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I first saw this film the Sunday of its opening weekend. There was something “full shine and full of sparkle” that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
The next night, I saw it again. My head was filled and crammed with bits and notes of words that I was going to write down.
But, still, after seeing it twice, I didn’t feel like I had the correct perception about the film–that what I felt about it was succinct.
I finally saw it a third time this afternoon and I think I’ve figured out why I love this film geared towards children about an easily synergized robot.
It’s not the silent humor that takes over the first half of the film, even though it’s spot-on hilarious.
It’s not this song that starts the film and is a piece of music that is used as a motif along with another song from Hello Dolly. It’s not the fact that this song, and the portion used, is one that I find absolutely hilarious.
It’s the work that Roger Deakins did when he came in as a cinematographic consultant. See, unlike most CGI animated films, the guys at Pixar brought in the Director of Photography for most Coen Bros. films post-Sonnenfeld (Barton Fink, The Man who Wasn’t There and No Country for Old Men to name a couple) as well as the beautiful Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford that came out last year.
I’m about to wax technical, so you can skip this part if you want. What his work does is give the movie a sense of photo-realism. When you pay close attention to the depth of field and the focus on certain shots compared to similar shots in, say, the torturous trailer for Bolt that seems to play before every goddam movie I see, you see that every shot is meticulous angled and setup to look as if a camera filmed it and not someone at a computer playing with numbers and pictures and wireframes.
A prime example of the beauty brought to this film is a scene that was in the final trailer where Wall-E is getting chased by a bunch of carts in a broken down Buy N Large store. And I want you to observe a little quirk about this scene that I found absolutely wonderful: at one point during the shot, the camera falls out of focus as it tries to zoom and correct itself within the shot.
Now, you could say, “Why the hell would they want to fuck up a shot by blurring a portion of it?” Well, I have the answer: See, when you’re doing a tracking shot, especially one from such a distance, you’re going to have to refocus as the object leaves the field of focus. And you just might fuck it up. We’ve seen this in countless live-action films.
And it’s a little piece of extra effort put into this film that I found absolutely fantastic. Shit, this whole movie is fantastic. I was laughing the whole way through, I was in awe of the visions that they were putting on celluloid.
But it was my dad who made the most succinct comment. That is that the movie is about computers taking over for what humans do (Leon Trout from Galapagos would blame our stupid big brains for such a thing) and yet it’s a film done on computers showing how far they’ve come in such a field as animation. Obviously, this is something that Pixar has acknowledged and is probably the reason why they’re dipping into the live-action well of films in the future.
This film, unlike the Dark Knight, I can safely say that you should see. If you haven’t, drop everything and go to the cinema. Right fucking now. Cut work early, gather up your spawn, and take them to see this jawdropping and hilarious film.
Spoilers ahead, save you the time and analysis: see it, I think… My wariness is discussed later.
After seeing this film, I can see what all the critics are praising it for.
And it’s definitely not the dialog track that can be as muddled as a Scottish film because of Batman’s gruff voice which, on close-ups, looks like is helped out by some sort of tongue suppressor.
I’m not gonna get into the bullshit about the story because you all know it at this point.
So instead I’m going to focus on some things I never expected to discuss during a review for a superhero film.
Spoilers beware, by the way.
Anywho, now that everyone’s left who doesn’t want the movie completely destroyed for them, we can now discuss, hopefully in depth, the art of this film as well as its follies.
I think that what is most interesting about this film is the discussion it sparked afterward. I never expected to be bringing up Magnolia and its way of holding sad and depressing material in such a way that the viewer doesn’t become disillusioned and turned off. That’s just how it is with humans: there is a certain breaking point where we can only take so much that’s fucked up until we shut off and start laughing.
And the Dark Knight has to deal with the same thing. As this movie goes on, the material doesn’t go from bad to worse to better to conclusion, it goes from bad to worse to worst to a conclusion so open it makes you wonder how far they can take the next film.
So, as a result, The Dark Knight must toe that same line that Magnolia did. Meaning that all this darkness has to get leveled out by something else throughout the 150 minute runtime. What PT Anderson did with Magnolia was musical, in some scenes he scuffed the emotion with music from a jukebox (the scene sticking out the most in my mind was one with William H. Macy in a bar finding out that things are turning to shit while happy “punched my wife in the face” country played in the background).
Here, co-writer and director Christopher Nolan has the liberty of relieving some of the pressure with explosions that, although they’re part and parcel of Heath Ledger’s destruction throughout the film, take the viewer’s mind off things for a second because viewers love things that blow up. Just watch a Michael Bay film. The way that it’s used, however, is to relieve the viewer of the tension and decimation going on throughout the city–throughout the souls and minds of most people in the film.
Things in this film twist and convulse throughout the plot. We have Gary Oldman faking his death to get the Joker into jail which is what turns out to be the Joker’s plan all along. A big black man (to quote a friend, “He looked like the guy in the Green Mile.” I added jokingly, “But with a lazy eye… He’s the Thom Yorke of Green Mile lookin’ motherfuckers.”) is used to play against your prejudices when, instead of doing what you think he’s going to do, he takes it the completely other way.
So, yea, all of this is good and fun but this movie isn’t without its follies. To start, you can only get so nihilistic with this source material. With its past as a series centered around Burton and Schumaker’s kookieness, you can’t completely forget that Batman was also once kissed by a rose (and Michelle Pfeiffer) as sung by Seal.
To go along with that, this is fucking Batman. How philosophical can you get? According to the same friend, “It was like Saw with a superhero.” And this is definitely true. Not only because of the moral choices, but also the drab colors of Gotham.
But, seriously, how far can you push this? In further reflection, as I was trying to write that beginning sentence for you to go see this film, I couldn’t help but stutter concerning my recommendation.
They can get philosophical, sure, questioning morality as we all do at points in our lives, but, because it’s such a pedestrian philosophical matter, the discussion often comes off as trite.
Though, what doesn’t come off as trite is the fact that good never seems to prevail. That was a nice change of pace in that sense, but it doesn’t seem to save it from being shallow, not pushing the philosophy farther than it could’ve been. They take the shallowest question of good and evil and run it to its lengths but never giving it any play with the beauty of the under questions of “why?” Why is there a good and why is there an evil? It could’ve easily pulled into the idea of Batman as God since he exemplifies goodness, but they never do. And that sucks because that would’ve been a fun thing to follow. They call the Joker the devil but it’s something only touched upon, not something pushed.
If they would’ve shown the Batman as God aspect, they could’ve shown the effect that a fall-from-grace has. But it just stayed in the shallow with its hand on the handicapped bar while things got blown up. It leans towards nihilism and chaos but it never quite goes there.
Which I suppose is because, at the end of the day, it’s still a 180-million-dollar summer film. You can’t push it as far as you could with Memento or a small film released quietly in the Fall or the Winter.
So at least they tried, and they blew shit up, so everyone was happy.
but, to me the biggest problem was, as stated, the dialog becomes muddled at times to the point where you can’t understand what they’re saying. And, to be nitpicky, there was one scene that killed me: Eckhart and Oldman are speaking for the first time in the film, a conversation where Oldman is defending his utilizing of Batman against Eckhart who just winds up agreeing with him. But all of Oldman’s lines are rushed, forced out there–and not a nervous way, either, because Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon doesn’t get nervous. His lines are rushed in a poor choice on the editor’s part.
But that’s minor. The dialog should have been worked on, though. It was just too low at points.
But I suppose that’s also nitpicky.
So I’m willing to concede that, overall, this is a severely nihilistic summer film covered in the filth of morality and the dirge of Heath Ledger’s death.