Movies

Mattywood

Christopher Nolan:
The Dark Knight BD-Live Community Event

Christopher Nolan BD-Live Event
Screen art: Warner Bros.

The Christopher Nolan BD-Live community screening of The Dark Knight wasn't the awesome event I was hoping for, but it wasn't a total flop.

On the technical side, things went extremely well here at stately Matt Manor. I was able to login with only a minimal delay and the moderator was able to take control of my Dark Knight disc, starting and pausing the movie via the Web without a problem.

But things apparently weren't going as smoothly out in Burbank, where Chris was holed up in a Warner Bros. Home Video office. The moderator was disconnected and rejoined numerous times during the event.

That aside, the real disappointment was in the caliber of the questions being addressed and their presentation. Also, one hour into the event, Chris wrote he was feeling a little tired and needed to pee. That led to the first of two pee breaks. There'll be more about the latter later.

As for the presentation, Warner's Dark Knight Blu-ray includes a feature that allows average fans to make their own running commentary via a Webcam. I haven't played with that yet, but in comparison this official WB affair was low rent. Merely a posting of text messages, like a standard online chat, it was resplendent with all manner of typos (Wayne Manner, anyone?) and gaffes. In some respects, even though it was truly cool to be "watching the movie with Chris," technically it felt like a throwback to the old Compuserve days during the Internet's infancy.

Perhaps as part of the inevitable Hollywood studios bailout Warner Bros. will be able to come up with the coin to buy a Webcam at a really good price on Amazon and upgrade their bandwidth capacity.

Relax, folks. I'm being facetious.

Why So Serious?

There were reportedly upward of 13,000 questions asked, which sounds like a lot until you figure the attendance was capped at 100,000 people and upon accepting the invitation those people were given an opportunity to ask three questions right off the bat (no pun intended). That alone would potentially tally 300,000 questions. Whether or not all 100,000 "seats" were filled has not been officially announced.

The e-mail invitations to join the event started going out at 00:59 Mountain Time on Dec. 11 and mine arrived at 2:31. Maybe it wasn't necessary to be up all night, but given the record-breaking sales of the Blu-ray title, it seemed like a good idea. And at least I was able to take advantage of the time and clear out hundreds of e-mails from my Yahoo! account.

As it stands, the question moderating was weak and failed to weed out a whole plethora of annoying questions:

  • Who came up with the idea of...?
  • Whose idea was it too...?
  • Why did you cast so-and-so...?
  • How did you convince so-and-so to take such-and-such part?

Based on my own experience in asking actors the "why did you take this role" question, the real bottom line is money. I asked that of Morgan Freeman while at a red carpet event and that's what he said. He needs to pay the bills just like everybody else. He needs to work. And don't forget all the reports that circulated at the time of Dark Knight's theatrical release about how Christian Bale spent some time on the verge of bankruptcy. Not every actor gets $20 million a movie. And independent movies, particularly those which helped Christian build his reputation as a really unique, dedicated actor, don't pay the big bucks.

Regarding those "whose idea" questions, for me it's not a big deal to know whether something came directly from Nolan (such as the Joker's "Why so serious?" tagline), his brother (the cell phone in the gut) or improvisation ("You complete me" was not improvised – it was put in the screenplay by brother Jonah and Chris was unaware of the Jerry Maguire reference until Heath pointed it out).

There were also a bunch of goofy questions with equally goofy answers. All of the questions and answers that appear in this report really were part of the chat, but this is not intended to be a word-for-word transcript; much of this was written off the top of my head while reflecting on the event.

  • Q: Is it true the outstanding score for Batman Begins is what convinced you to make a sequel?
  • A: The score was terrific. Thanks for asking, Hans.
  • Q: Don't you think Eric Roberts made his character more awesome than it was supposed to be?
  • A: Eric's a great actor and I'm pleased he accepted this small role. Thanks for asking, Eric.
  • Q: I'm a big fan of Keith Szarabajka. What attracted you to casting him?
  • A: Keith's really talented. Thanks for asking, Keith's mom.
  • Q: Do you dream about Batman characters?
  • A: No. (And my own coda: Nolan has a life.)

I kinda doubt Hans Zimmer, Eric Roberts, and Keith's mom were online for the event. Hmmm... Maybe Hans was. That was, after all, a really funky question. In any case, it was impossible to tell by their online IDs, but at least they spiked the event with a bit of humor.

