Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises - The legend lives!

With great difficulty and only a really few slips, I had maintained a media blackout for this movie, avoiding advertisements, articles, descriptions, even unsubscribing the friends who post anything about The Dark Knight Rises on facebook.. so I wouldn't know what to expect.

(I am going to type some garbage about what all went through me before watching the movie.. so if you dont give a shit - scroll down and look for a red line.. - continue from there)

However, I watched Batman Begins, a month ago, in preparation to refresh myself on the story and get to the mood to watch the final installment from Nolan. It struck me why we all love Nolan's Batman.. it is because he kept it simple! Then waited almost a week to watch Dark Knight; and just then I heard the news - about three back to back shows starting with Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and ending with The Dark knight Rises - and all in IMAX! 

How can I miss this? :) But is this even a normal behavious? Is it even possible to sit inside an auditorium watching three back to back incredible movies!? Wont we get tired? Will I endure?! I'll have to wait and see.. on July 19th.

So yesterday it happened! Me and my friend (Varun) went to the theaters, waited in que for more than 4 hours, rushed to grab the center seat of the hall.. and then it happened! 9 hours of Batman-ia!
It started with Begins ..3 hours later - came The Dark knight - the movie which I deeply regretted for not having watched in IMAX. It was happening right there in front of me. And as I watched, I was struck once again by how utterly mesmerizing Heath Ledger is as the Joker. I've seen The Dark Knight dozens of times, but every time I see it, I find something deliciously unnerving  to admire about the performance that gives the film its twisted soul..

After having watched over 6 hours now, I had all this expectations on how the last three hours are going to be.. more than expectations - I had questions.

Heath Ledger's character creates a major obstacle for Rises -- being compared to one of the greatest films ever while lacking one of the greatest performances ever.  Will Bane atleast equal Joker? If not in performance, at least in challenging Batman? What will happen to Batman after having taken the blame for Harvey Dent's crime? Is he going to die?! Is his legacy going to live? Is there going to be another Batman?

The second movie in the history of trilogies is easier for a creator to make. Because they dont have to introduce a character.. and they don't have to wrap things up. The characters get to be all the delicious cream filling! Will Nolan wrap things up properly?

And finally, Nolan has proved himself to be one of the very best directors of his generation, especially since his last two films, The Dark Knight and Inception, are universally-acclaimed masterpieces. That only means that to avoid disappointing his fans, Nolan has to outdo himself and somehow top not one, but two of the greatest movies ever made.

Well, all I had to do was wait...for another 20 minutes.

First things first:

Thanks Nolan for
-  The greatest and the most sensible comic-book-super-hero trilogy ever, yet.
-  The Joker
-  The Batman
-  The fact that you resisted the urge to jump on the 3D bandwagon for the caped crusader’s swansong and more than an hour long IMAX footage! Certainly the action sequences, including the spectacular opening, would draw bigger gasps in the format.


The Dark Knight Rises takes place eight years after The Dark Knight. Harvey Dent, the crusading district attorney whose transformation into the villain Two Face was kept secret from the public, has been made into a hero and martyr, and a law named in his honor has helped clean up Gotham's streets, Dent Act, which apparently locked up almost all the criminals.  No longer needed, Batman has disappeared after taking the blame for murders Dent committed, and Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale) has become a recluse. Wayne Industries is going down meanwhile.. and its all left to a single savior Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard)
But when a masked villain named Bane (Tom Hardy) , to complete Ra's Al Gul's goal, appears in Gotham with a band of mercenaries with plans to take over the city, Batman is forced out of retirement to confront him with the help of new acquaintances - a driven young cop named John Blake (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and an unlikely ally in the form of a burglar, named Selena Kyle (played by Anne Hathaway) and the old ones - Alfred (Michael Caine), Gordom (Gary Oldman) and  Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman).
I will stop here and wont go to details of twists and turns in the script. 

What Worked:

- Everything!

This script demands Batman to share space with a lot of characters mentioned above, including Bruce Wayne. And each character has its own role to play. The plot mentioned in the synopsis is just the central story of an increasingly tangled 3 sub plots: a slinky, burgling Catwoman,  a square-jawed beat cop and lots of confusing financial shenanigans with the shareholders of Wayne Enterprises. - and it all ends with the Dark Knight rising in a final crescendo.

The scope of The Dark Knight Rises is much larger than its predecessors, with hundreds of extras, big chases and battles through city streets, and some new Batman hardware. In fact I have never seen in a movie, a city getting destroyed brick by brick, like this one before! Everything goes down - form subway trains to flights - from tunnels to bridges - from sky scrapers to football stadiums - all with stunning visual effects!

