Extra-terrestrial beings, intergalactic space flight, fictionalized re-telling of actual historical events, biological disasters that either threaten or bring human existence to a screeching halt, these are several of the most common elements and themes found in blockbuster films. But given the varying elements of blockbusters in film history, certain uncertainties give the term no exact definition. Yet, people, regardless if they are critics or ordinary viewers, are able to determine if a particular film is a blockbuster or not.
Traditionally, blockbusters are regarded as films that denote popularity or success in production, but there is no authoritative body that gives requirements or criteria for judgement for films to be classified as blockbusters. Likewise, there exist no actual norms and standards on how films are to be classified as such. The fact that there uncertainty prevails over the true definition of a blockbuster leads to questions such as: is it based on towering budgets and high production values?
Are blockbusters made through the popularity of the actors involved in the film? Or are blockbusters created and classified based on the brilliant, and seemingly flawless ideas spawned by a particular filmmaker’s imagination? In any event, Julian Stringers (2) introduction to the book, Movie Blockbusters, asserts that the term has an elusive nature because the meaning of the term blockbuster if used in the context of motion pictures is never fixed or clear.
However, Stringer denotes that the term’s definition varies dependent of who speaks and what is being said (2). Stringer’s definition implies that a blockbuster does not necessarily have to have big budgets or sophisticated on-screen effects, rather, a complex spectacle that poses as a genre of the cinematic tradition. And by saying that a blockbuster is a genre, the distinct elements of the cinematic tradition categorize such films under blockbuster Take the case of Christopher Nolan’s 2008 blockbuster superhero film The Dark Knight.
Apart from the concept of a masked vigilante using high-powered gadgets to ensure that no more 8-year old boy would lose his parents again, the idea of a rich, powerful, and influential individual sporting a caped suit and a mask to fight crime is can only be meant for children, or to some extent what the American culture came to call, the geeks.. Nevertheless, The Dark Knight managed to crawl its way to the hearts and minds of millions of movie goers.
Set in a Gotham City manifesting itself as an archetypal city fired up by the sound of progress, but haunted by the vestiges of underground criminal activity, hypocrisy, and corruption, The Dark Knight revolves around Joker’s psychotic ploys to disgrace Gotham City’s law enforcement department while trying to reveal Batman’s alter-ego in the process. Putting Lieutenant James Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent in his primary hit list, Batman bends and distorts his principles in life to put a lid on the Joker’s irritating humour. As previously mentioned, the elements incorporated within a particular film create blockbusters.
The Dark Knight is no exception as the actors and the film’s plot cooperate to venture the superhero genre to blockbuster. New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis describes Nolan’s The Dark Knight as a film that stands between the thin blurry lines of art and industry, as well as poetry and entertainment. This is because the dark portrayal of the characters in the film gives a totally new perspective on comic book characters in contexts beyond the limitations of comic strips. The Joker (Heath Ledger), for instance introduces the audience to what he calls a better class of criminal.
The Joker is meant to become the irony of his own name that he exhibits a serious psychotic nature through gestures such as facial expressions and his walk (Nolan). Nolan’s Joker provides a justification for his criminal sanity by comparing himself to normal civilized individuals who feel that the laws being imposed make the world a safer and a better place. It is quite apparent in the Joker’s motives that he questions the morality of the corrupt law enforcement officers and politicians who allegedly feel that they are on the side of right.
Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker single-handedly carries the film to blockbuster status because of the dark, sadistic approach to the villain’s persona. Acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times writes that Nolan’s Joker steps up in such a way that he puts up ingenious situations where Batman (Christian Bale), Police Lieutenant James Gordon, and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckheart) are placed in tight situations that challenges their morality in every sense.
Dialogue is also one of the promising elements that place a particular film in the blockbuster genre. This is in large part brought about by language’s capability to leave an indelible mark to viewers from all walks of life. Adding more magnificence to the already unique, yet chilling gestures, the Joker’s lines exhibit a foreign implication that justifies his psychotic ploys. Simply put, how the Joker justifies the sadistic choices he gives to his adversaries establishes a different consciousness to people, especially ones who are oppressed by supremacists and bullies.
In a similar magnitude, Eckheart’s iconic line “either you die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain (Nolan)”, tattoos a harsh reality that serves as a portrait of the current state of political. By literally and figuratively living to his words, Harvey Dent taps a reality, though morbid, reflects how power becomes self-destructive in such a way that it corrupts people who hold it. Apart from the remarkable performances, the film’s sinister and tragic plot spells out the word blockbuster.
Primarily, Nolan’s The Dark Knight poetically departs from the typical good versus evil comic book plots. Nolan’s Dark Knight becomes darker as Gotham’s beloved citizen start to pile up for the caped crusader’s arrest, the Joker’s sick, demented mind takes advantage and prompts the infamous hero to come out and get him. Roger Ebert describes the plot as haunted that exceeds the boundaries of its comic book origins and transcends in to a shocking tale of tragedy.
This is because most of the film’s scenes engages both the audience and the film’s protagonists to decide on moral dilemmas. In the end, no matter what choice the hero makes, a scar is left on his morale and his identity. Ebert adds that because of the actors’ ability to captivate the audience and because of how the film’s special effects respect the emotional acting, the audience are blindsided by the drama that pierces to their compassionate side. Through-the-roof funding and sophisticated production principles seem to pave the way for blockbuster films.
But then again, how would a certain film become attractive and tasteful to the audience if it does not bring the promising elements in to consideration. Through its gloomy intensity and dark and horrifying humour, The Dark Knight managed to balance the weight production values with the term blockbuster. Likewise, the serious and cruel undertones of the film‘s plot not just redefines superhero movies but it clarifies what classifies as blockbuster as well. Works Cited Stringer, Julian. Movie Blockbusters. New York: Routledge, 2003. Dargis, Manohla.
“Showdown in Gotham Town. ” 18 July 2008. The New York Times Online. 22 October 2008 < http://movies. nytimes. com/2008/07/18/movies/18knig. html>. Ebert, Roger. “The Dark Knight. ” 16 July 2008. Roger Ebert’s Official Website. 22 October 2008 < http://rogerebert. suntimes. com/apps/pbcs. dll/article? AID=/20080716/REVIEWS/55996637/1023>. Nolan, Christopher. IGN interview on Christopher Nolan. 6 December 2007. The Dark Knight. Dir. Christopher Nolan. Perf. Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, and Aaron Eckheart. Warner Brothers, 2008.
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