The Dark Knight ★★★

I'm still kind of alright with this flick, it's still the Nolan feature that I like the best so far, but here I'd like to talk a bit about the director, and his fans (Nothing harsh, don't worry)

You see, the internet zeitgeist is fascinating. Certain things in internet world are highly different than in the real world, often times people online (mostly Redditors) tend to scoff at most normal people (Facebook normies who only moderately use the web) for being inferior than they are for a multitude of reasons, claiming that they're all a bunch of drones that can't think for themselves. Yet ironically this crowd tends to be more susceptible to blindly following trends than anyone else. It's probably by design, since it takes less time to make up your mind & rationalize on a certain issue by reading a headline, or a capsule, rather than hearing someone else tell it to you in person and discussing it, but more often than not, citizens of the world wide web are just as guilty of being drones than the people they love to feel superior to.

For example: "Avatar is SO overrated!", says the millionth person to make that claim this week thinking he's unique. Is the person making that claim genuinely disgruntled with the endless praise he sees for that feature, or is he just another hack parroting the popular opinion just because he knows that he's in good hands by saying it? Much is complained about the "plebs" that watch "lower-brow" movies in droves who are ruining cinema, but the problem isn't low-brow art, you know what's REALLY destroying cinema as we know it and leading us to a dark age? Hiveminds.

The inability for many people to think independently without fear of ostracization is a cancer, not just in art, but in the real world. People never stop navel-gazing over the Right being fascist demons and vicious, hateful drones (admittedly warranted for some cases) even though the opposition has proved to be a far greater example of blind, violent prejudice against Free Thinking than their "Evil" opponents have ever done. This also applies to people like Armond White, a man whose main goal is to encourage free thinking in film criticism (which, I'd like to add, is something his rabid contrarian fanbase completely misses about his reviews), and he's considered the devil of film critics simply because he doesn't think the same as everyone else.

And it is with this hivemind that allows plenty of people to consider films like Avatar overrated without any concrete basis, while, in the same string of anti-individualism, seem to have no problem with UNANIMOUSLY claiming that Christopher Nolan is the greatest filmmaker alive.

I don't despise Nolan. I don't have anything against people liking his films. I honestly didn't even think that much of him for quite a while, that is until just yesterday I encountered a video by Youtuber named The Closer Look titled "Why Christopher Nolan is the Best Director". Nothing against the creator himself, I’ve enjoyed his other video essays, they’re quite informative on film technique, but that title alone intrigued me, I was highly curious why a video maker like him would believe NOLAN of all people is the all time greatest. I clicked on the video:

"When it comes to consistently creating films of the highest quality, it is a struggle to think of ANY director that quite compares to Christopher Nolan."

First line, I’m already disillusioned. A struggle? Okay, I can understand how it can be a struggle, that is, if you haven’t seen more than 10 directors in your life. He goes on to declare his focus point of Nolan’s greatness: he combines screenwriting of high intelligence (eh.) with entertainment. Again, there’s nothing new about making captivating art that is also intelligent (D.W. Griffith anyone?), nor does is he close to being the best at either. And that’s pretty much the gist of it. I’m not attacking him for being underexposed to film, like I said, the plebs aren’t the true killers of cinema, but there’s definitely a real influence at play that allows Nolan to receive such unreal praise. When the collective places one man on such a high pedestal so much, it discourages people from wanting to go deeper into film and watching something of greater significance than simply what’s popular. After all, why should they see any other film when they’ve already seen THE BEST OF THE BEST, right?!

And Nolan isn’t the best. He just isn’t. The man isn’t terrible, but he’s not a master. Why is that? Well here is where I begin to talk about his 2008 effort: Fourth Greatest Movie of All Time (or Batman Begins II)
Before I get to the flaws with Nolan’s direction, I’ll start off with ways that Nolan’s film succeeds. Obviously, Heath Ledger as The Joker is the highlight, and Nolan does a good job at creating the intimidating menace that he is. There’s also a few cool moments of spectacle, some pretty good lines, and certain scenes have nice looking visuals (though I’ll get to all that). It’s mostly serviceable as an entertaining Batman flick, and on that level, I say it’s not that bad.

But this isn’t just a Batman movie, this is a masterpiece, made by a visionary filmmaking genius! How does it possibly fail?

I’ll begin with Batman/Wayne himself. He’s just so… nothing, in these films. And Christian Bale doesn’t really enrich the character very much on his own either. When I see him on screen, all I ever really think of is how much he reminds me of a much better performance he gave in 2000, and not the character I’m supposed to be invested in.

And speaking of his scenes, they’re just not very intriguing. The majority of the film that doesn’t revolve around Batman or the Joker are shot so plainly, nothing to draw your attention to anything but the talking. It’s like Nolan doesn’t really care that much about these scenes, only seeing them as simple build up for the cool stuff. Really troubling how such a “visionary auteur” shoots most of his scenes in such an uninteresting way, the only real defining characteristics of Nolan’s films seem to be 1. His love for high-concept epics, and 2. His re-use of the same actors. With some exceptions, the more visually interesting scenes are a result of CGI and special effects (Yes those are separate. Many of the night scenes were actually filmed in the day), leaving everything else flat.

There’s the dreaded plot holes, which this person has already covered in detail, but even disregarding those flaws, the writing as a whole isn’t as refined as it should be, and I’m hoping that this wasn’t meant to be Nolan’s magnum opus because these flaws could have only stemmed from a lack of a personal sense of perfection (not quite the next Kubrick if you ask me). To summarize, Batman’s motivations aren’t quite clear, making his arc unsatisfying, characters are largely bland and boring, and there’s an overabundance of unimportant scenes that extend the runtime to a worrying length (Thanks, movie. Now I have to stay up late to watch the next movies for my project). Also, as much I like some of the one-liners, this film does get pretty blatant with it’s themes more than once, perhaps to satisfy the aforementioned “it’s intelligent but casual audiences also enjoy it!” point.

There’s a ton of things I could nitpick, but I think there’s only one thing that really needs saying: Nolan is not an all-time great director. If you believe he is, fine, but I hope you can provide good enough reasoning for your opinion that doesn’t stem purely from what others have said, or from a lesser knowledge on film history. I fully understand why someone attacking your favorite film can be disheartening. When you’re met with someone that believes you’re wrong, you feel like your personal taste and intelligence is being held accountable, so you feel personally offended. I’m not one to offend with my neutrality of Nolan, I think The Dark Knight is fine as a piece of entertainment, but as a serious piece of drama, I’ve seen far, far better (I also could be wrong with most of my points, FYI). My personal criteria for a good movie is one where the things I like about it exceed its’ faults, so if the good aspects of TDK please you, I’m glad. All I ask is that you think rationally, have some self-awareness, and allow the free exchange of ideas, understanding that no one has to be on top of another all the time.