Why so serious?

July 20, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Jasen Obermeyer

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the theatrical release of The Dark Knight, the second movie in Christopher Nolan’s rebooted Batman trilogy.

The movie has drawn critical acclaim, for very obvious reasons; the music, the action, characterization, story, themes, nearly everything about the film spells cinematic masterpiece.

But what clearly stole the show was Heath Ledger’s portrayal as the Joker. He was diabolical, humorously dark, anarchic, chaotic, representing everything Batman stood against.

Nolan is well known for his dark, human morality theme-based films layered with practical effects. For his Batman trilogy, he brought in realism, or at least the illusion of realism, which is why so many loved the films. They were grounded in their characters, setting, storytelling, making the believable, like the conflicts and characters could exist in our world.

It seems today’s society craves that sort of entertainment. But is there a line, and if so, have we crossed it?

The Dark Knight wasn’t the first movie in the wave of bringing in realism, but it certainly was the most popular.

Look at Casino Royale, the first film in the Daniel Craig-rebooted James Bond franchise. Released in 2006, it, like The Dark Knight, received highly positive reviews, above all being its practical effects, realism, tone, and darker take on Bond, very different from the Sean Connery, or any other Bond era. The Craig-led Bond era continued with grittier, more realistic films, continuing to set the bar higher for film expectations.

Why we do love these actions heroes, and superheroes so much today? It’s because we can identify with them. They are flawed, they go through tough challenges, and they are not invincible. Today’s society likes that realism, the sense of possibility.

Even the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though is not close to the ‘Dark Knight Trilogy’ or other comic books or action star movies, does still give that sense of realism, tapping into serious themes at times, bringing dark and mature moments.

Look at Batman and Robin, hated by many, including those who worked on it, as it was seen as family-friendly, unrealistic, and of course pun-filled.

Movies are movies, they aren’t gong to be 100 percent realistic, it’s near impossible, but too far out makes us feel disjointed, and almost laugh. I guess human beings want that sense of realism, a sense of trust.

The Dark Knight certainly brought some controversy, again, back to Ledger’s Joker portrayal. He died in between editing and release of the film, due to accidental overdose on prescription drugs. He took them due to the toll on his work in the film. He gave it his all in the film, and locked himself in a hotel room for months to perfectly develop the character right down to the slightest movement.

I don’t believe he died from taking the drugs due to being psychologically damaged by playing as the Joker, I think his extreme dedication and overwork did him in.

But now it seems today that in order to be real, you have to be violent and dark.

In television, take Criminal Minds for example. It deviates from the standard police drama, focusing on the criminal and not the crime. What it brought was a greater sense of realism, and better understanding of how a killer (supposedly) works.

What it brings is a darker rendition of crime, so much so that Mandy Patinkin, one of the show’s stars, opted to leave in the third season, claiming “I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality.” I eventually stopped watching the show for several reasons, one of them being the violence.

In contrast, the Bugs Bunny cartoons are violent, but comedic, and very obvious that it’s unreal. Falling off a cliff and getting smashed like an accordion, or getting shot in the face and your beak just spinning around your head is not real. Yet they are censored, something my father (who watched them as a kid) always points to, saying he’s seen more violent television shows, and he’s right.

In every form of entertainment, we try to have a sense of realism, from movies and television, to even music, especially with the Nirvana-led grunge era in the 90s, with louder, heavier music and lyrics that speak of pain, loneliness; negative, but real topics and issues in society and people’s lives, making it relatable.

Why is it that we’re attracted to violence? Why is it that we’re enthralled with characters like the Joker? Is it because they are things we never want to be?

Now when we hear of a mass shooting, it’s no longer shocking, it’s just a regular occurrence. Have we become that desensitized to violence?

What will the future of entertainment hold? If those who enjoy the realism for what it is, and not what it represents, then that’s maybe a start to seeing if we have a problem or not.

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