Kamehameha x The Courtroom: Dark Knight Fanboys Chill Out

“Kamehameha” is a series of post where we examine various action scenes from movies, anime, and cartoons, to name a few. It’s name comes from one of the most famous special moves in Dragon Ball Z. We chose a DBZ reference because it’s the definition of an action show…minus the drawn out stare down filler.

In the Cut, Part I: Shots in the Dark (Knight) from Jim Emerson on Vimeo.
It was a few months ago that Jim Emerson first posted a video (shown above) detailing the flaws in the tunnel scene in The Dark Knight.  Many Christopher Nolan fanboys came running to his defense, saying things like “Nolan meant to shoot it like that!” or “Emerson is an idiot who is just nitpicking!” What did I have to say about this? I liked it. A lot.  I found it very intellectually stimulating.  Emerson’s analysis of the tunnel scene opened my eyes to things I hadn’t thought of or seen before.  I had always wondered why some critics found the action of The Dark Knight to be incoherent and confusing.  But after watching this video, I understood why.  It is also very ironic that a few days before this video came out, my girlfriend Pluffei watched The Dark Knight for the first time (yes you heard me correct) and told me that she found the action to be confusing.  I shrugged it off as her just getting caught up in everything going on, but after she watched this video, she gave me a big, “Ha! I’m not the only one who thinks that the action was confusing!”  Many of the things mentioned in the video were things she could not articulate herself.

I think it’s important to note that in no way, shape, or form has Emerson said The Dark Knight is a bad film.  At the end of the video he says the following:

What does all this prove? That ‘The Dark Knight’ is a lousy movie? No. We’ve only looked at one part of one action sequence. There’s a lot more to the movie than just the action. What it proves is that this photorealistic IMAX action picture plays fast and loose — sometimes — with certain narrative filmmaking techniques that help make action understandable. At the very least, when you hear someone say that the action was incoherent or hard to understand, you should now know exactly what they’re talking about.

He is explaining why HE thought the scene was confusing; he’s not telling us, the audience, that we should think it is confusing as well.  There were some points I too thought he was being nitpicky with (and he even admits himself that he was being nitpicky at the POV scene before the convoy goes into the tunnel), but if you’re doing a in-depth, complete analysis (or a biography…which is a topic for another time *cough*Jeff Pearlman Walter Payton*cough*), then you must cover everything.  I was happy that he covered the SWAT van scene; that was the one part in the scene that never sat well with me.  Like Emerson said, Nolan directs a scene that plays “fast and loose.”  The van tumbling into the river is believable, but I would have preferred to actually have seen it happen (i.e. how it defied physics).  The armored truck and garbage truck not colliding with the semi before it pushed the van into the river was also baffling.  And the disappearing van when the Batmobile took the RPG hit was pretty egregious.  The one thing I wished he covered was where the hell the Batmobile actually lands.  A friend of mine finds that point particularly annoying.  It just flies off into some back alley of some sort.  We don’t see how it got there.

Anyways, back to the topic, even though you may not agree with what Emerson has to say, you should at least appreciate what he’s done.  I never found the scene to be confusing albeit the SWAT van defying physics, but now I can understand why others do, which was his goal of the video, contrary to what others might think (“He’s just out to get Nolan!”).  Nor does he say that Nolan is an idiot or incompetent at directing action.  Emerson just found it confusing, and thought it could be directed in a clearer way.  Every person has a style of directing; the techniques he mentions are not concrete rules, or at least that’s the impression I got.  As he put, “there are thousands upon thousands of [choices] that go into the making of a feature.”  I honestly don’t think he,or anyone else, adhere’s to every single one of these rules.  It’s pretty important to point out that this was only part 1 of a 3 part essay on analyzing action sequences.  Go watch part 2 and part 3!  I found them equally interesting as part 1, and each video shows how action can be directed.

Also, prominent music video director Joseph Kahn wrote an entry on his blog dissecting Emerson’s points, and he basically concluded that Emerson is wrong.  Kahn is free to think whatever he wants, but I think he’s the one in the wrong.  As mentioned earlier, this is Emerson’s view–his opinion–on the scene.  Plain and simple.  No one is right or wrong.  Emerson concluded in the credits that “all mistakes are my own,” and that further illustrates that this is his own view.  Have I made that point clear yet?  I hope so.  Until next time people…

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Nick

Just a simple man, trying to find his way in the universe. Image hosted by servimg.com

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