Mind = Blown w/ "Batman Begins" & "The Dark Knight"
Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are two films that blow minds and open eyes, every time you watch them. Whether it’s the cinematic brilliance and detailed backstory that engulfs you in Batman Begins, or the insight into the human psyche and highly intricate storyline that overtake your sense of reality in The Dark Knight, both films do a wondrous job of bringing this DC graphic novel and the world of Gotham City to life – all whilst nudging the viewer to apply it to the real world around them. Entertainment and life lessons, my favourite combination!
First things first, we need to talk about the cinematography of Batman Begins. Mind blowing, chill-inducing, and even heart-wrenching are the adjectives I’d use to describe so many of the scenes in this film. A nominee for the Academy Award’s Best Achievement in Cinematography in 2006, Batman Begins showcases breathtaking glacial vistas with shots that highlight just enough of the action and view of the characters, amongst the vastness of their surroundings and the beauty of what is overlooked if you pay too much attention to what's happening between people! Whether it’s martial arts training in the mountains, or standing on roof top edges against a black sky softened by the subtle glare of city lights, there are views, patterns, and shapes that all help build the setting, those placed in it, and how that image and the beauty that radiates from it feeds into creating a story world, visually. When this occurs, and using the latter example of the aforementioned, we begin to feel as though we know the city of Gotham, just by how its portrayed in the film and the angles most used to show us this world. A top-down or eye-level point of view for example, are often used in scenes with Batman and might illustrate his place in society, where he believes he belongs, or where he stands in relation to others. A low or upward angle on the other hand better highlights a handful of things. An “on the ground” or “at the scene of” point of view (most often used in scenes of car chases and anything of that sort) is best translated with a low-level camera shot. Whereas a slightly low or upward angle can reflect a lower placement on the societal ladder – which can be inferred from the use of such angles being most utilized in dark alleyway settings or in “The Narrows” once Batman’s caught a criminal, and all the content that make it into that frame of such shots. The other side of an upward angle however, can also signify feelings of hope – like when the Bat signal is cast into the sky (which already signifies a need for assistance), and people look up to it. There are honestly countless ways in which cinematography help stimulate and build a film or even series, which is exactly why I deeply appreciate these works of art, when they come to pass!
Next we have the meticulous detail applied to the storylines of both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. With a backstory as detailed as the one we’re given in Batman Begins, it becomes incredibly easy to sympathize or even empathize with our protagonist Bruce Wayne and Batman, paving the way for almost any and all emotion generated from the film to transcend and absorb us, simply because we feel like we know everything too well, ourselves! How can one not understand and experience the failures or triumphs of the protagonist, when we’ve literally been with him through it all?! From childhood trauma to sheer determination and everything in between, a backstory and in-depth character creation as detailed as this one means we’ve been there too, and that makes watching Batman Begins as captivating as it is. With The Dark Knight however, the attention to detail is shifted from a focus on the past, to the present. The analyzation of Gotham City and its people either from the Joker, Batman, or the people in Bruce’s life, opens the door and lets viewers step inside this DC world and experience such a reality, for themselves! And by doing so you gain character perspectives, which in turn helps one better understand, come to terms and even agree with, a lot of the themes and hard truths that are brought to light within the film. Both a good and bad aspect, the details of such a world and society allows it to easily mirror directly onto our own world – making it easy for the audience to connect more with the content of the film, and not just be visually engaged.
Lastly, what and how do details realistically portray themes, questions, or ideas represented in a motion picture? And is it even plausible to relate such aspects to our own reality, when the source is a graphic novel? Well, the answer to that latter question is first and foremost, yes! As I’ve mentioned before in my Toy Story piece (“A Trip Down Memory Lane w/ Toy Story”), the world of animation or graphics exists in alignment more often than not, to our real world. Authors and illustrators pull from what they know to create something on a page. So as much as Gotham isn't a real city, nor are Batman, Scarecrow or Joker real people, the traits, characteristics, settings and overall fundamental infrastructure between human beings or inanimate objects are real, and can be found in the world around us. Don’t you think there are already people that think the same way all the characters in Batman do? That the injustices that exist in their world, are ones that also exist in ours? Do good and bad or light and dark still have the same correlation and connotations? When you realize the answer to all that is “yes”, you begin to understand why the way we or how the “other” – being in this instance anyone that doesn’t perhaps conform to the status quo or someone who is considered “bad” – thinks in The Dark Knight, is worth paying attention to and deliberating on in relation to the world you live in, and your place in it!
With regard to the former, the use of immaculate details portray, question and represent many themes and/or ideologies that exist in our world already, through the art of layering. The build up of comments and ideas brought to light by the Joker, questions asked (whether genuine or rhetorical) by just about any character in the film, Batman or Bruce Wayne’s perspective, and the idea of fear as understood by the Joker in comparison to Batman’s understanding, all help create the overarching themes, questions or notions that branch from the film. Whether its how one or the other views the binary of light and dark; right from wrong, how people should perhaps shift their focus and perspective on the idea of society and their role in it, or the flat out life lessons of perseverance that are heavily alluded to in Batman Begins with the oh so famous phrase: “Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up”. Brick by brick, these aspects of life and all such a word encompasses builds tangible perceptions we can grasp and devour, leaving us, the viewer, with the tools to apply what we’ve witnessed or even learnt, to our lives and the world around us – and if not then at the very least, gives the inner-workings of the human beings complex mind the chance to dwell on such, which is always the first step in the right direction. Think! And if you're still unsure exactly what themes and topics Batman Begins and especially The Dark Knight illustrates, just watch the films again! Trust me when I say, there is value in watching films more than once. And that being said, you should now turn your attention to these Christopher Nolan staples, and see just how much more you’ll take in, appreciate and contemplate!
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