this is mostly true, there are still examples of filmmakers bringing creativity to the form, and that looking to the future there is still hope for better superhero films.

The major comparison Matt makes is to the Western. That all-American genre of cowboys and duels was similarly plagued by the trappings of genre, yet classics were still produced. Where are the superhero classics? I guess the first thing to point out is that Matt doesn’t really care for Batman Begins or The Dark Knight. That’s perfectly fine, but I’d say that at the very least The Dark Knight is a tested modern classic of the genre, both in terms of critical response and commercial appeal. Matt saying he doesn’t care for The Dark Knight is not unlike somebody saying they don’t really enjoy Stagecoach or The Searchers. I’ve spoken to people who don’t like either of those classic Westerns, but they’re still classics of the genre and of the wider world of American film.

There have been other great superhero films, but it’s true that they’re a rarity. This will not change. As much as I may defend the certain films in the genre against Matt’s attacks, I do think he’s right, though his premise is a little too narrow. Dismissing The Dark Knight and raising up The Incredibles does nothing more than illustrate the way superhero films don’t work for him personally. The argument becomes a matter of taste. In truth, the problems with the genre are much more core and because of this, superhero movies will never be, and can never be, the next great American genre. Click to read more.