Tags: batman

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Movie Knight

I mentioned how much I enjoyed Mike Hill’s talk at Beyond Tellerrand in Düsseldorf:

Mike gave a talk called The Power of Metaphor and it’s absolutely brilliant. It covers the monomyth (the hero’s journey) and Jungian archetypes, illustrated with the examples Star Wars, The Dark Knight, and Jurassic Park.

At Clearleft, I’m planning to reprise the workshop I did a few years ago about narrative structure—very handy for anyone preparing a conference talk, blog post, case study, or anything really:

Ellen and I have been enjoying some great philosophical discussions about exactly what a story is, and how does it differ from a narrative structure, or a plot. I really love Ellen’s working definition: Narrative. In Space. Over Time.

This led me to think that there’s a lot that we can borrow from the world of storytelling—films, novels, fairy tales—not necessarily about the stories themselves, but the kind of narrative structures we could use to tell those stories. After all, the story itself is often the same one that’s been told time and time again—The Hero’s Journey, or some variation thereof.

I realised that Mike’s monomyth talk aligns nicely with my workshop. So I decided to prep my fellow Clearlefties for the workshop with a movie night.

Popcorn was popped, pizza was ordered, and comfy chairs were suitably arranged. Then we watched Mike’s talk. Everyone loved it. Then it was decision time. Which of three films covered in the talk would we watch? We put it to a vote.

It came out as an equal tie between Jurassic Park and The Dark Knight. How would we resolve this? A coin toss!

The toss went to The Dark Knight. In retrospect, a coin toss was a supremely fitting way to decide to watch that film.

It was fun to watch it again, particularly through the lens of Mike’s analyis of its Jungian archetypes.

But I still think the film is about game theory.

The Dark Knight on the silver screen

Remember what I was just saying about not going out to the movies much? Well, I decided to make an exception today for for three reasons:

  1. Brighton Pride is on today. Surely most people would rather go to that on a sunny afternoon than sit in cinema?
  2. The film is showing at the atmospheric , the oldest continuously operating cinema in the UK, the furthest thing from a multiplex.
  3. This is the quintessential water-cooler pub movie and I can’t take part in the conversation for fear of learning a spoiler. If I want to join in, I need to see the film.

So I went to the cinema and had my prejudices about the cinema-going experience confirmed. To be fair, the audience—usually the worst part about seeing a movie in public—were well-behaved (such a difference from when I lived in Germany). The problems were all technical.

For the first twenty minutes of the movie, the sound was dialled down and I was straining to hear what was going on. Once that problem was fixed, I was able to really immerse myself in the experience… until the climax of the film, at which point the projector began to strobe a blue light every couple of seconds. This lasted for a few minutes. Even once it was fixed, it was too late: the illusion was shattered. I, and no doubt everyone else in the room with me, was no longer thinking about the moral complexities of Bruce Wayne’s tortured inner soul; I was wondering whether I should go and demand a refund.

After my last movie-related post, Jeff Schiller wrote to say:

I think there are reasons to see a movie in a theatre, as long as it’s the right crowd. There is something great about sharing an experience like that with a large group of people you don’t even know.

That might be true but it’s so rarely the right crowd. The corollary also holds: it’s pretty awful to share an experience with a large group of people you don’t even know if they aren’t enjoying it to the same degree. And anyway, I’m not sure the communion of the cinema outweighs the technical compromises. When I watch a film at home, I get to decide who I see it with, how dark the room is and how loud the sound is while I enjoy the pristine perfection of a digital reproduction.

Maybe I should just treat cinema-going the same way I treat watching movies on airplanes: it’s okay for films that are so-so but don’t spoil a really good movie by watching it in a substandard environment.

Well, at least now I can finally go and read this spoiler-containing blog post and discuss The Dark Knight and game theory with James in the office on Monday morning.