Over at PressPlay, the great Jim Emerson took the time to analyze in detail the famously spectacular -and notoriously bewildering- big action scene in The Dark Knight that shows with great precision what is wrong with Christopher Nolan as an action director. His 19-minute video essay follows hot on the heels of the recent debate that was triggered in part by Matthias Stork’s much-discussed piece on “Chaos Cinema”. According to Stork’s stimulating but unsatisfying bit of audiovisual polemic, contemporary action cinema is bewildering to the point that traditional concepts such as continuity even apply. Other essays written in response to Stork’s piece seem to make the opposite point (one I tend not to agree with) more convincingly, but Emerson’s detailed dissection of the famously confusing chase scene does give more credence to the ‘chaos cinema’ perspective: “Think of it as sensation without orientation.”
Update: the second installment takes a similarly over-the-top action sequence from the action thriller Salt to illustrate how an action sequence works when it’s been put together by a director who actually knows what he’s doing.
2nd update: The third and final entry in Emerson’s “In the Cut” action sequence breakdowns focuses on some examples in the classic Hollywood style: Bullitt and The Lineup.