Sunday, July 29, 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I didn't review the TDKR immediately after I saw the movie because then it would have just been a page of "OMG! OMG! OMG! That was so cool!!!!" over and over again. Now that it's been a week and I can think more clearly, I feel I am more equipped to provide an, if not unbiased, then at least a slightly more coherent review. So here it is.

OMG! OMG! OMG! That was so cool!!!!

Sorry, but it had to come out once. As you might have guessed, I enjoyed the movie. It was more emotional that the previous two installments, and on occasions teetered on the edge of melodrama, but didn't quite fall in. The movie begins eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, with Bruce Wayne living the life of a recluse. Thanks to Batman's catching the Joker and the passing of the Dent Act (named after Harvey Dent, Gotham's alleged white knight from TDK), crime has been all but wiped out of Gotham, leaving behind a Bruce Wayne with no focus and no real reason to live. Unknown to him, his considerable fortune has also been petering out, thanks to unwise business decisions, and he is one stock market crash away from bankruptcy. And then there's Bane.

The antagonist in this movie is one of Batman's newer villains, introduced by writer Chuck Dixon in 1993 for the specific purpose of providing Batman with a foe who was mentally his equal and physically, superior. In the comic books he is portrayed as a hulking beast, twice or thrice the size of a normal human being, face shrouded by a luchadore mask and powered by a mysterious toxin "Venom" that makes him as strong as the writer wishes him to be. Nolanverse has no place for such characters though, so Bane has been scaled down in terms of size, but not ferocity. He is an intelligent brute, frighteningly articulate behind a metal mask that reminds one of a gorilla's fangs. He kills like a gladiator, moves like an animal and talks like a revolutionary. He is not as interesting as the Joker (but then, who is?), but Tom Hardy is hampered by his mask but acts with his eyes and eyebrows, and creates a character who is believable as a tormentor to Batman.

The first act, other than a phenomenal plane hijacking sequence that's in every trailer of the movie, is spent establishing the new characters and subplots, of which there are quite a few. There's Selina Kyle (Anne Hatheway), a cat burglar who is smart, competent and tough, and yet caught in a situation that she can't get out of. There's Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a Wayne Enterprise board member who comes to Bruce Wayne's aid in his time of need. And there's John Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt), an earnest beat cop who has a secret that will make hardcore Bat-fans sqeal "YES!" at the end of the movie. The several plot lines may be confusing at first but come together brilliantly in a cracker of a finale that features a city plunged in real, honest-to-god civil war, the Batpod, and the requisite new aerial vehicle that looks like the Tumbler grew a set of rotor blades - simply called the bat.

Nolan's flair for cinematography and action choreography are in full display here, with jaw dropping sequences of aerial combat, ground war (with thousands of REAL extras - no CG here), and a fight sequence at the middle of the movie which may be the best I have seen in a long time. Also on display are logical inconsistencies and coincidences that seems to be part and parcel of every Nolan movie (for example, a question arises near the end to which the only logical answer seems to be "He called Superman"). Character's also behave somewhat erratically, although that can be a bit more easily explained by the fact that this is Nolan's Batman, so we cannot expect them to be like their comic book counterparts.

But none of that matter much, especially if you are a fan of Batman. It is a movie that goes to the soul of the character and provides him with an ending that is both satisfying as well as impossible in comic book form. It's not a cheerful movie by any means, in fact, it may be the most grim and humorless of all the Nolan movies, but that's because the stakes are so much higher. Batman get's put through the wringer here like never before, but if he wasn't, it wouldn't make his rise so fantastic to witness. Some people have complained that there's very little Batman in it, and yes, the cape and cowl don't make too many appearances outside of the finale, but Batman is more than that. Batman is a symbol of justice, of heart, and of love for Gotham, which is what the movie is all about. I wouldn't say it's a movie only for the fans, because non-fans should also love it, but being a fan of the character, like I unabashedly am, makes for a deeper, richer, more emotional experience.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I loved everything about the movie. And it definitely did great building up to the emotional parts.


Like when he's trying to climb out of the "Hell" and he finally asks what they're chanting and it was "Rise!" Oh my God. Goosebumps. GOOSEBUMPS EVERYWHERE. Such a wonderful way to play with the title. I love when you can really see it in the story like that.