Friday, July 20, 2012

Movie Review- The Dark Knight Rises

I'll admit... I have a slight preference for DC comics over Marvel, though my loyalties do keep changing from one side to another, as new comics, movies and animated series keep getting released from both the sides. When it comes to movies, Marvel has succeeded more in producing good live action movies, whereas DC has been more successful with its direct to video animated movies. While Marvel has worked in promoting and popularising most of its characters in an equal manner, from Punisher to Deadpool... Wolverine to Thor... Captain America to Reed Richards... Ironman to Hulk, DC has been focusing more on three or four of its characters, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman being the big three, followed by the Green Lantern Corps (Hal Jordan in particular).

Though Marvel has produced some wonderful Direct to video animated movies, DC hasn't been that successful with its live action movies, (Green Lantern being the biggest let down of them all). But they did have one particular franchise doing wonderfully well and that was The Batman movie series. So many directors have tried their hand at the Batman franchise, but none have had as much success as Christopher Nolan. We've had so many wonderful actors taking up important roles in many poorly written Batman movies. Jim Carrey's Riddler, Tommy Lee Jones' Two Face, Jack Nicholson's Joker and Arnold's Mr. Freeze have been some of the most memorable, though the movies in which these characters have appeared have been pretty ordinary. But all these movies did one thing really well, that was being loyal to the comic and animated tv series, when it came to the ambience and feel of the movie.

This is perhaps the one thing that was missing in Nolan's reboot of the batman franchise. When I first saw Batman begins, I was seriously disappointed with the camera used and the cinematography that awaited me. That was certainly not the kind of cinematography to be used for a super hero movie... that was the first thought in my head (though many did praise the cinematography). It was the sort of cinematography used to make depressing psychological thrillers or perhaps movies about the sick and the dead...well technically Batman Begins did have scarecrow, whose prime work was to mess with the mind, so I guess that was appropriate, but it did put me off from watching the movie fully, after the first few scenes. Also Nolan is known for his slow paced movies, a trait of the more serious cinema, and I was of the opinion that super hero movies had to be fast and more reason that prevented me from watching the first movie in this series completely.

Then I got exposed to the second movie in this particular reboot series and that was the Dark Knight. Once again the slowness of the movie had a frustrating impact on me, during the first few scenes and also the dialogues spoken by the characters on screen weren't that audible. Then I got used to it and the more I saw the character Joker, the more I was mesmerised. Not because it was played by a great actor and that his ill timed death made everyone want to focus on his last portrayal on screen, but it was the dialogue and the screen play that impacted me. Joker quotes were always popular among Batman fans and Dark Knight had some of the best quotes there ever was. Acting too was wonderful by the late performer, but other than Joker and a couple of brilliantly made sequences in the movie, nothing else really impressed me that greatly, though my liking for the franchise had risen greatly, thanks to the amazing plot.

Batman franchise is one of those rare franchises in which the villains are more popular than the main superhero character himself and certainly the likes of Joker, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Penguin and Catwoman, are more liked by many, than Batman or Robin. The last of the movie in Nolan's series is no exception to this as well. Bane and Cat Woman have seriously stolen the show...

Firstly let's look at the title, "The Dark Knight Rises", that must in a way give an idea, what the movie is really about. The rise of Batman after his prolonged recluse? Well that sure is one way of seeing it...but the real meaning of the title can be truly understood only at the final scene...I am not going to tell you what it is, am I? As much as I want to...I am not going to...

I will however tell you what the state of Gotham is, after the events of the previous movie. Harvey Dent is dead and he is being mourned by Gotham as the greatest hero the city has ever had. An act called the Dent Act has been established, caging many notorious criminals in the prison, without parole. Batman, Gotham's regular guardian is missing and so is Bruce Wayne according to the public. Batman has been accused of many evil acts, that were seen from the second movie and all the crimes done by Harvey Dent have been blamed on the black knight.

