In original cinema, simple things like color and audio were considered special effects. With today’s modern technology, there is an extreme array of effects producers can use to enhance their films. The 2008 hit The Dark Knight used a variety of different special effects, but relied most on two.
One thing that we often neglect as a special effect is the simple but vital role of make-up, and one of the most important effects to this film was the makeup on the main villain. Heath Ledger played the Joker who was a very dark, cynical character. He tried to bring any heroes down to his low level as he pinned good people against one another. One of the most memorable parts of his character is the make-up. He has greasy green hair and a painted white face with black eyes and a drawn on red smile. It is always smeared and dripping and it really adds to the wickedness and evil of the character. Although Heath Ledger’s acting is impeccable in this film, it really would not have the same impact if it were just his normal, attractive face.
Another important special effect used in the movie is illustrious computer-generated imagery. As producer Christopher Nolan said, the film has “about 650 visual effects shots” so clearly CGI was vital to creating the film (Miller). As a classic superhero story would be, this film is packed tight with action scenes. For example, there are multiple car chases with explosions or a scene where the Joker burns an entire room full of money. These images would clearly not only be dangerous to shoot but also extremely costly, so they were instead created using computer-generated imagery.
While CGI is used to create explosions and intense action, it is also used to simply create the world in which the characters live in. Batman lives in a fictional town called Gotham City, and to create this the producers relied on “the ability of computer-generated imagery to create fantastic, brave new worlds, where the magical is commonplace” (Giannetti 33). In a scene where Batman is flying through the air over Gotham City, Christian Bale was shot jumping in front of a green screen and later the artists “comped in the background [they] shot in Hong Kong” (Miller). Much of the shots were filmed in Chicago, but they also pulled from film from Hong Kong and mixed those together, and even just completely original images created solely by a computer artist. This freedom allowed them to create a more authentic world so that it didn’t look as though Gotham City was just the well-known Chicago.
Both the make-up work used on the villain and the computer-generated imagery used in many scenes were key to the pathos and logos of this film. They both helped to play to the emotions of the viewers; Ledger’s make-up job “hits precisely the right note” and is just enough to send the creeps down your spine, and the insane explosions add to the intensity of those important scenes (Lunsford 40).
They also were both vital to the believability of the film. The Joker would have been much less scary without the make-up and the intense scenes would have been much less effective without the work that could only have been created by computers.
For these reasons, I give this film 4 popcorn bags:
Miller, Gerri. "Inside 'The Dark Knight'" HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2012. <http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/dark-knight2.htm>.