Monday, July 30, 2012

3 Reasons Why You Definitely Should (AND Shouldn't) Watch the Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises has already made more than $500 million in worldwide gross in the first week, yet it's being seen as a tad disappointing, perhaps because it ONLY made $500 million in worldwide gross in the first week. That should give you an idea about the kind of expectations people had of this movie. Meanwhile, general public reaction seems range from "It's pretty awesome!" to....actually to be honest I don't really know because If you don't use the words 'awesome' or it's variants when describing TDKR, you sir, are not a person I would like to know. However, even I can see that the movie might not be everybody's thing, so if you haven't seen it yet and are wondering whether it is worth a cut of your multiplex budget , here are 3 reasons why you should definitely watch it, OR, equally definitely, give it a miss.

It's grim with a capital G. Also, a capital R, a capital I and a capital M. Also, all the letters are in bold. And underlined.

Why you shouldn't watch it: I'm pretty sure Christopher Nolan was molested by a man dressed as Batman in his impressionable youth. It's the only reasonable explanation for the sadistic mental and physical torture he puts his protagonist through. A far more accurate title of the movie would be 'The Dark Knight Falls Into A Deep Dark Pit Of  Despair Where He Is Dragged Over The Hot Coals Of Hellish Agony And Unimaginable Pain From Which There Seems To Be No Escape...And Then Rises'. Granted, it makes the 'Rises' bit pretty impressive, but if your idea of a good time is 'The Avengers', stay the fuck away.

Why you should: On the other hand, remember when they tried to make Batman more lighthearted and breezy? We got Bat-nipples and Bat-built-in-skates and Bat-credit-cards and Bat-banter-with-Robin-about -who-gets-the-girl. So perhaps that's not the best way to go with a batman movie. Darkness and despair are integral to the Batman character, and trying to avoid them never works out well.

It's very much Christopher Nolan's Batman

Why You Shouldn't Watch It: Do you like your superheroes to be, you know, super? Do you wan't your villains larger than life? Do you love to see them revel in their power? Well, in the word's of Clint Eastwood in the worst Dirty Harry movie yet, you're shit outta luck. Christopher Nolan doesn't like his superheroes to leap, or even jetpack over tall buildings in a single bound, so Batman doesn't hit any harder or faster than a normal, albeit very skilled and powerful fighter. Nor does it matter that in the comics Bane is a hulking brute who can grow to the size of a largish SUV thanks to a magical toxin called Venom. In Nolanverse, he's the size of a man. A man who can crush skulls with his armpits, yes, but still, basically, a man. Everything's grounded, everything's real and nothing's larger than life.

Why You Should: You know what that also means? Everything's believable. Batman, with all his toys and training, is a man whose body is giving away. No comic book logic can save him here. Things have weight, especially the meaty hands of Bane as they pound poor Bruce Wayne into submission. We all know that in a superhero movie the good buy wins, the bad guy loses and everyone goes home happy. The fact that even this knowledge can't keep you off the edge of your seat is a testament to Nolan's ability as a filmmaker.

It's the sequel to possibly the greatest comic book movie of all time.

Why You Shouldn't Watch It: First thing's first. If you don't believe that The Dark Knight is among the greatest comic book movies of all time, you're wrong. There's no debate, no "it's my personal opinion", no "it doesn't work for me". I could throw statistics and data at you all day long about its 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, about ecstatic reviews from the best critics in the business, but the simple fact is, none of that matters. Your taste in superhero movies is judged by how much you love TDK, not the other way around. And therein lies the problem.

It's tough to follow the best. Unless you are some sort of superhuman non-expector, you are going to walk in with expectations, however, slight, of Nolan outdoing himself. And you will be wrong. There is no outdoing The Dark Knight. It's a good movie, great in parts, but it does not have a Heath Ledger as the joker. The story is clunky at times, and forced in others. And it goes to far with the whole "though shalt smile less than you did at your grandma's funeral" theme.

Why You Should: Because it's not just a sequel to the greatest comic book movie of all time, it's also the end of the saga. Nolan's Batman is not a collection of 3 stand-alone movies like the Spider-Man trilogy. The movies are tied together and without TDKR, TDK is incomplete. It does not take the tale of Bruce Wayne to its natural conclusion, and it does not provide the wonderful closure that this movie does. If you are emotionally invested in Batman, Bruce Wayne, or Nolan's Gotham at all, TDKR is a movie that you need to watch.

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.