Every now and again I despair for the state of the movie nerd blogosphere. It seems like it’s an endless cycle of half-educated goons posting pictures of Star Wars wedding cakes and rumors about who is playing Unus the Untouchable in the latest Marvel movie. What’s worse, I often feel like a big part of the problem, as my stated goals of curating a site that appeals to the discerning, smart and cool movie fan gets overwhelmed by my desire to sometimes get hits (thankfully we have some of the best readers online, and even when I’m running really silly stuff the comments tend to be smart and/or funny. You guys do my job for me some days!).
Every now and again, though, shit gets real. Real smart, that is. And in a small tidal wave of great thought and writing, the nerdosphere suddenly paid some attention to action filmmaking last week.
It started with Jim Emerson’s dissection of an action scene in The Dark Knight. I think Emerson’s video piece (which we ran here) is smart, but that he makes a fatal error: he’s too stuffy. I’m sure Emerson wasn’t expecting his video essay to wind up in front of the mouth breathers at Superhero Hype’s message boards, but he should have - Batman shit goes places. And so his essay comes from a very professorial place, and he’s totally correct in his approach, but his approach could have been better. For one thing instead of just saying ‘These are rules Nolan is breaking,’ he could have spent more time explaining why these rules exist, and what rules even mean to filmmaking.
But someone did take up that challenge and wrote lengthily about the meaning and aesthetics of action. That they did so in the voice of the Incredible Hulk is probably the most punk rock thing of 2011 - 7000 smart words about the technical and artistic meanings of cinematic action, written in the style of ‘HULK SMASH!’ I love the internet some days. And for three days last week I loved the shit out of it. You can read this piece, written by frequent BAD commenter @FilmCritHulk here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
Finally, Joseph Kahn weighed in, bringing much-needed filmmaker perspective to the entire argument. You probably know Kahn from Torque or some videos or an Old Navy commercial or two, but once you’ve seen his film Detention you’ll understand that he’s operating on a whole new level when it comes to filmmaking. He’s in the same league as an Edgar Wright (circa Scott Pilgrim vs the World) as someone who understands the old rules of film and breaks them into tiny pieces, dragging the art into the 21st century. Kahn’s point by point takedown of Emerson’s video is excellent and required reading - click here to read it.
You should also go back to BAD’s original Emerson post, as it has 119 comments currently and many, many of them are damn smart and insightful.
This is what the internet should be - smart people disagreeing smartly. Kahn expertly defends Nolan’s filmmaking with details and examples, not just by saying he loves The Dark Knight. Film Critic Hulk brilliantly breaks down action filmmaking in language anybody can follow. And Jim Emerson is bringing big film studies ideas to bear on his analysis of a summer blockbuster. How great is all of this? I’m in heaven.