In search for my next film review I entered the recently added section of Netflix and decided upon watching Dark Night. Don’t confuse it with Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight because that is actually an enjoyable and well produced film unlike this. The interesting thing about this film is that it happens to fail in every aspect conceivable yet, I still couldn’t say its incompetent by any regards. This might sound like sort of a paradox and that’s because it kind of is. The film has appeared to roll a 7-10 split in terms of reviews (65% on Rotten Tomatoes by critics but 36% with audience scores, a flat 5/10 on IMDb and a 61 Metascore on Metacritic) with some giving it high approval while others are being not so generous. The best way I can describe this film is that it’s a gilded (defined as the process of covering objects with gold paint, but also giving a sense of false brilliance) film in that on a surface understanding it would appear to possess some merit but this film is horrendously shallow and empty.
What is This Movie?
I assume that those who rated highly for this film were really influenced by the concept of this film. The film is “inspired” by the tragic events that transpired at the Century Aurora 16 Multiplex Theater in Aurora, Colorado on July 7th, 2012. On that day James Holmes opened fired inside a crowded movie theater, killing 12 and injuring more during a premiere of The Dark Knight. The film is “inspired” by the events in that it is loosely based on it in a way that without any prior knowledge of that event and the pre-recognition that this film is attached to that bit of history then the film is nothing on its own. Dark Night is to be clear not actually based on the actual event, the “shooter” in this movie is not supposed to be depicting Holmes and none of the “characters” in the film are based on actual people. My guess as to why not is probably has to do with the fact that to research the victims and events that transpired that day would have to amount to a great deal of dedicated work that doesn’t seem to be fit this films’ dedication to laziness given it was made in just 16 days. The premise of the film is a day in
“The Lives of six strangers intersect at a suburban Cineplex where a massacre occurs”
The worst part about the concept is that while I was aware going into it, you could theoretically watch the entire movie and be completely oblivious that a theater shooting even occurs. The only direct reference to it that in the very beginning you see flashing red and blue lights obviously a police siren, a girl sitting on a curb and the end of the film where we see the shooter walking into a back entrance of a theater with a large bag. I do think there is enough to understand the obscurity but if you’re old are not paying attention (this film doesn’t give much reason to be) then the whole meaningfulness of the film just goes straight over your head. You could consider acknowledgments to the Aurora shooting as foreshadowing what’s to come but that just brings us to one of the problems with this movie.
This Movie Isn’t That Smart
The film is in some ways is a cocktail of many things that certain films gets called out for being too “pretentious” but without the intent these techniques and content are used in better films. Dark Night can’t separate itself from the tragic events but instead of portraying it, it attempts to do subtle nods to what transpired. This includes the appearance of a batman mask, one random character dying his hair orange, and the shooting being a news event covered on the news. While it seems that these are added to no significance, the film’s director describes as otherwise as when interviewed told how
“That was to plant one of the many visual motifs that are at times subliminal, that acts like ghosts throughout the movie”
The issue I take with this assertion that these are used as visual motifs or possessing any type of sub-textual meaning or interpretive symbolism is that they don’t. These are not in the same vain as the snow globe in Citizen Kane or Dorothy’s ruby shoes in The Wizard of Oz but are just sort of Easter eggs. The director makes it sound as if they are used purposeful to support the narrative of piece (an example would be if the character whom dyed their hair that that was somehow displaying some sort of connect to him possessing a quality of James Holmes) but instead it’s just mere visual reference such as the pizza planet truck appearing in multiple Pixar film. It doesn’t add any value to the movie. The film also tries to approach a “limited dialogue” with long draw images severely lacking conversation. Recently, Dunkirk came out and proved very much so that a film can be compelling without resorting to heavy uses of dialogue but what that film had was Christopher Nolan who had a firm grasp on visual storytelling. The writer (surprise also the director) I feel not only didn’t know how to tell a story through visuals but I fear is much worse.
This Movie Doesn’t Know How to Tell a Story
While it’s a poor argument in general, this film is just so boring. What happens in this film you may ask, absolutely nothing. This film is almost what could be described as B-roll if you ever wondered what it would be like to watch a documentary without a narrator or talking head segments then you would have this movie. If this movie was instead a book, it would be completely composed of blank pages. A typical story follows or produces “characters” people we the audience are supposed to be interested in. So, in following the tales of six different people the credit cast on IMDb lists the interesting cast of fleshed out characters as:
- Jumper (Actor’s last name)
- [left blank]
- Back Ground
- Aaron (Actor’s first name)
- [left blank]
- little boy.
I wish I was joking, there is not only no development of characters but we don’t even get their names. The lack of characters is partially due to characters are defined by the actions they partake in. An event is determined by a trigger (cause of some sorts) and a heap (an effect or response to the trigger) and there is next to none in the film. I think the only actual complete event in this film would be a girl gets asked to go to the movies by a friend and as a result she goes. So only 5 seconds of screen time are dedicated to something actually happening.
This movie has me believe that it chooses these six completely fictional people and out of these six people (all of them made-up they could have fought a dragon for all I care and one person is a mass shooter) they choose to focus on the most uninteresting, dull, people on the planet. Dark Night tries to have you believe that six people did not have a meaningful conversation all day. That’s absurd, what’s more absurd is the things they decide to focus and show are insanely stupid. The “scenes” inside this movie include small vignettes of:
- man picking up turtle
- person walking to no destination
- mom asking about daughter auditioning for roles
- girl doing yoga
- woman undressing to get in shower
- person driving, you get the point.
