Thursday, December 4, 2008
Went into a Warner's Home Video event tonight at the Academy expecting to get a little drunk and came out of it loving The Dark Knight even more, knowing what BD-Live is, further understanding that Chris Nolan is neat & Heath Ledger is a genius, owning a Dark Knight Production Art/Shooting Script Book, Blu-Ray special features disc & a bunch of TDK napkins (thanks friendly bartender!), fed and yes, a little drunk.
Before tonight I had never even HEARD of BD Live. Apparently it's Xbox Live for Blu-Ray? If you have a BD Live enabled Blu Ray player or a PS3, then you can connect to the internet and partake in the potential awesomeness. The Dark Knight is Warner Brothers' first foray into this format and it's shaping up to be reason alone to invest in a Blu-Ray Player. First of all, it comes with tons of content, waiting to be streamed for free- the newest Warner's trailers, episodes of Warner Premiere Motion Comics (Mad Love! Shadow of Ra's al Ghul!) and more. Down the road, the content may even include episodes of Warner's TV shows. And because everything is streaming, you can get to the content faster and it doesn't take up any hard drive space. One of my favorite features of TDK BD Live is the commentary option. With a computer & webcam, you can record YOURSELF giving commentary for the whole movie or just a scene here, a scene there. Then, when people go on BD Live, they can select your commentary to watch with the film. Now, it's doubtful that I would ever watch a stranger's commentary, but a friend's? Certainly. Maybe even someone famous? A blogger, a writer, a director, an actor, a critic, a technician - people not involved with the film who would have no business doing commentary for the dvd, but would have an interesting perspective, making their thoughts available to the general public? Yes, I'm into that.
Also available is partaking in live text commentary - a bunch of people watching the movie at the same time, texting or typing their thoughts as the film goes on. So a whole group of friends, all in different parts of the world, could watch The Dark Knight together and read each other's commentary.
And you heard it here first - on December 18th, Chris Nolan is doing a live commentary with 100,000 Dark Knight Blu Ray owners. He will host the screening and answer questions as it goes on. With 100,000 people, it will most likely get a little crazy and who knows if Chris Nolan will tell me how exactly the Jim Gordan thing works (trying to keep this post spoiler free...), but it still sounds pretty damn cool to me. In Nolan's words, "It'll be interesting to see what it's like...the potential of it is very exciting." (Note: It had previously been announced that at some point Nolan would do a commentary, but only tonight was the date of this chat confirmed)
After learning all about BD Live and again wishing I had lots and lots money to spend on Blu Ray players and Blu Ray discs and giant HD televisions, we got to spend a half hour with Chris Nolan. Here are some highlights from the discussion.
-It was "a shock" to Nolan & his team that TDK was so successful i.e. is the 2nd highest grossing film of all time
-He really studied how to approach a sequel - what works versus what doesn't. His goal was to "provide a new experience, stretch in all directions" He wanted to delve deeper into the characters, both old & new and stage the action and story on a "grander scale", using an "operatic sensibility"
-He wanted the film to connect to what we as an audience are concerned about. What would impact us, what would excite us. In the end he realized he was tapping into his own "fear of anarchy" and that the Joker was a "distillation of that force"
-In his approach to the entire franchise, Nolan wanted to use a great ensemble a la Richard Donner in Superman. Get a cast that is wholly talented, all of whom bring a lot to the table. This was the mindset in casting Batman Begins & was carried through to Dark Knight
-In reference to Heath Ledger, he had "Something to express that was very much in line with the character in the script. It just meshed"
-Compared the home Blu-Ray version of Dark Knight to the big screen IMAX version and said that the advent of Blu-Ray is a vast improvement technically and important for the translation of IMAX to home video. Now people at home can see the difference between shooting in IMAX and shooting in 35mm in a way that even audiences who saw TDK with a 35mm projection didn't get to experience. Blu Ray points out the "grain structure" and "focus anomalies" and will actually expand in size the same way the IMAX print did, all of which are important for optimal TDK viewing.
-Drew inspiration from Frank Miller's work in the 80s - more serious, more contemporary
-If he made a third film, it would be for no reason but the continuation of story. He is currently looking into where the story would go and if it needs to go there. He maintained that it's very hard to make a movie of this scale (and specified he wasn't asking for our sympathy, drawing a laugh from the crowd) - it's two hard years and you gotta love it. One of his biggest fears is getting halfway through making a film and realizing it's unnecessary and he doesn't want to make it anymore. If there is a third story that needs to be told, there will be a third film, but nothing is set in stone or a given.
-There is no 3 hour cut anywhere - no deleted scenes. He, John Nolan & David Goyer would cut scenes before they ever made it to the screen in what Nolan calls an "aggressive editorial approach." Their criteria was that every scene needs three reasons to be in the film or it's out. This made for a difficult time in the editing suite as every single scene was essential and could not be removed.
-The music ended up playing a huge role in pacing and storytelling
-Shooting in IMAX is about "clarity" and "sharpness" not being big. It's about providing a "sense of the screen disappearing."
-He was shocked that no one ever tried to work with action films in IMAX before & would love to shoot a film entirely in IMAX. The problem with this? An IMAX camera is very noisy, SO noisy in fact that all the dialogue in every IMAX scene had to be looped in post - a feat more difficult for the younger generation of actors, who have less ADR experience. Would ideally like to shoot a hybrid film where all MOS scenes are IMAX are all scenes with dialogue are 65mm.
-When translating a story to a screenplay, the first question he asks himself is "What is the point of view?" For Memento, the protagonist couldn't remember what had happened right before, therefore telling the story backwards seemed a natural device. In TDK, there are many characters and a gradual rise in tension, so linear works best.
-The videos shot by the Joker were in fact shot and mostly directed by Heath Ledger. For the first video, Wally Pfister came in and checked the lights, the sound guys set up a few extra mics, everyone hid around the corner and they let Heath play. Ledger had been planning to direct and was an incredible collaborator with a great mind. Nolan trusted him implicitly. Ledger's work on the first video was so fantastic that Nolan wasn't even there for the second video shoot with Anthony Michael Hall. He gave Ledger the camera and said "do whatever you want." Apparently every take Ledger did was different, but always in line with the story and always fantastic. Where are those on the dvd, Mr. Nolan?!!
-Something was mentioned about scanning 8k...I couldn't follow the technical speak. Which is sad for me.
-He studied English Lit in school and is a self taught director. Started playing around with a camera at age 7 or 8. Believes in the Kubrick school of thought that the best way to learn how to make a movie is to make one.
He then bid us goodbye and a screening of Dark Knight began. Have I mentioned I really love that movie?
Also an important bit of information - Missed TDK in IMAX the first time around? The Dark Knight is being re-released on January 23rd in IMAX theaters across the country. If you haven't seen it yet (Here's looking at you, Danifesto), I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity and buy your IMAX tickets the moment they go on sale.