You know that feeling when you enter a movie hall with sky high expectations, and the film manages to live up to them? Yes, Christopher Nolan, the master craftsman, has done just that and I walked out of the theater completely happy. The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) packs a solid punch and is a fitting end to the Batman trilogy.
Eight years have passed since the death of DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and Batman’s (Christian Bale) last sighting. Batman’s alter ego Bruce Wayne has turned into a crippled recluse mourning the death of the love of his life. Gotham is at peace. However, things are about to change. A sexy burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) warns Bruce that a storm is coming. It comes in the form of Bane (Tom Hardy) who not only lays siege on Gotham, but threatens total annihilation of Batman’s beloved city. Now the crippled and rusty Bruce/Batman must find his lost strength to rise once again as Gotham’s protector. Helping him are his trusted friends Police Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) along with a rookie cop Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the ever faithful Alfred (Michael Caine).
Nolan pushes his audience to the edges of their seats in the very first scene with a thrilling mid-air heist and then ensures that they don’t sit back until the end. I never had any doubts about the quality of special effects and action pieces we would get in TDKR, and the visuals of destruction and chaos are indeed jaw-droppingly good. Hans Zimmer’s background score and the excellent dialogues (especially Anne Hathaway’s lines) add to the awesomeness. Ah yes! Batman gets a new automobile called.…ahem….the Bat. See it to believe it!
The thing that has set the Batman trilogy apart from the other films of this genre for me is that very few superhero films make the audience emotionally invest in so many characters together. TDKR is not just about its hero, it is about the hero within. Fittingly, Batman is not the only hero here. The strong moral centre of the Batman trilogy remains intact, so does its emotional core – even the most horrific villains feel genuine love and don’t shy away from sacrifice for their loved ones.
On the negative side, TDKR suffers, like the first two films, with pacing issues. Some unnecessary subplots could have been done away with without taking away anything from the film. Too many issues are juggled together and that makes the film a bit too heavy for its own good. The action is clever for sure, but gets a bit repetitive at times, which adds to the weightiness of the film – though to give credit to Nolan’s genius, never once does the going gets boring.
As unbiased as one tries to be, it is impossible to not compare Bane with Joker. And Bane falls way short. The creepy mask on Bane’s face does give him an air of mystery, but does not leave any scope for any kind of expressions to come through. It doesn’t help that half the time, maybe because of the mask, it is difficult to understand what Bane is saying. Joker was not just evil, he was deliciously wicked. He was so complex that he made the audience really, really want to figure him out. Bane on the other hand is so simple and straightforward, it is downright disappointing. While Joker’s confrontations with Batman were the high points of The Dark Knight, when Batman and Bane confront each other all we get is fist fights. Thankfully, as I said earlier, TDKR is more about the hero this time and the underwhelming villain doesn’t quite spoil the party.
The rest of the performances are brilliant be it the wonderful Christian Bale or the ever dependable Morgan Freeman and Caine. There are a few new additions too. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is earnest and extremely likable as the rookie cop. Anne Hathaway as the nimble cat-burglar is so delightful, I couldn’t help feeling let down by the very little screentime she got.
For me The Dark Knight Returns is a better film than Batman Begins though not as good as The Dark Knight. Still the closure is immensely satisfying, so much so that it leaves one asking for more, wishing for one more instalment. Don’t miss it!
PS. Added bonus for us Indians – if you pay attention, you may just spot our very own Jaisalmer!