People on the internet tend to be really opinionated. Sometimes these opinionated people might make a blog or a vlog about a movie people really like. Sometimes the people are cool and list their reasons they disagree. Most of the times people seem to get personally offended. A lot of their responses start with ” I can’t believe how people could say that” or ” I don’t understand how people can say that” which tells me that they mean it. People genuinly don’t get how a movie they consider moving and brilliant can come under scrutiny.
Now as a blogger whose also an independent filmmaker, I note the irony of the title and subject of this article. The mere fact that I’m basically going to tear down a movie people love with just opinion is pretentious in itself. I understand that and I want to have uncharacteristically unbiased discussion about something I may not like, on the internet. I want to help give some perspective and try to relate to people better.
I am in no shape or form trying to change anybodies opinion. I am a firm believer of liking whatever you want. Also , this is not a critique of movies this is an assessment of how well movies get across their themes and how well it’s integrated into the story.
Pretentious in movie making terms is a scene or moment that doesn’t serve the overall story. Filmmaking in this day and age is all about how effectively you can tell your story. It’s also about making a cohesive experience for an audience. Of course you have experimental films which don’t follow the traditional narrative or style of most movies, I’m only referring to films that are released into theaters. And by this definition all movies have pretentious moments, which is good. Putting personal touches on a story gives it a voice and style. Movies would be extremely dull if no director ever put their stamp on a story.
All the movies I deem “brilliant”, have a lot of themes underlaying and overlaying the plot. I put allegories, metaphors, and themes in the same file. These are good for a story if they come naturally or organically and is a good way to make movies relatable. The problem starts to come in when they’re inorganically put in a narrative where it doesn’t belong. Or as I like to say “shoved down people’s throat”. A theme should be embodied in a character arc as to better integrated into the story. It should never be a backseat driver, or actually dictate the narrative, it should be a blanket to go on top of a story that makes it better. All your themes should come back full circle in the 3rd act and should pay off.
I’m going to use an example I hope everybody has seen Fight Club. Now regardless of how I feel about Fight Club overall this movie is very subtle with it’s discussions about society. Fight Club works both as a good story and as several allegories in the same movie. It’s a satire and there are several layers of Irony in not only the movie, but even the title.
Except you don’t need to “get it” to like it and if you revisit it you’ll find more metaphors that are carefully placed inside of the movie that don’t interrupt the movie. Fight Club never stops to explain itself it just keeps pushing. It also has it’s major themes of Anti corporation and Breaking out of Conformity symbolized by it’s two main protagonists Tyler Durden and Jack. Fight Club is brilliant because of it’s ability to relate to people who want to be entertained , and for people who want to be entertained and informed.
Now to be more effective and I’m going to reference and use what I consider to be the most polarizing movie of recent memory. The Dark Knight Rises. Nothing fits the either love it or hate it quite as well. I’m also going to compare The Dark Knight to The Dark Knight Rises, but not in overall quality only in use of themes.
Now, The Dark Knight was about a lot of things. It was about Anarchy, Moral Decay, Personal Sacrifice, and Symbolism. For fear of spoilers I’m not going to go into details, but effectively you have a whole lot going on on top of what’s basically a crime epic. How does Nolan pull it off. You guessed it, by having a character represent the themes. Nolan pushes the line of pushing it in our face, but that’s mainly because he’s got such a massive undertaking and you have to keep it simple to keep the movie from buckling under the weight of itself.
The Joker represents Chaos, Batman represents sacrifice, and Harvey Dent represents Symbolism. There is some crossover of course which makes for better storytelling. But what about the Moral Decay? That’s embodied not only by all of the characters in the movie, but also Gotham itself, It effects everybody and gradually builds up until the climax, and is underlying every major plot point.
Now to The Dark Knight Rises. It’s about War among Classes, Redemption, Morality, Rising Up, and a lot more. The problem this time around is the themes feel really forced. There’s a lot more show and tell and some of themes don’t even really come into play in the last act. In it being more show then tell the themes feel under developed. There’s never really a sense of any of them, except Redemption, a plug that was already tackled with Batman Begins.
Bear with me, it’s arguable that The Joker and Bane are very similar in themes. Once again not comparing the characters just what they represent. Bane’s plan is basically The Joker’s on a bigger scale which to me is real neat, without being a rehash. Nolan said out of respect to Heath Ledger there would be no mention of the joker so he had no choice but to be subtle. Bane even says “take control of your city”. Which is all good and dandy until you think about it. Joker gave Gotham an ultimatum with no easy choice. But Bane is the one with the bomb. There’s absolutely nothing any citizen of Gotham could do to alter their fate. It is quite literally out of their hands. And this starts a massive train wreck.
So Bane has a bomb that has a timer set to a ridiculously long timer. I’m assuming it’s so we can get a Gotham that is decaying. Visually it’s absolutely Gorgeous, but does it serve the story. Not Really. There’s no sense of decay because the movie suddenly goes into warp speed and skips seemingly months at a time. So arguably it’s just there to appear as if it’s having a discussion about Class Separation, but it’s really not, or as much as it pretends too. There’s not even a moral for the city to learn, and even Bane’s character reveal completely undercuts the big statement the movie was trying to make.
Now like i said this is purely just based off of observation. I’m not trying to say I’m better then anybody else and I’m not trying to insult people’s intelligence. There are plenty of movies that have went completely over my head, and it is not my intent to say otherwise. Ultimately what I want people to take away is a better understanding of a conflicting opinion. In other words let’s agree to disagree.