These all play out with the excitement of an actuality film when film was first invented. The worst is the inclusion of a bunch of veterans meet up and do some sort of AA meeting to deal with PTSD. This scene only exists because the rest of the film completely lacks emotion another thing on the “good film checklist” but usually it comes naturally when constructing a story. The problem is if done right this concept can work well. In Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series Master of None, one episode “I Love New York” goes as followed.
” Master Of None brings the background characters to the foreground in this episode about the interconnected lives of a group of New Yorkers, painting a richly detailed and real picture of the city.”
The episode trades stories of people around the city displaying the daily struggles of multiple people prior to all converging in a movie theater. This episode was interesting as it genuinely tried to display real people who have conflict in there lives then the strange aliens that don’t do anything interesting ever found in Dark Night. Master of None knew how to tell a story, and the audience grows to empathize with the characters in the brief time spent with them in this episode. Well to be frank, in comparison the story here is just non-existent but some would say that the redeeming quality is in the impressive production.
Cinematography and Editing is Also Bad
Honestly Cinematography is an interesting subject in terms of this movie as those who have seen the film or are looking at the images I provided you probably disagree with me. One thing is that it has no clear form in that one of the opening segment acknowledges the camera in a bizarre documentary man behind the camera scene of a couch interview but besides for these couple of couch scenes I guess the cameraman isn’t actually filming the entire movie. While this seem like minor problem or a nitpick the fact that there is no difference between the footage of the interview and the rest of the film is that the entire film is shot like a documentary b-roll footage and the camera won’t let you forget that its there. Whoever is operating the camera is so bored that he unnecessarily feels the need to constantly be moving the camera. People will state that this film has “good cinematography” because overall it looks good but that’s because they have a good camera. Here’s the thing this film just doesn’t understand:
“The art of cinematography is more than using the camera, lights and other tools to their best abilities, the art also includes knowing how to tell that story well.”
The film is so afraid to use a common shot-reverse shot because it thinks it to good for them and doesn’t understand the value of them. That or its just too lazy to shoot extra coverage, it was shot in 16 days. One irking scene is that a moment or two is spent in a film negative room with red lighting. In a typical story a drastic lighting change such as this would in some way be juxtaposing the rest of the scenes but in this instant it just feels put in because it looks cool. The cinematography is severely lacking in this film and not because it doesn’t look appealing but because their is zero composition involved. Almost every shot is a wide shot as if the film-maker is afraid to have any intimacy with the “characters” as the viewer always seem distant unless the film-maker attempts to add an artsy shot (typically extreme close-ups).
While the cinematography isn’t great because it can’t add any layer of story because there is no story. However, it is by far less offensive the “editing”. What’s so awful about the editing is that fact that it doesn’t exist. If you ever wanted to understand the value of editing watch this film and recognize how bad films are without any editing involved. Someone got credited for editing but they didn’t really do anything. There wasn’t not a single cut in this movie, all clips were just dragged into a timeline. There’s no pacing and no transitions whether the director was too lazy to get extra coverage or the editor was too lazy to do any editing. I thought maybe towards the end we would hear a gunshot but that would involve editing the sound effect in. I doubt there’s color correction, no discernible sound editing besides for inserts of the soundtrack which is just horrid. I don’t want to say the singing was back but the song choice was melodramatic, inserted at random, and because it was edited poorly it was much louder than the entire film. Both the editing and cinematography fail because the techniques that they are suppose to enhance the film but instead they just add to this problem that this film is bland and empty.
Dark Night is a bad movie, it’s complicated however in that it tries to trick you into believing it has substance with the subject matter and appealing visual presentation. One user review on IMDb was concerning in that it stated:
“DARK NiGHT (USA) took the exact opposite approach as Quentin Tarantino & Alejandro González Iñárritu towards exploring his horrific subject matter… by NOT exploiting it. “
While I do respect the opinion of this fellow reviewer, I would disagree in that this film while stripped of elements of fantasy and is a less of a corporate/financial endeavor, I think this film is more exploitative of tragedy. I say this in that this movie doesn’t channel any emotional representation or connection to those events or understanding of what happened but made a soulless, emotion-less series of nothingness that tact on a historical event to draw any sort of appeal to what would otherwise be considered a lazy collection of random shots. Again, as I emphasized in the beginning is that I don’t think like other films I reviewed harshly I don’t think it’s a matter of incompetency and would actual argue that the film showcases a strong sense of potential. I think the concept of the film of six stories leading up to a terrible fate is interesting, the inspiration is fascinating and even a inside look at the more mundane lives we live could be insightful if done correctly. The director obviously showed an attempt to provide a deeper symbolism and the cinematographer knew how to create a neat presentation. A film is suppose to make you feel something and the only thing that I felt after viewing this was sleepy. Dark Night is a boring, emotion dry film parading around as an pretentious art film. Have you seen it, if you have do you agree or disagree with what I had to say. Thanks for reading, know this was a long one and I hope you enjoyed.