Some questions were flat out stupid:

  • What was the significance of the burning fire truck?
  • Why didn't Bruce say something when Harvey said he was the Batman?
  • Why didn't Batman hit the Joker with the batpod?
  • Was Batman tricked into saving Harvey Dent?

Come on! Pay attention to the movie and think about what's going on! It seriously troubles me that people could watch the movie and have such questions about the storyline. It's further proof people are truly challenged in the thinking department these days and many have a hard time processing and interpreting information as it is presented to them.

Another stupid question: Do you like Star Wars?
Phenomenally irrelevant.

But they were questions that Chris answered, nonetheless.

We Are Tonight's Entertainment

BD-Live Confirmation
Screen art: Warner Bros.

Even so, there was still some good content, such as notes about the Joker's back story and intentionally making it obscure, never identifying him by his real name and having the Joker tell different versions of his scars story to play off of his immediate audience's expectations and perceived clichés.

There was also a comment about how Batman Begins featured earth tones while The Dark Knight skewed more toward the blue spectrum. That's something made all the more obvious in the color schemes of the posters and painfully obvious in each film's opening frames. Batman Begins sported an orange-hued, earth-toned sky as a swarm of bats formed the iconic bat logo. The Dark Knight had the logo emerge from a blue haze and clouds.

Anyway, yes, that was intentional and it was something Chris worked out with Wally Pfister and Nathan Crowley. In the case of The Dark Knight, the blue was a reflection of Bruce's mental state.

Another interesting bit was Nolan's stance on film versus digital. He prefers the former. And he's also big on doing live effects as much as possible, while still acknowledging CGI can help push the envelope in some cases.

He was also diplomatic on a leading question about IMAX digital projectors versus IMAX film projectors. The former offers an experience superior to conventional 35 mm projectors and the latter offers the best possible presentation.

I was also pleased when Chris commented that he was surprised by the amount of disinformation out there that's being presented in high-def reviews. I would wager he's referring to the abundance of reviews written by young "high-def experts" who apparently have zero knowledge of film. Some even complained about things like the shifting aspect ratio on the Dark Knight disc as it moves between the scenes shot in IMAX and those shot in standard 35 mm.

It was interesting to hear about the architectural changes in Wayne Tower (one of those minor things did bug me about the sequel) and the more urban setting for Bruce. As Chris phrased it, he spent time in downtown Gotham "at this point in his career." There's a plan afoot, perhaps!

It was also good to hear Chris discuss his current and future plans. He is at work on a number of projects. But nothing was divulged about another Batman movie other than he is indeed talking with David Goyer about story ideas and seeing if they can come up with something they're passionate about. He's also working on his own original screenplay, a pet project over the years.

One other question stood out: Are you your own worst critic? The answer: No. Rex Reed has that honor.

Always Mind Your Surroundings

As I mentioned at the start, there were a couple pee breaks, which was a little disconcerting. The second one came with only a few minutes left in the movie. "I've gotta pee. It's a two pee movie. I need to make a shorter movie next time," he wrote.

I know that was written in jest, but a shorter movie isn't the answer. Better timing of the beverages and better bladder control is. That's advice from a globetrotter with an amazing bladder, if I do say so myself.

Boy, the stories I could tell! Like the time I was told I couldn't take my two brand new bottles of water, purchased at the bar directly across from the gate at the Cairo airport, on the flight from Cairo to Amsterdam. I gulped them both down, got on the plane, had more beverages, and never left my seat. But, yeah, it was a sweet relief to make it to the men's room in Schiphol.

Back to the issue at hand: When Chris returned, the credits were already rolling. While the movie was paused at the point of his departure, it restarted in real time and essentially "forced" an abrupt end to the chat.

Dark Knight: BD-Live Screenshot
Event screenshot courtesy of TheDigitalBits.com

After the event ended, my first reaction was one of major disappointment. But as I thought about it, it settled into my mind a little more fondly. It was indeed cool to be "online with Chris," even though he didn't answer my (better) questions.

It's not clear how the questions were selected, particularly given the volume of questions to choose from. Quality clearly wasn't a factor. And, more curiously, some people had multiple questions answered and some got acknowledged for simply asking why their questions weren't being answered.

Another disappointment: No transcript was made available for reference and posterity.

Those detractions aside, overall it was a good step forward in the home video experience and I'm glad I scooched out early from a department holiday dinner in order to get home in time for the event – on a frigid, snowy evening – and I'm glad I got that dessert to go.

Maybe by the time the third Batman movie makes it way through production, theatrical release and on to home video that video chat will be a reality.

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