Sunday, August 5, 2012

Will Brooker's "Hunting the Dark Knight"

Will Brooker is Reader and Director of Research in Film and Television at Kingston University, London. He is a leading expert on the Dark Knight, author of the cultural history of Batman, Batman Unmasked. His other books include Using the Force and Alice’s Adventures. He edited the Audience Studies Reader and The Blade Runner Experience, and wrote the BFI Film Classics volume on Star Wars.

Brooker applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Hunting the Dark Knight: Twenty-First Century Batman, and reported the following:
My book proposes that Batman is a mosaic, an icon made of fragments, and in keeping with this theory, page 99 of the book reveals an aspect of the whole – a valid angle, but only part of the bigger picture, a single snatched statement overheard from a longer dialogue. You could guess at the broader conversation from this page, but it would only be an informed guess: the extract doesn’t provide a smaller-scale, fractal version of the entire book.

Page 99 discusses the discourses of ‘realism’ – in scare quotes because it means so many different things – that circulated around and were imposed upon Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, to give it a sense of machismo, authenticity and fidelity, and to distinguish it from the camp, theatrical, stylised Joel Schumacher films (Batman Forever, Batman & Robin) that had come before.

The production’s authenticity here was coded in terms of ‘real’ stunts, ‘real’ danger and it is implied, ‘real’ men, rather than the pantomime dames of ‘camp’ Batman movies and television shows. But there’s also a sense of ‘realism’ in the (more likeable) sense proposed by Andre Bazin in his discussion of Bicycle Thieves: a discourse of purity, freshness and a lack of artifice. The insistence on down-and-dirty masculinity in the interviews with Nolan and his crew starts to sound like protesting too much, but to his credit, Nolan chose to simply set up events – men falling off cliffs, trucks turning over, hospitals exploding – and film them with multiple cameras. This, to me, is a far more endearing and impressive approach to the choreography and organisation of film-making than relying on CGI, as so many superhero films do.
Learn more about Hunting the Dark Knight at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue