A Dreamer Walking

Christopher Nolan – Director – The Dark Knight

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies, Screenshot Series by Jacob on September 9, 2014

Chrostopher Nolan

Here we have one of the most iconic images from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Each superhero movie needs it’s “hero shot” and this is Christopher Nolan’s version.  Nolan shoots Batman at a lower angle and has him standing on top of the rubble, as a sort of pedestal. Yet, the cold blues devouring most of the shot and the empty space around Batman seems to be saying something more.

It’s obvious Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer Wally Pfister knows how to work with light. The cold and warm colors create a wonderful complementary color scheme. Just enough light hits Batman in order to have him stick out so we understand his emotional state. This shot takes place right after Batman loses someone dear to him and saves someone who he believes is important to the city. Through this shot Nolan is showing the conflict between the two actions. The burning building is being used to reflect the inner battle Batman is going through. We are looking up to Batman in this shot and he is intentionally put on top of the rubble to suggest he is rising above the destruction. Yet, because of the blues, Batman’s stance, and the emptyness around him we do not see this as a triumphant shot. Instead it communicates a deep conflict between the hero Batman is trying to be and the inner conflict going on inside.

The reason Nolan’s Batman series rises above (excuse the pun) other superhero movies for me is because of shots like this one. All superhero movies show physical conflict but rarely do I see the emotional conflict in a superhero movie treated with such potency. For Nolan this movie was all about questioning our views on what makes a hero. And like the shot above Nolan leaves us with a a hero, but not the one we are so used to seeing. Instead, he turns our concept of what makes a true hero on it’s head and goes into a direction that forces us to see the “superhero” as a human being not immune to the evils of the world he fights in.

Sequels

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on May 5, 2010

What do I think of Sequels?

That is actually a question I have been trying to answer for a few weeks now. I started thinking about it while watching the Pirates of the Caribbean “Trilogy”. I really liked the first Pirates movie, the other two left me extremely disappointed. The writers freely admitted that they were not planning for sequels when writing the first Pirates movie, they really tied things up thinking that was the only story for Pirates of the Caribbean that they were going to tell. The reason they made the next two films was because the first movie was extremely popular and the higher ups (executives) knew they could get a easy profit from sequels.

Sequels can be a success but only if you are making the sequels for the right reasons. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise did not seem to have a good enough reason for making a sequel. The real story seemed to already be told in the first movie. “Do I have another story to tell with these characters?”, should be the question we, as filmmakers, should ask ourselves before embarking on a sequel. Because Hollywood is a business first, the question often asked is “Can we make more money with this franchise?”, if the answer is “yes”, then no matter if they have a good story or not, they will try to make another movie.

Sequels have been given a bad rap because most of them have business men in the forefront of getting them made, rather then actual artists. When you start to put actual artists, who have good stories to tell, in charge of  sequels (or any film for that matter), you begin to see some powerful results.

Good Directors know that story is the key to making a film a success. Look at Christopher Nolan and what he has done with the Batman franchise. Christopher is the co-writer and Director of both Batman Begins and Batman Dark Knight. With both of the movies the executives for Warner Bros (the business men) allowed Christopher and his team to have creative control and the time that they needed to make the movie good. Christopher did not tie things up in the first movie, instead Christopher left more room for his characters to explore in the second film. Christopher made it clear that he would not make a sequel unless he had a story, so Warner Bros waited for him and his writers to create one. Because they were willing to wait, and because Christopher  had creative control, the Batman franchise made a magnificent sequel that has been hailed by fan and critic alike, as being just as good if not better the first movie.

The key to good movies is story, you must have a story that you are dieing to tell if you are going to make a film. Sequels are no exception, there have been very creative people who I think have made very bad sequels because they were not putting story first. Look at the Indiana Jones franchise as an example. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are some extremely creative people who were the reason the Indiana Jones franchise was such a success in the 1980’s. I personally think that the Indiana Jones movie made in 2008, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, was a huge disappointment and it was not nearly as popular public wise. I felt that they relied on old tricks, we saw most of what Indiana did in the fourth movie somewhere in the last three movies. There was nothing more that they seemed to want to say about Indiana Jones, that they had not already said before.

Spielberg’s, Lucas’s, and Harrison’s (actor who played Indiana Jones) greatest reasons to make the fourth movie, was because they had a huge amount of pressure from fans and because they wanted to get the old Indiana Jones team back together. Neither one of these reasons are good enough to make a sequel.

There never seemed to be the idea that there was another story to tell. Steven and Lucas had a very hard time creating the fourth story, they freely admitted that they did not really have one in mind when committing to the fourth movie. Even though their reasons for making a fourth movie were admirable, they were not good enough. The Indiana Jones legacy will suffer because they allowed a less creative sequel into the franchise.

I think the main reason why most sequels are worse then the first, is because the executives/business men, with little to no creative upbringing, start to control the franchise. We do not see as much control in the original story, because most executives realize they know very little about creativity. But, if a film is a success, the business men in charge think all they need to do is give the audience the same kind of thing except “BIGGER AND BETTER”, thus they throw more money at the franchise while giving them limited freedom and limited time to get the movie done. However, extremely creative people can also make bad sequels if they forget about the main reason for making film.

Story is what needs to lead every film. Sequels must be made because there is another story to be told. Sadly, because Hollywood is a business, concentrated mainly on popularity and profit, story will often be abused. When story is abused, the Hollywood business loses out on popularity and profit. The best business move for Hollywood to make, is giving the creative license to the artist and the artist using that license to make the story become the best it could be.

Good Stories = Good sequels

Giving Your All

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on May 4, 2010

I have been researching Christopher Nolan and his philosophy on the making of the Batman movies. For movies like Batman Begins and Batman Dark Knight, Christopher gave everything he had. He did not hold back. Christopher used what ever he could think of to make the story be the best it could be.

Because Christopher and his team gave it their all in the first two Batman films, should we be scared that the third movie movie will not be as good? I mean many people have asked, how can they possibly top themselves? Christopher has even admitted that he has a hard time doing sequels because he gives it his all the first time around. Should we as filmmakers be afraid then, that if we give a movie our all early on, we will always be disappointed afterword because we might never be able to “top ourselves”?

I think one of the greatest mistakes that filmmakers make when making a sequel or even just going on to their next project, is that they always want to “top themselves”. The movie they are working on needs to be bigger and better then the last movie.

Nobody should make a movie in order to top their last one. I as a filmmaker want to make another movie for one main reason, because I have another story to tell. If I have another story to tell with the same characters I used in the last film then by all means I will make a sequel.

We should make movie’s based on wanting to tell another story. In the first Batman movie, Batman Begins, Christopher and his team wanted to tell a story about Bruce’s (Batman) fears and how he could use that fear against evil, for good. In Batman Dark Knight,  the story was about Bruce’s rage and how far can he (along with Gotham) be pushed before he looses control.

In the Batman movies so far, the filmmakers pursued the main themes of the story. If a action sequence or scene in general did not pursue those main themes/purposes of the story, they were cut from or not even put into the script. The filmmakers did not hold back, but they based what they did on the themes of the movie.

As long as you have a fresh new point to make in a movie you should give it your all and not think of holding back for the next film. Give it your all in each film you make, just make sure you stay true to the story you are telling and have something new to say.