Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Day 125: He was a dark and stormy knight

The Dark Knight is a movie lost on me. I don’t know if that’s in keeping with most commentators on cinema or whether it’s just me, but the sum of all the melodramatic parts just don’t add up and appear only like minor planets orbiting the celestial performance of Heath Ledger’s. Where did THAT come from?!

To the film, first. I have a sneaking suspicion that in some rarified film biz stratsopheres, in which I do not move, others may well talk of The Dark Knight in terms of the “Batman franchise”, indicating the movie as a “brand”, just like the “Harry Potter” franchise, the “SITC (Sex In The City)” franchise, the Spiderman, Superman, Star Wars, Transformers, Twilight, Shrek and Middle Earth “franchises/brands”. I know, I’m only two paragraphs in on a piece about The Action Plot movie and I’ve opted for derision and contempt.

The question to be posed is this: are any of the sequels and/or prequels to any one of these brand/franchise films driven by a motivation other than money?

Best I leave this subject alone and return to Gotham City. Firstly, for most of the The Dark Night, I can’t understand what “the Batman” is saying; he’s breathy, raspy and vocally chanelling Dirty Harry Callaghan. Second, I don’t actually get what’s going on in the plot? Third: the film doesn’t know when to finish, it’s just false-ending after false-ending after false-ending. Fourth: it’s pompous, with it’s pretensions of the dark, tormented anti-hero, outlawed by the city and citizens he’s protected and saved...poor, misunderstood and exiled “the Batman”. And which bright spark came up with the idea of calling Batman, “the Batman”? That’s worse than those that talk about themselves in the third person? Wasn’t it Ross Perot who did that for an entire Presidential campaign? Didn’t he used to say things like “...when Ross Perot is in the White House, what Ross Perot will do...”? Sports people often talk about themselves in the same way too.....odd is what I call it.

The Dark Night is Action-movie hooey. BUT, Heath Ledger’s Joker is Grand Guignol writ large. I can’t confess to having been a paid-up Heath Ledger fan, I never really “got” his Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain, nor did his Ned Kelly do it for me, but maybe I need to balance the Ledger by seeing Monster’s Ball? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike him as an actor, he’s just not my tasse du thè (there’s pretension for you). His turn as The Joker trully side-swiped me. Visceral, indecent, droll and nihilistic, it was a magnificently fitting, yet tragically untimely, turn on which to extingusih the flame and a film-stealing performance it is too.

For this observer, it seems that the structure of The Action Plot, is relatively simplistic: ACTION sequence, plot plot plot, ACTION sequence, plot plot plot, ACTION sequence, plot plot, love, plot BIG ACTION, leave the door open for the next film in the series. And it’s no longer good enough to be talking of the one sequel, on no siree bob: three films, five, I’ve even heard of a film just released that is the first in a series of SEVEN!! It’s nothing new, why am I shocked and surprised?! I really need to calm down.

But please don’t misunderstand me, there are plenty of Action movies from Jaws to Bourne to the Ring of the Shire to the fantastic Spy Games and beyond, that I have invested of myself in and loved. I know when I’m enjoying a movie - Action or otherwise - because I’m not marvelling at a particular facet of the filmmaking craft (Heath Ledger), I’m on the edge of my seat wondering what “they’re” going to do next to “save the world, because “they” are always “saving the world” from something or someone?

Day #125 Tip: The Action Plot
I’ll calmly hand things over to our resident tour guide through the various story/plot forms, Norman Friedman (‘Form and Meaning in Fiction’ [Georgie University Press, 1975]): “The Action Plot, the first and most primitive type of plot is also, daresay, the most common. The primary and often the sole interest lies in what happens next, with character and thought being portrayed minimally in terms of the bare necessities required to forward the action.”

I’ve never been a Bond (007) fan, I don’t know why, most of my male peers are and I’m not sure that I’ve actually see a Bond movie all the way through? I probably have, it’s just so long ago. But, I have read the Ian Fleming books (he also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang...I kid you not) and I’d recommend the books to all. The Bond in those books - Thunderball, Dr No, Goldfinger - is a much more interesting character than I ever saw on the cinema screen; a contradictory, complexed, alcoholic, psychopath, no wonder they had to launder that interesting three-dimensional study of a human being for the action movies that we’re (you’re) so familiar with? And I mean that, the James Bond of the books would never have worked in the action movie “franchise” that has spanned the five decades that it has. I’m told that there’s more of the “darker” side of Bond in Daniel Craig’s first outing, Casino Royale; well, it’s only taken forty years to get there and “the Batman” of The Dark Knight was meant to be darker too?

“We rarely if ever become involved here in any serious moral or intellectual issue; nor does the outcome have any far-reaching consequences for the protagonist, leaving him free to start all over again, it may be in a sequel.” That’s Friedman again.

No Producer in their right-mind should ever hire me to script an Action flick, because I guarantee you that I would not be able to save myself from introducing concepts and conceits that would bog us all down in subtext and unconscious objectives; darkness of character depicted through action, I may be a dab-hand at, but delivering full-throttle Action where characters explode, literally, is just not my forte.

The Action Plot can be vibrantly mixed with any other plot and often is: Bond (Action meets Espionage), Star Wars (Action meets Sci-Fi) The Poseidon Adventure (Action meets Survival), then there’s War, Western, Animation and Horror.

I “enjoy” an Action film, I’m just not action man.

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