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The Art And Making Of The Dark Knight Trilogy
posted August 2, 2012

imageCreators: Jody Duncan Jesser, Janine Pourroy, Chip Kidd
Publishing Information: Abrams, hardcover, 304 pages, July 2012, $40
Ordering Numbers: 1419703692 (ISBN) 9781419703690 (ISBN13)

I sort of like those Christopher Nolan Batman movies. I don't give a rat's ass about Batman, so I don't bring a lot to the table in terms of a previous engagement with the material. I think this makes me able to process what I see up on screen without a lot of cultural interference, or at least more as a person that enjoys big-budget action movies and has some familiarity with superheroes generally and this one specifically as opposed to someone for whom Batman means anything in the larger sense. I don't have a pantheon of Batman works and expectations regarding same into which I can then place this film or Christian Bale's performance, say. This film doesn't exist for me in a continuity of Batman. It's what I did Tuesday rather than go home after the first movie I saw. I'm certainly not emotionally invested in the quality of the movies or their box office success as a reflection on me, as I suspect a whole lot of people in comics are.

What I tend to like about the Nolan Batman movies is that they're dour, textured adventure films with technical elements (some of the sound) and flourishes of performance (that little shimmy that Heath Ledger did in the nurse's outfit) that intrigue despite all the broken-down, sloppy weirdness around them. I like the good. I like the bad. I like the mix of good and bad. With this latest I enjoyed its langor, how the movie lasted an interminable length of time yet all the characters except Joseph Gordon Levitt's and maybe Anne Hathaway's seemed to be lacking two or three key scenes. It was like hanging out with your friend that's always late to everything as they kick back with a newspaper and assure you that everything is going to come together 40 minutes from now. I appreciated that first Bane/Batman slugfest as a movie moment that was both ridiculous and made story sense. Bane wanted to beat Batman up and be seen by his men doing so. Batman was just fine with having a go; things usually work out for Batman when it comes to beatings. This was infinitely preferable to their fight later on, when Batman and Bane seem to fight like two people dancing at a wedding because they can't find anyone else that will hit the floor with them. Yet another thing I liked was was how many odd visuals bubbled to the surface. Bane's 1980s Acne Steriod Back. A bunch of cops assaulting what look to be a bunch of poor people. The silly-looking prison straight from a Flying Buffalo book. The one time I laughed during the movie was when I was wondering where Joker was, at least as a cultural presence, and then I realized that Batman taking public blame for Harvey Dent's death made The Joker Batman's less successful, captured stooge. That may be the most hilarious victory the Dark Knight has ever enjoyed over the Clown Prince Of Crime. So I think these films are a mess, a trashed dorm room of goofy ideas, but there's enough of a serious intent that you get all sorts of weird eddies into which you can stare. Blow some stuff up on top of that and I'm there. Kind of like a superhero comic book.

imageThe Art And Making Of The Dark Knight Trilogy is one of those fancy film books I imagine you get now for a lot of major motion pictures, a way to facilitate a making-of tome on the subject of a movie a lot of people will actually see, maybe, or a gift for the Batman movie super-fan that wants to squeeze every last drop out of the thing they enjoy. I had a writer's reaction: "That was probably a pretty good gig." I find books like this a little curious because they seem to me diminished experiences. It's no longer Fall 1977. We don't have to read magazine articles on When Worlds Collide with a mention of The Force in the final paragraph tossed in as our only connection to Star Wars until it's re-released. We can look at the movie itself again and again and again very, very soon. I also don't have a lot of interest in borderline-romantic, flattering depictions of the big business of film production. I figure these people are paid a lot of money and are all good at their jobs and they found a way to do whatever; some better than others. I assume there are difficulties along the way which are solved. I don't care if the bats are live or virtual. Making the suit fancy enough to be filmed in sunlight isn't exactly a high-five moment to me. Despite his insistence to the contrary, I'd much rather Michael Caine be Alfie than Alfred. So the writing here is one big Peanuts adult-voice wah-wah, at least for me, particularly when the greatness of the enterprise keeps being assumed but is never quite explained. If comics fans love Batman, this book loves the success of Batman, and pretty soon it becomes one and the same. So this book is decidedly not for me or anyone else that might ask why we need it. From that vantage point I don't see anything about this work that's particularly exemplary, that transcends its commercial function in a way it can be recommended unless you already have a hankering for just what they deliver. I know full well that the Great and Powerful Oz is a little man throwing levers; I don't need to see him interviewed; I don't need 200 pages telling me that throwing those levers is important.