Batman, Nolan & Why Cinema Matters

Like millions of people around the world, I was so excited to finally get my chance to see The Dark Knight Rises. I faithfully avoided reviews, comments and anything I felt would colour my viewing of this much-hyped event. And was I satisfied? Did it meet my own expectations? Absolutely. And frankly, as a movie-goer who paid for my ticket and sat down in a theatre with other movie-goers, that is all that mattered to me.

I have heard fellow writers speak about where it failed, or didn’t work; and yet others who feel as I do – Nolan nailed it. And I can see where they have their point, and of course, are allowed their opinion – as we all are. But, I loved it. I look forward to seeing it again. I know there is much I need to revisit, just to absorb the film better. And considering Nolan stated in his farewell to Batman letter that he did not originally plan to do two movies, let alone three, he managed to tie up all three stories in the last instalment.

Hathaway’s Catwoman was terrific, and provided a much-needed relief character, usually provided by Caine’s Alfred. She was often the Court Jester, and the character who would follow her own path yet act as the catalyst in propelling our hero on his journey. And running down the subway tracks in those heels – well, step back Batman!

The story is convoluted, but who watches a Nolan film for a simple story? No – we love Nolan because he manages to get so much into a film, and yet not lose the plot (pun intended!). But there are also times when ‘simple’ fits the bill for me – I love watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers tear up the dance floor!

But I’m not analysing or making comments on structure – I need to see it a couple more times for a proper look in that way. Certainly a trip to see it in IMAX is a priority! But what I did really love was the hype, the interest and the conversation about the film before it came anywhere near a public screen. People were excited about going to the cinema, seeing a film outside their living rooms and being taken on a ride out of the everyday. Whether the critics or other filmmakers thought it was Nolan’s best work or not, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that film and movies and characters and stories are still an important part of people’s lives. They are choosing to spend their hard-earned leisure time and money on what filmmakers are putting on screens – whether they are independent films or backed by a large studio.

And as one who is a writer and on a learning curve as a producer, I can say that is great news! There will always be a job for me and my colleagues as long as people want to see films. And our job is then to ensure we make the stuff that keep audiences turning up. The recent horrific tragedy at Aurora, Colorado will naturally affect people’s decision to attend a cinema, but ultimately we will remember that events such as this are out of the ordinary and we will not have our freedom determined by the irrational actions of an individual.

The late Blake Snyder, in his response to someone who disagreed with Snyder’s assessment of Nolan’s Memento, made this comment about why making entertaining cinema matters:

‘And on a personal note, I am a reverse snob when it comes to film. I think there is something beautiful about entertaining lots of people; it’s selfless, it’s giving, it’s thinking of an audience first and your “growth as an artist ” second.

I think there is something terribly arrogant about many filmmakers who create movies to “make people think.” People can do their own thinking thanks. What they can’t do on their own is be entertained, taken away, lifted up, inspired, and delighted. That’s what “commercial” films do best, and I think it’s a pretty noble pursuit! Hollywood does it better than anyone in the world, and I am the defender of that philosophy — despite the fact that it often leads to overemphasis on box office.

To me, making money is not what being “commercial” is about.  But if you want to know how people vote with their ticket buying, the only way to see what works and what doesn’t is box office — and that’s why I emphasize it.’ (January, 2009; http://www.blakesnyder.com)

And in a final comment, people who make films do so because they love it; money is a poor reward for the effort, hard work and hours poured into creating a world into which our audiences can disappear for even a short time. There are far easier ways to make money. As Walt Disney said, ‘We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.’