The Dark Knight & Following

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The Dark Knight: Year: 2008, Writers: Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan (screenplay) Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer (story) Bob Kane (characters), Director: Christopher Nolan, Budget: 180 million (estimated), Domestic Gross: $158 411 483 (opening weekend)

Following Following: Year: 1998, Writer and Director: Christopher Nolan, Budget: $6 000, Gross: $43 188

christopher nolan made a big splash back in 2000 with his film Memento.  that is one really great film and one of my all-time favorites.  since then he has proven that Memento was no fluke with solid films like Insomnia and Batman Begins and the really good and under appreciated The Prestige (a film that i had at #4 on my list of best films of 2006).  however, what i want to talk about here are mister nolan's first film and his most recent one.

in case you have just gotten back from spending the last two years of your life in a sealed living facility at the bottom of the ocean, nolan's most recent film is the already a huge success, The Dark Knight (you'll notice that it isn't Batman: the dark knight, but rather just The Dark Knight.  i found that interesting). 

as for his first film, most people would probably answer Memento if asked that question, but in fact it is a film he made two years earlier called, Following about an unemployed wanna-be-writer who starts following strangers which leads to him meeting a thief and things go from there. the film is shot in black and white and definitely has some film noire characteristics with its characters and some twists and turns.

let me start by saying, i am a huge fan of tim burton's first batman movie and nicholson's joker.  also, while i thought Batman Begins was okay, i didn't love it the way many critics seemed to at the time.  with those two factors in mind i can tell you that The Dark Knight is my second favorite batman movie ever, and will probably be number one for many out there.  this thing is great. 

it's interesting for those of you who remember when burton's film came out how everyone was talking about how 'dark' it was.  and you might notice how they have been saying the same thing about nolan's two goes at the caped crusader.  in fact they are both dark takes on the story, but whereas burton's films felt more like comic book movies, nolan has gone for this realism in his approach to the material from how it is shot to the way the people behave to the characters themselves who are all based in some reality, rather then fantasy (they aren't bitten by a radioactive spider, they didn't fall in a vat of acid, etc...).

i complain often about films that are too short.  movies that needed to add another 10 or 20 or 30 minutes of actual story and character rather then relying on effects and action (because without the other stuff cool action isn't going to make me forget that i don't care about the movie or that the story feels incomplete).  The Dark Knight at about 2 hours and 30 minutes is as long as it should be.  there was even a point in the film where i thought it might be over and was thinking that it just didn't feel right, but it wasn't over, there was plenty of movie left to go and it was all really good.

personally, there were a couple things i was curious about, and one would be scarecrow.  we saw this character/villain at the end of Batman Begins and i thought he would have a bigger role in this film.  Instead he is literally on screen for about 20 seconds and then never seen again.  this is less a complaint and more just a curious question about why they did that.  maybe they are keeping him around and building up the idea that gotham isn't made up of one villain at a time, which i can buy and have no problem with.

one other thing was that we don't get any origin story for the joker.  there are a couple things thrown out there, but nothing concrete.  now, does this hurt the film?  not at all, but i personally have this desire to know how these super heroes and villains became who they are and so for me i was just quite curious...  also, given that these nolan films are very set on making this world as real-life as possible (rather then comic book-real) i was curious about what they were going to do with the joker.

both Following and The Dark Knight are films about lone men.  men that watch the world from the shadows.  men that at first seem to be on the outskirts of society.  however, both men also have alternate personas.  for batman it is bruce wayne and for the guy in Following it is a cleaned up version of himself that he creates in order to get close to a woman.

two very different films, but with some similar themes, The Dark Knight is the best super hero movie i have seen in a long time and Following is a good film that many will appreciate as the beginnings of this great directors career.