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Cinematography in The Dark Knight

In Christopher Nolan's second film of his highly acclaimed Batman series, we start to see a darker side of Batman and as well as the villains that want him dead. To create the darker side of the movie you need a man that can create different angles with the camera to make the audience think the movie is violent and very enjoyable. For this job Christopher Nolan called back the cinematographer he used in Batman Begins , Wally Pfister.

Wally has been working with Nolan for quite sometime. He has been the cinematographer for seven of Nolan's eight films. Some main titles he has worked with Christopher Nolan are: Memento , The Dark Knight Series , and Inception . Many of these films have won various Academy Awards in the past years. The Dark Knight was nominated and has won a few awards. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography back in 2008 but lost to Slumdog Millionaire.

Wally Pfister gives his thoughts on cinematography-0

Wally Pfister gives his thoughts on cinematography-0

Wally Pfister talking about the transition of IMAX film to 35mm film.

In The Dark Knight Nolan wanted to start off with a bang, so he started off the movie by using an IMAX camera to make the movie seem more epic in the first 6 minutes. He wanted the audience to be impressed by the wider and clearer screen. Nolan then went to a 35mm type of film to enhance the lighting effects to make it look more like a natural lighting because of the darker settings.

Nolan told Pfister he wanted the film to look more like reality. Which is something we don't normally see in many comic book based movies. So Pfister went to Chicago to test what Nolan wanted the film to look like and when he came back Nolan loved it. Nolan loved the gritty look and darker atmosphere, so they kept with it.

      The shots in The Dark Knight, to me could have been done better. The way Nolan and Pfister do action scenes is very confusing and if you break down these action scenes the shot sequences make no sense.


In the Cut, Part I Shots in the Dark (Knight)

In the Cut, Part I Shots in the Dark (Knight)

In this video you see how messed up and sporadic the scene where the caravan carrying Harvey Dent from one jail to another is portrayed. There are parts in this certain scene where we see certain police cars and then in the next shot the cars are gone. Or when the audience first sees the semi truck that the Joker has taken over come into the mix. The semi hits an armored van (that has no relevance to the whole caravan) and if you break down the various quick paced shots, then the armored van seems to do a complete 360 and go into the opposite oncoming road, pass over a concrete barrier, then hit another barrier and eventually falls into a river. This whole action scene is a mess of random shots that seem to have been just thrown into the air and put together.

Just analyzing this scene made me lose so much respect for The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan, and one of my idols Wally Pfister. It amazed me that this got nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, cause in my eyes it's just a terribly shot action movie. It makes you wonder who is really choosing the nominees for best Cinematography. Are the Academy Awards just a popularity contest of who has the most income on a movie? Or are people actually analyzing these horribly shot action scenes? To the average human eye, the shot sequences in The Dark Knight look like a normal movie action scene, but they are so sporatic and unacceptable if you slow them down and study the 180 rule of film.

All in all this is a great movie. I have always loved the dark and gritty look of Gotham City, but it is not (in my opinion) a well shot movie.

Martin Scorsese said it best "Cinema is a matter of what is in the frame and what's out."