The Dark Knight & Emotional Content

dark-knight-ETB ScreenwritingI had an interesting email exchange with a reader and wanted to post my reply.  He took issue with the muddy plot in The Dark Knight.

Several critics agree and one reviewer blasts the movie on that score saying:  “Nolan’s latest exploration of the Batman mythology steeps its muddled plot in so much murk that the Joker’s maniacal nihilism comes to seem like a recurrent grace note.”  The review goes on to decry the “airless complexity” of the story.

The Dark Knight
is a classic example of the Emotional Toolbox premise that– “In the battle between reason (plot) and emotion (connection), emotion ALWAYS wins.”

Audiences will forgive almost anything if the emotional connection in a film is strong enough. If the emotional bond isn’t strong enough then very little else will salvage a movie.

The country seems to be in a very pessimistic mood these days. Polls are showing more people losing confidence in the economy and feeling like the country is headed in the wrong direction than any time since the Great Depression.  The Dark Knight reflects the general sense of being trapped in choices, all of which are bad.

We also haven’t fully mourned our fallen in Iraq either.  We never see their coffins coming home.  We never see any of the funeral ceremonies.  We keep putting on foot in front of the other despite the enormous personal and emotional cost.  I think that is what Batman is forced to do.  He even continues the fight under false assumptions– Alfred burned the note Rachel sent him.

If you’ve just come to my blog– there is a short essay about The Joker in an earlier post.  His role is so pivotal in all of this.  What we fear most is chaos.  That’s what people sense right now– being on the edge of chaos.

The Dark Knight is hooking into emotional themes beyond the movie’s plot points.  The question for any writer, not just those who write about Super Heroes, is–  How does your script connect with the deeper emotions of your audience?

Mark Gill gave a powerful keynote before the NALIP Conference

He says in part:

Quality of emotional content is what matters, period. In a world with too many choices, companies are finally realizing they can’t risk the marketing money on most movies.

In the end, all of this (effort in movie-making) has to add up, seamlessly if possible, to something that moves us– to the quality of the emotional content. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about thrills, laughs, tears, or an adrenaline rush. What matters is that we are engaged and, ideally, emotionally transformed and satisfied.

In a world increasingly dominated by numbers– financial, technological and most importantly the finite number of hours in a day, our very human desire for contact, meaning and emotional transformation isn’t going away. It’s growing. Those who remember that will survive and most probably win.

That is the premise on which I founded The Emotional Toolbox and creating that emotional authenticity and connection is at the core of The Nine Character Types eBooks.

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