We get introduced to the character of Bane, born in hell (assumed to be), now working towards raising hell in Gotham...that's the one line description of the massive ball of flesh, with his iron mask. His introductory sequence is one of the best in recent times and it has the same impact on the audience as the Joker intro in the Dark Knight. Selina Kyle's intro is rather mellow, till she shows her skill in stealing something valuable from Bruce Wayne's manor...more valuable (both to Bruce and to the plot of the movie), than originally thought and transforms into Cat woman.

Alfred Pennyworth is still trying to push his master, Bruce, now with beard and a walking stick, in a enclosed room, to go back into living his life in the outside world, who is still mourning the death of his beloved from the previous movie. We are also shown Commissioner Gordon, still doing his best to keep the streets of Gotham safe, without the cape and cowl of the dark knight, but with a gun, that batman refuses to use upon his enemies.

Finally we are introduced to a young officer, Johnny Blake, energetic and enthusiastic, to know about Gotham's missing guardian and also the billionaire, whose charity house has been providing money (but stopped over the past few years) for the orphanage where he grew up as a child.

The lives of all these characters are connected, when the city they live in, comes under a major nuclear threat, thanks to the clever planning and execution of one of Bruce's board members and the employer of Bane, who uses Wayne Corporation's own creation, a device used to provide sustainable energy to all of Gotham. I want to keep saying more, but trust's a whole lot more interesting, seeing the unfolding of the plot on screen.

I have been in the past disappointed by the various gadgets and vehicles shown in the batman movies. Then I came upon the new Batmobile in the previous Nolan' movies and that made me want to puke even more, while most other people considered it the most awesome tech ever. It was cool when seen as a separate machine, but it did not fit the usual Batmobile description in other comics and movie series. In fact Christopher Nolan's batman franchise in no way satisfies the storyline and details in the comic series. So if you are a hardcore comic book fan, I would ask you to first get rid of the association between this reboot and the usual Batman stories in your mind. This is a separate series that has no relation to any other story, in movies, animated series or comics.

The bike is the best vehicle ever shown in any superhero franchise...that was my thought, till I saw the 'Bat' flying machine in the third installment. Batman costume too has improved from the previous movies (the ones with the bulbous head and diaper like cape), though very few changes have been made (guess even small changes bring in a great difference).

Cinematography in this movie is top class, so is the back ground score by Hans Zimmer. The soundtrack might not be too memorable when heard separately, but with the visuals, they create the required effect on the audience. Screenplay is tight and precise and the visual effects (though minimal) were exceptionally made.

As for the actors, we have Christian Bale as Bruce/Batman, Gary Oldman as Gordan, Anne Hathaway as Selina/Catwoman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Liam Neelson as R'as Ghul, Joseph Gordon Lewitt as Johnny Blake, Marion Cotillord as Miranda Tate and Tom Hardy as Bane. Now this is also a movie where several characters take up as much screen time as the lead character. The villains take even more and rightly so. This might seem as a list of actors, waiting for Oscar nomination and they have performed as they would probably be expected fighting for an Oscar among themselves.

Tom Hardy, though has most of his face covered by the mask, reveals to Bale perhaps that all you need is the eyes to speak. Bale, though has been rather insipid in the previous two movies, has once again transformed into his usual best in this last installment.

Anne Hathaway in Latex, riding a bike with a raised derriere...purr....what else could one want...but she gives lot more to the audience through her performance. She isn't the only main female character...there is one another...and the most important character, for the twist in the plot...(must...not...reveal...head about to explode...kaboom!!!)'ll know it when you see it...

I did not have any expectations when I went for this movie, the very first day of its release (yeah right...without expectations my ass)...well I did not expect it to be exciting like the avengers and I was of the opinion that it was going to be slow, being a Nolan movie...but it definitely was not. Thoroughly engaging and hair raising, though it might not be as visually grand and spectacular like other super hero movies of recent times. This is all about story and dialogues and Nolan has done it perfectly. Though many other critics have been rather harsh on this last movie in this series, I would advice everyone to watch it and make their own decision. Best movie of this year? I would surely bet on it...

                                                                                                          -A.Prashanth Narasimhan

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