As Above, So Below
It's that rare found-footage film with a strong premise, a memorably eccentric style, and plenty of energy to burn. It's also poorly conceived, and hard…
* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.
She-Hulk is a feminist hero; Tasteless souvenirs at The 9/11 Museum; Remembering Sam Greenlee; Is Mary Barra standing on a glass cliff?; How to sell a film at Cannes.
"Gotham's time has come. Like Constantinople or Rome before it, the city has become a breeding ground for suffering and injustice. It is beyond saving and must be allowed to die. This is the most important function of the League of Shadows. It is one we've performed for centuries. Gotham... must be destroyed." -- Ra's al Ghul (Ken Watanabe), "Batman Begins" (2005)
"Over the ages our weapons have grown more sophisticated. With Gotham we tried a new one: economics.... We are back to finish the job. And this time no misguided idealists will get in the way. Like your father, you lack the courage to do all that is necessary. If someone stands in the way of true justice, you simply walk up behind them... and stab them in the heart." -- Ra's al Ghul (Liam Neeson), "Batman Begins" (2005)
"You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these civilized people, they'll eat each other." -- The Joker (Heath Ledger), "The Dark Knight" (2008)
"Terror is only justice: prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue; it is less a distinct principle than a natural consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing wants of the country." -- Maximilien Robespierre, 1794
"I am Gotham's reckoning... I'm necessary evil.... Gotham is beyond saving and must be allowed to die." -- Bane (Tom Hardy), echoing his former master in "The Dark Knight Rises" (2012)
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(You've seen "The Dark Knight Rises" by now, right? Good. I'm going to discuss a few things that I would consider spoilers, albeit mild ones, and then get to some pretty big spoilers later on, before which I will offer an additional warning, just in case.)
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The villains of Christopher Nolan's "Batman" movies don't think very highly of "ordinary citizens" (now popularly referred to as "the 99 percent"), whom they tend to view as mindless savages, slaves to fear who'll claw one another and the city of Gotham to shreds at the slightest provocation. The films themselves sometimes confirm that view (Gothamites get a little panicky in "The Dark Knight" when they fear that Batman is not keeping the crime rate down) and sometimes don't (they choose not to blow themselves up in the Joker's intricately planned ferry experiment). This isn't really a theme that's developed in the movies, but like most of the political and social references, it's something that's... there.
Back then, I could watch Max Fleischer's Superman cartoons forever and never get bored. Today, the case is almost the same. Oh, those films have some of the finest animation I've ever seen--even by today's standards, the animation is phenomenal, right from the fluidity of the movements of the characters to the uncanny weight of the objects. The characters and objects had shadows too.
NOTE: Reader Cameron Smith has noticed that this shot has been cropped for the DVD version of the film. See his explanation here.
Although I enjoyed certain aspects of "The Dark Knight" (especially the gorgeously real Chicago cityscapes, which I thought stole the movie out from under even Heath Ledger), I have confessed I couldn't tell what was supposed to be going on from one moment -- often one shot, or one line -- to the next, and, for that very reason, soon stopped caring. Now that I've been able to go through it several more times since its release on DVD and Blu-ray last month, and have cross-checked the movie itself with the screenplay for clarification (it's available as a .pdf here, For Your Consideration), I'm able to better understand exactly why. And it's not just me. Now, at last, we have the means to really look past the phenomenon directly at the picture, and to understand how it works. Or doesn't.
Let me start by asking you to examine one simple, minor early example that has to do with narrative logic and, perhaps, setting up the audience's willingness to suspend disbelief in a comic book universe rendered with hyper-realistic visuals (even, occasionally, in IMAX): Please watch the shot above, the final piece in the opening sequence, showing the Joker's escape from the "mob bank" robbery and giving us our first "overview," if you will, of the scene. The Joker has backed a school bus into the lobby of a bank, filled it with mob cash, and then makes his exit.
After the jump is the script's description of the shot. But before you read it, please leave a comment with your account of the shot AND your assessment of how the Joker planned this getaway. Pay special attention to the timing (dust/debris, busses, traffic signal, arriving cop cars). Ready? Begin.