Well, Fantasia is bearing down upon me like a mugger’s bullet at a rich man’s chest, so before all that starts it’s time to settle up some unfinished business.
Let’s talk about Nolan. Not so much about Nolan’s Batman, this week I just want to talk about the man behind the camera, as opposed to the one behind the mask. A lot of you like Nolan, and with good reason, but here’s the basic truth of it.
Christopher Nolan is not as good a director as you think he is
Yes, I know that sounds like blasphemy, but please hear me out before you break out the pitchforks.
Christopher Nolan is a very good director. He knows how to work a camera to certain effects very well, he is very good at crafting atmosphere, all that. But as his budgets and scope have gotten bigger, his faults as a director (and they DO exist) have come more and more to light. And if you want a good example of all his bad tendencies, you need look no further than The Dark Knight.
Where do I even begin….ok, here’s where. The story structure in that movie is a fucking MESS. I’m sorry, but it’s true.
First off, that movie has AT LEAST half an hour worth of superfluous storylines that serve no real purpose and just make the movie feel crowded and overly busy.
Remember that dude who tried to blackmail Batman? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. He tries to blackmail Bats after learning his secret and later on the Joker tries to kill him. And did we really need this whole useless sub plot so the Joker could have someone to kill? What’s wrong with politicians, mayors, hell he already tried to kill Gordon, is Joker just bored with killing Gordon now?
Then there’s the whole imposter Batmen thing. Again, what’s the point? What purpose to they serve besides facilitating a cool line for Kevin Conroy to deliver better? If there’s some symbolic thing going on, I really don’t see it.
The movie is overflowing with too much story, too many sub-plots and sub-sub-plots, and it gives the story very little room to breathe.
But the biggest offender is Two-Face. Here’s the bottom line
Two-Face should not have been in that movie
I remember when I came out of Dark Knight back in ’08 and I remember remarking to the young lady on my arm (these were the days when I had not yet metamorphosed into a full-grown movie geek and therefore had a dating life) that I liked how Two-Face showed up.
But hindsight is not kind to The Dark Knight, and I would have taken my younger self and smacked him briskly about the face.
Now, I could go on about how Two-Face’s mini-rampage ruins the flow of the movie and feels like a truncated, tacked-on ending for a decent supporting character and all of that. But instead, I’m gonna suggest an alternative.
What if Two-Face had never shown up in Dark Knight? What if he was still bandaged during his scene with Joker, and after the hospital explodes, he’s never seen again. The movie ends after Joker is captured and we get a sequel tease for Two-Face. And HE’S the villain of the third movie.
Wouldn’t you automatically be more excited for DKR, since you’d be going in knowing who the villain is, and having an emotional connection to them since you’ve seen the events that made them who they are, seen them fall from grace to rise from hell?
I mean…who the hell is Bane? I’ve read the comics, and I don’t even know what he’ll be like in the movie. DKR will have to allot time to make we, the audience, give a shit about Bane. Make him a threat, establish his character and motivation and goals, perhaps make us empathize with him.
But if Two-Face were the villain, we’d basically know all that going in, and be much more excited to see how the whole Bruce/Rachel/Harvey relationship finally ends. To say nothing of the fact that it would probably give a much more satisfying ending to Harvey’s story.
Because he was a legitimately interesting character in Dark Knight. And for him to just get killed (?) off in such a rushed, uninteresting manner was just wasteful, and lacking in foresight on Nolan’s part.
These are all script problems, and can partially be laid at the feet of David Goyer and Jonathan Nolan. But the director chooses what to film and what not to film, and Dark Knight – with it’s bloated and over-packed story – shows that as a storyteller, Nolan needs work.
And then there’s the other big elephant in the room.
Christopher Nolan cannot direct fight scenes
Go watch some of the trailers or ads from any of his Batman movies and count up how much footage there is of Batman actually fighting. My bet is…..5 seconds max. And no, it’s not because they’re trying to push this as a dramatic movie, don’t be stupid. This is a big summer action blockbuster, with dramatic elements.
The reason for this is because Nolan’s fight scenes are poorly lit, shakily filmed, confusing messes. Think back to one and try and point out a single shot – 0r hell, a single move – Batman does. A kick, a punch, a hold, ANYTHING.
They aren’t memorable, they aren’t dramatic, they’re more confusing that exciting.
The Nolan defenders, previously quiet in the face of my renewed rage, pipe up. “But that’s just his style!” to which I respond, “Bad film making is not a fucking style” and add that if your “style” is acting in complete contradiction to the goal of a scene, you’re doing something wrong.
A fight scene is supposed to be memorable, dramatic, exciting. They continue the story in a non-verbal way, a kind of pantomime, expressing things about the characters through the way they fight, the way they move, their body language. Characters become identifiable from the way they fight, creating a visual language that sticks with you after you leave the theater.
The visual language of Nolan’s fight scenes is less poetry and more somebody slamming their hand on a keyboard.
The way he films fight scenes works against any kind of notion of creating memorable imagery, excitement or drama, which I’ll remind you are the entire point of a fight scene.
And in a movie that’s hyping the big Bane vs Batman showdown, a director who can’t film fight scenes does not bode well with me at all
And that, my fine friends, is that. Believe me, there’s more I could say. But sadly, I’ll soon have more important things to do than go on personal tirades.
Hopefully I’ve gotten a few of you to look at these movies a bit more critically, and perhaps a little less hype is something we’ll all need when Dark Knight Rises hits theaters soon…
To read Part 1 of this series, click here
To read Mike Gwilliam’s review of DKR, click here