Those who know me will know that Christopher Nolan’s portrayal of my favourite superhero has never been to my liking. Yes, I’m one of “those” critics. However, I have truly admired his skills at bringing Bob Kane’s creation to a slightly more realistic role as Gotham’s Dark Knight. His latest and final addition to the caped crusader’s adventures finally hit the big screens amongst controversy and widespread speculation about a variety of endings, including those of a “Dead” Batman.
I was unable to watch the movie last night thanks to our local railway motormen, who I’m sure, had good reasons for holding the city hostage. So I ventured out for the early morning show after a gruelling battle crossing our ‘road-blocked’ city. I may have lost Rs. 1300 last night thanks to Bookmyshow’s ‘No-Cancellation, No Refund’ policy, but I was more than willing to spend again for what international critics seemed to deem an epic finale to an entertaining trilogy.
Here’s the plot – I promise, no spoilers. Well, none that will pollute your enjoyment. It has been eight years after Harvey Dent’s death and Gotham’s resident billionaire, Bruce Wayne aka the Batman (played by Christian Bale) has been a recluse for this time. The reason is not one of any serious merit, and his condition is even more baffling. Gotham has been a virtually crime free zone, strange as it seems, with the likes of the Joker and the Scarecrow behind bars. The Batman is just a legend now but young children no more than 12-14 years old still remember his exploits and wish his return. The children of Gotham city have fantastic memories even at early ages. I’ll leave it at that.
Looking cool, but not sexy enough
The seriously deep throated (and I’m underselling it) masked mercenary named Bane, played by Tom Hardy (Inception, Rocknrolla) has been toiling and plotting away to make the city of Gotham his little B***h. His dialogues are reminiscent of old school villains from American TV shows, including the 1970s version of the Batman himself. The trailers don’t do his husky, amplified and modulated voice any justice, and I found myself cringing a bit each time I had to hear his overly menacing voice utter dialogues such as, "I have broken you". Sure, Hardy brings new vitality to a comic book villain just as Ledger and Neeson brought to their individual roles. But that voice...
Anne Hathaway, she is no Catwoman; that’s for sure. She tries but doesn’t deliver. Let’s leave the comic book character out of it. Let’s forget about the ones that came before her. The name ‘Catwoman’ implies a certain amount of sexuality exudes from the character on screen. While others might be “swayed”, pun intended, I wasn’t. The sexual tension between Batman and Catwoman is close to zero; a couple of smooches don’t count. There is no chemistry between them, and if she were to perhaps have more screen time with a few more shots in her skin tight costume, maybe it would have been believable. Halle Berry tried to sex up her version, failing miserably, but she tried. The bigger issue is that Catwoman just seems like Nolan’s rather lame attempt at introducing a new Batman character.
Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine also reprised their roles as the now Commissioner James Gordon, Lucius Fox and Alfred Pennyworth respectively. For the latter two actors, these have to be among the most underrated roles of their individual careers. Caine, although he has very limited screen time, does manage to deliver quite a good representation of the depth of the relationship between Wayne and his loyal manservant. Oldman’s Gordon is still a character that one can identify with as a top notch cop with great instincts and a fighter-to-the-end kind of mentality. New face Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock, Inception, 50/50) was also quite convincing in his role as Detective Blake. (There is a little surprise in store for you with this guy). His character isn’t one that you’ll notice in any Batman story unless you’re a hardcore fan and collector. He is a version of a comic book character, which made small appearances in some of the older comic books.
Marion Cotillard (also from the Inception gang) plays Miranda Tate. Her role is slightly vague but takes precedence at a much later stage in the film. Matthew Modine is also on board as Inspector Foley in a character that is somewhat unbecoming of him.
First off, take some serious time out of your day for this movie; it’s long. While there is a certain depth to the movie’s screenplay, there are parts that do seem to drag on for a while. The cityscape does make for some very interesting chase and battle sequences, much like it did for the last two movies. It thus bears a certain familiarity, which makes the flick more interesting to watch, making you feel as if you were actually present the last time. The direction is very Nolan, with great lighting and play on shadow and effects. I’m especially glad he went old-school, and left 3D out of the equation.
The Batman's ride
What one does miss from a Batman movie like this are the gadgets. He is Batman after all, second to none in the gadget space, not even 007. Yet he dons a tricked out suit, a bike that simply defies all aspects of imagination (I mean that in a positive way), and an all new Bat-Wing (minus the wing, in this case). I believe I saw one Batrang.
There is a great build up, and tense sequences that make for an entertaining watch. But was I on the edge of my seat? No. I overheard four people seated close to me wonder aloud, in very colourful language, "When does the action start? "
At the end of it all - Catwoman, and Bane’s amplified voice aside - The Dark Knight Rises is a great movie. Maybe the dialogue could have been a little sharper, and the overall gameplay and mental torture sequences better handled. These didn’t quite live up to the standard of the previous movie. Storywise the movie was nevertheless interesting, but should have had more action scenes. Apart from the epic opening sequence, and the two fight scenes between the Bat and Bane, the movie seemed devoid of any serious action. If you’re wondering about Bane’s “mouth-piece”, the explanation for it is well in keeping with Nolan’s craftsmanship of keeping his Dark Knight closer to a real world situation. The voice was not. Nolan’s sense of reality and frailty is quite evident in this movie as well, and the human emotions that most of actors bring to the table are believable.
The final face-off
It was very interesting to see how Nolan tied up loose ends; it was truly on a most brilliant note. If you thought Inception was good, you have seen nothing yet.
It was an enjoyable watch but I don't think I'll see the Dark Knight rise for quite a while, at least till it’s out on Blu-ray, and a Director’s Cut at that.
My final say is this: Go and watch this movie without any expectations, without reading up on the legend of the Broken Bat, without preconceptions, and without paying any heed to the various spoilers making their way around the social space. Go to enjoy a good move that has got suspense, chance scenes, guys in masks, heavy dialogues albeit a little 'filmy', great vehicles and a few interesting surprises. Go as an uninitiated comic book fan and you will have a good time; I guarantee that. I can’t wait for Man of Steel to see Nolan in action once again.
The Dark Knight Rises
Too many people have been speculating about the movie's climax, and I’m not going to shed any light on that. Speculate all you want, but ask yourself this very logical question: Can the Batman truly die?
Updated 24 May, 2013, 1:56 pm IST
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