- The fury and speed of Bane
Bane is physically fast and powerful than Batman: first of his kind to appear in Nolan's trilogy. He takes down Batman in their first duel like cracking nuts!
The fury with which he takes down the stock market - shatters the city's basement, is just too overwhelming. All these dastardly plot unfolds but Bruce is physically and mentally unable to stop gangs of mercenaries.

- The new comers to the series 
While newcomers Blake and Tate are  functional to the story, only  Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman), adds some zest to the film. Elegantly sexy and dangerous with a twinkly-eyed smirk at the ready, Hathaway plays the slick thief with just enough restrained humor to almost get a smile out of the glum Wayne.

-  Emotions
    Michael Caine - the only character who thinks and talks like us - plays a really emotional role in this movie of madness. That one scene where he confronts Wayne - just stood out - and was cut above all the special effects in the movie.

-  Hans Zimmer 
   Do I even have to mention why?

-   Nolan 
     Of course. For everything - especially for his writing. I will never get tired of his one liners!!

What did not work?

- Everything...that loses when compared to Dark Knight..or  rather Joker!

I think the biggest problem with The Dark Knight Rises is the bar set by its predecessor, The Dark Knight, and particularly, the ghost of Heath Ledger and his groundbreaking, Oscar-winning performance as the Joker. Bane simply isn't as interesting, menacing, unnerving and magnetic as the Joker, and, to be honest, the effect put on Bane's voice most of the times makes him hard to understand. Ledger's brilliant performance embodies the perfect counterpoint to the psychology of Bruce Wayne, where trauma drives one man to an obsession with chaos and the other with justice.
The social commentary in the Joker's message about how little it takes to drive a civilization to barbarity is also much more thought-provoking than Bane's claim of wanting to save Gotham from inequality and corruption. Bane is menace.. I agree.. But Joker is madness, mayhem and an enigma!

- Zimmer

Zimmer, for the most part of the movie, he has done the same commendable job. But between, Bale's batman voice, Hardy's Bane voice and Zimmer's BGM - We literally look at the screen without even able to hear a single word at times.

- Seriously, Nolan?!
The movie involves a bomb with a flashing LED display :) 

- Gotham City

In Batman Begins - if you notice closely, you cannot identify any known city when they are showing Gotham. Its very much its own city. It doesnt look like anything else. In Dark Knight - Gotham is an amalgum of few known cities - Chicago - Pittsburgh - Toronto etc..But in this movie - Its just New York in plain sight! We lose touch with Gotham which our super hero is trying to save. 


Nolan had a HUGE burden on his shoulders to deliver a movie at least on par with Dark Knight. And with him directing, it was seemingly possible. But with too many characters sharing the screen and less impressive Bane, all these characters and Batman lose to just Batman Vs Joker from DK. 

Having thought about it, he could not have made a stronger villain, better than Joker. Its not like he can't make one. But I think he refused to do so, because, this film should leave us with Batman's impact. The impact that reminds us of Batman when we think about the movie.. of the need for the Batman.

I obviously see Nolan's intentions in making the apt ending for his trilogy - for the legend to live on (remember the wrap up problem in a trilogy?). For this, the story line had to bloated - it had to do too many things too quickly which dilutes the grit in the screenplay. But 164 minute movie moves at a bullet speed nevertheless!

Keeping all that apart - as you might expect from the creator of Inception and Memento, there are surprises both in the story and in the storytelling. But the biggest surprise may just be how satisfying Nolan has made his farewell to the Dark Knight trilogy that many fans will wish he'd extend to a 10-part series, at least. 

I am a slave to Nolan's imagination. And this movie proves me once again, its ok to be that slave. I should not forget about the production value of DKR - Camera, costumes, sets, production design and the rest are superior than any of his previous films.

Rises is certainly an epic, ambitious, dazzling, and provides a satisfying end to Nolan's trilogy. And to be honest, I sort of feel like this review is premature since, like most Nolan films, I really feel like I need to see it again to look for nuances and story points I might've missed. Dark Knight Rises is very impressive and definitely worth seeing, but without a once-in-a-lifetime performance like Ledger's Joker to provide the pulse, we'll have to be content with a final chapter that certainly delivers, but in a trilogy that peaked in the middle.

Having said these, all that  I am thinking about right now  is - 

What next Nolan?! :)


  1. I felt the same of the Alfred - Wayne scene... :-)

  2. Awesome movie....
    TDKR being my first batman movie, I couldn talk for an hour...
    Reading ur review as soon as im out of theatre....
    Waiting to watch the first 2 parts.