Thursday, 17 July 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #128: Holy Buzz Batman!

Boy oh boy. Folks are positively giddy over the The Dark Knight, the latest instalment in Christopher Nolan's reboot of the Batman franchise after the campy-hackery of the Joel Schumacher years, and it's not just the fanboys.

Interest has been so intense that simply reporting about the intense interest crashed Nikki Finke's site, and sparked a record number of theatres being booked for the opening weekend.

Now there are those in the media who think that all this excitement is caused by the film being the last completed work of actor Heath Ledger, and there's a lot of campaigning for a posthumous Oscar for him, but, like most media, that theory only scratches the surface.

I will start by admitting that I am a Bat-Fan. Ever since I was a little kid and discovered the Denny O'Neill-Neal Adams revival of the franchise after the sci-fi of the 1950s, and the comical camp of the 1960s TV show. And I am adding to my DVD collection every movie version of Batman on video that I can lay my grubby little hands on, sans the Joel Schumacher atrocities, and including, so far, one of the 1940's serials. My favourite villain: Two-Face.

Now that all that's out in the open, I can finally offer my opinion about why Batman: The Dark Knight is currently hotter than Catwoman in heat.

Now either The Dark Knight (TDK) is part of a brilliant plan on the part of Christopher Nolan, or he's the luckiest bastard in Hollywood, because everything's coming together beautifully.

First Nolan resisted the temptation to start his rebooted franchise with a duel with Joker, choosing instead to offer the less famous villains of Scarecrow and R'as Al'Ghul. This showed an understanding of Batman's place as modern folklore. Ask anyone who Batman is, and they'll tell you, ask them who his arch-enemy is, and they'll say The Joker. So it's obvious to start the franchise at the top, with the arch-enemy, Superman fought Lex Luthor, so Batman must fight the Joker.

Not necessarily.

Nolan didn't go the obvious route, and derived ideas from Frank Miller's groundbreaking Batman Year One comic series for Batman Begins. That won over many of the fan-boys, sparking anticipation for BB.

Second, Nolan put a lot of work into Batman Begins. He went beyond the usual combo of over-paid stars SFX spectacle the studio was expecting. Instead, he cast the perfect Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) and put emphasis on character and story, while using his skill as a filmmaker over studio money to deliver vivid and beautifully constructed thrills.

He also made what the less iconic villains of Scarecrow and R'as Al Ghul creepy and bad-ass respectively.

That was the brilliant part.

People saw Batman Begins, saw how well those villains turned, and they started to wonder, if those guys the non-fans haven't even heard of were done so well, then just how kick-ass will it be when the Joker finally shows up.

Nolan used the most powerful selling tool in the world.


He made a good film, that held the promise that the sequel will be even better. The complete opposite of the usual Hollywood strategy of shooting their load in the first instalment and then trying to beat the law of diminishing returns with bigger explosions.

The main reason Hollywood normally rejects this strategy, is because they don't really believe that the audience is really bright enough to anticipate characters, or stories, and anything beyond things going boom.

But the folks behind the new Batman did, and it looks like it's going to pay off big time.

I wish them good luck, because I like it when someone does something smart in Hollywood.

It's just so damn rare.

1 comment:

  1. You're absolutely right about Nolan. "It's all part of the plan" as far as he is concerned. I'm glad Dark Knight is kicking much ass at the box office, he deserves to do well for making such an amazing movie for both the people who really want to see it and even people who aren't comic book/movie fans.

    Thanks for participating!!!