Batman, The Dark Knight

OK, let me start by saying; 1) Heath Ledger is as good as the hype and 2) the latest three hour Batman movie isn’t – at least not quite.

Batman may have hoped to inspire goodness in mankind, but at the start of Christopher Nolan’s latest saga, it’s kind of backfired. Vigilantes and bad guys alike have taken to dressing up in tights and mouseketeer hats and are collectively confusing the hell out of the GPD (that’s Gotham Police Department to you). And worse still, the successful crack-down on organised crime has brought the city’s mobsters into the collective thrall of an appalling, a-moral, dysfunctional villain – Heath Ledger’s now-notorious Joker. Up against this anarchistic and chaotic force of un-nature is gloomy-two-shoes Batman and his cohorts – Bale, Caine, Oldman, Freeman again – joined by Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) a golden-boy District Attorney with really nice hair.

Batman, The Dark Knight looks great, and I was interested to read somewhere that 1995’s Heat was one of the inspirations for some of the Dark Knight’s relentless criminal set-pieces – it’s got the guns and that breathy sense of inexorable movement. And (plot spoilers from here on in) if it had all ended with the final show-down between Batman and the Joker, it would have been a truly well rounded movie-going experience. But Harvey Dent going bad? It just didn’t make sense. And on a separate but related whinge, am I the only one who thinks Maggie Gyllenhaal is hardly worth the bother of a run to Woolies, let alone a killing spree?   

Anyway, one thing I did admire about the movie was the refreshing up-dating of the aura of Gotham; no more dark and dirty alleys, but a grand, modern, thriving city. It’s Chicago that gets to play host to the production and according to Wikipedia, the movie generated $45 million in Chicago’s economy, creating thousands of jobs in the process. There’s a cute little website called Chicago.Everyblock that lists every location the movie used in the city and links it to a little map. Nice. And of course you can always check out Emmanuel Levy’s in depth comment.

Ever the art director, it was the Redhead who noticed that many of the movie’s locations looked out onto the same street, and as it turns out he was right (again, dammit) The IBM Building was the site of the Wayne Enterprises Boardroom, Harvey Dent’s office, the Mayor’s office and the Police Commissioner’s office. (And Di, Bruce’s bedroom was built separately on the 39th floor of Hotel 71 on East Wacker Drive……)

Having scouted extensively all over the world Chicago was ultimately chosen as the main location for Batman because director Christopher Nolan had a “truly remarkable” experience there filming Batman Begins – a great advert for the benefits that come from rolling out the carpet for filmmakers. Somehow though, I doubt he’ll be rushing back to Hong Kong. The shoot there was plagued by unhelpful city officials expressing concern over possible noise pollution and traffic. Like flipping an 18-wheeler on Chicago’s La Salle street wasn’t potentially problematic??? I guess it’s all about attitude.

At the end of the day, jurisdictions all need to consider: do you want an extra $45 million kicking around your economy or don’t you? (and that is NOT a trick question.) 

Bucket List

The Bucket List brings Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman together as cancer patients who become buddies and undertake an international “road trip of a lifetime.” 

The LA Times has a fun link about what it would actually cost – $105,730 for two – to undertake their global odyssey. Which is lucky since, it was all shot on location in LA. Erin Cullin at Empire Movies nails it.

For me, the unfulfilled promise of “The Bucket List” was epitomized by its choice of filming locations. During the film, Edward and Carter travel to France, to an African safari, to the Taj Mahal, to the Egyptian pyramids, to the Himalayan mountains. In real life, Morgan and Jack sat in front of a green screen on a Hollywood set while one of the worst examples of computer-generated special effects was projected behind them. It reminded me of those old black-and-white films in which people are shown travelling in a car while the same scenery flashes continuously behind them in the rear window. That is “The Bucket List” – a film that had all the potential to be the “real thing” but which instead felt like a cheap imitation.