The Dark Knight Rises

A Fitting Finale

The world is not known for equality… there are the haves and the have-nots; there are the rich in pent-houses and there are the homeless; there are the Michelin starred meals and there are deaths due to hunger. We live in this world everyday and it is more apparent in a country like India. There is latent anger in a large number of people towards this inequality and financial disparity. We have heard and read about the Occupy Wall Street protest movement in New York, where the activists are protesting against greed, corruption and economic inequality. Closer home, Anna Hazare stages regular protests against corruption which brought the Government almost to its knees. What if this anger takes a violent form; moves from protests to terrorism? A storm comes and attempts to change the world order, creating complete chaos… The question actually may not be ‘what if’ but ‘when’. Christopher Nolan’s third and final installment in the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises takes us in the middle of one such attack that threatens to destroy the financial system and the world as we know it. Similar thoughts were brought up in the first film, Batman Begins (2005) as we understood the motives of the League of Shadows and its leader, Ra’s al Ghul. Unlike the earlier films where the city of Gotham is under threat and faces a few attack; in this film Nolan lets Batman’s city burn and destruct by the hands of a terrorist, Bane who aims to restore the balance in the world by destroying it, and particularly the Gotham city. The film’s tone and the conflict is captured in this one scene where Selina Kyle or Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) tells the billionaire, Bruce Wayne or Batman (Christian Bale), “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne… when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us”.

Bruce Wayne faces the biggest challenges in this film, both at the physical as well as emotional level. The film is set, eight years after the events in The Dark Knight, where Harvey Dent is hailed as a hero who gave his life for the city of Gotham and Batman labeled as his murderer and a hero gone rogue. Bruce lives the life of a recluse until the clouds of war start looming again and his friend, Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) faces the masked terrorist, Bane (Tom Hardy). He realises that his city needs Batman again and his company, Wayne Enterprises needs a strong person to lead it and save its potentially dangerous defense assets. Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), an environmentalist and a business woman shows hope for both Wayne Enterprises and the troubled soul of Bruce. Apart from the Batman film regulars like scientist and President of Wayne Enterprises, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Bruce’s butler and father figure, Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine); we are introduced to a young police officer, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who senses the danger his city is in, much before everyone else.

John Blake and Miranda Tate: http://www.thedarkknightrises.com

Amongst the cast, everyone is pitch perfect and Christian Bale once again shows his versatility as an actor; he is the strong, the invincible Batman and also the broken Wayne. Michael Caine brings emotions to the forefront while Gordon-Levitt adds freshness to the series. Marion Cotillard is enigmatic and beautiful as ever; a little bit more of her would not have hurt. Tom Hardy as Bane looks and behaves like a monster; he is not like the maniacal Joker and comparisons with Heath Ledger (who played Joker in The Dark Knight, 2008) are unfair. It’s a pity we get to see Hardy’s face only once in the film. The bright spark in the film however is CatwomanAnne Hathaway has done a fantastic job with the character; she is witty, unpredictable and kicks a**.

Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s script links back to many elements from the earlier films and closes many loops. The film does slow down in the middle but does not get boring. There are many predictable moments but an equal number of small and big surprises. Batman’s new air-borne vehicle, the Bat is beyond cool and so is his Batcycle. Spectacular special effects and scenes of destruction make your jaw drop and there are many moments that make you nervous. Hans Zimmer’s music is good and the Bane chant pumps up the tension. At about 164-minutes, it is a long film but I am not complaining.

For all its symbolism and grave themes, The Dark Knight Rises entertains and is a fitting finale to the best Batman story ever told on screen.

PS: Read my post on how Nolan made me a Batman fan here.

PPS: Do look out for the ‘Man of Steel’ (new Superman film) trailer with The Dark Knight Rises

Nolan made me a Batman fan

The Dark Knight Rises on July 20th

Pic source: Wikipedia

I enjoyed watching the 1960s’ American TV series, ‘Batman’ but was never really a fan of the character. The earlier film versions, directed by Tim Burton  (Batman, Batman Returns) and Joel Schumacher (Batman Forever, Batman & Robin) also did not really impress as they seemed to be stuck somewhere between the comic books and live action film making. Nothing seemed real in those films and most of them were laughable… in my opinion, they were neither suitable for kids nor for adults. Batman for me was Hollywood at its worst.

However, ace director, Christopher Nolan changed that with his version of Batman films. His 2005 film, Batman Begins revisited the character and told his story again but the tone was different – it was darker, serious and grown up. Christian Bale became Bruce Wayne and made us empathise with the character; he became Batman and we were in awe. Nolan’s reboot infused life in the franchise and I found myself interested in the series again. Then came The Dark Knight in 2008, which was not only the finest Batman film till date but also amongst the finest thrillers / superhero films made by Hollywood. While Bale was impressive as Batman again, the film’s real star was Heath Ledger who played the villain – Joker. Ledger who died months before the film’s release showed how menacing a character can get and how good an actor can be. With a stellar screenplay (Christopher & Jonathan Nolan), superb background score by Hans Zimmer and fantastic action sequences, The Dark Knight was gripping from start to finish. This was a film that did not allow you to look away from the screen for a minute or talk to the person next to you. It was Nolan’s magic that brought Batman to life again and made me a fan!

And now, we are only a few days away from the final installment of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The Dark Knight Rises is possibly the most anticipated film of this year and pre-booking in theatres started months before the release date. Everyone I know is excited about the film and fan-boys are counting each hour before they get to see Batman take on Bane, a terrorist who wants to destroy the Gotham city. Here are the top reasons I am excited about the final chapter in the trilogy (in no particular order):

Tom Hardy as Bane: There could not have been a better actor to play the villain who breaks Batman’s back. Why? Have you seen Tom in his earlier film, Warrior? He is not only physically suited to play the character but also can act well. He may not make us forget Heath Ledger’s Joker but am sure will make us remember his Bane.

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman: I hope she makes us forget Halle Berry and Michelle Pfeiffer’s outings as Catwoman. Hathaway of Princess Diaries and Bride Wars is an interesting choice and I am curious to see how she handles the character, especially when she is supposed to be Bane’s associate. She has got extensive focus in the film’s promos and even an exclusive trailer for the Catwoman character; I am sure we’d be surprised by Ms. Hathaway in this film.

Joseph Gordon Levitt and Marion Cotillard: I simply love these two actors and it seems Nolan loves them too; they were there in his Inception and they are there in The Dark Knight Rises now. They are both new characters and I am really looking forward to what Nolan has done with these two great performers.

Hans Zimmer’s music: This man is a magician and his pairing with Nolan is simply brilliant. In India, it’s like A R Rahman and Mani Ratnam together.

Christopher Nolan: Do I need to say anything else?

Oh, and I haven’t forgotten Christan Bale but have got used to him as Batman. He is an actor par excellence and that is the bare minimum one expects from him now. I am sure he will deliver once again…

July 20 is when The Dark Knight Rises.

Viewing recommendation:

Watch it on IMAX screen if there’s one in your city. Folks in the UK can enjoy the film at Odeon which has more IMAX screens in the country than any other cinema chain. For more information on ticket and viewing options check the The Dark Knight Rises at Odeon web page. In India, Nolan fans in Mumbai should only go for BIG Cinemas’ IMAX in Wadala as the rest is a waste. Cine-goers in Delhi will have to do without IMAX but look for a theatre with good sound (I am told that the best Dolby sound system is in place at PVR and DT cinemas in Ambience Mall, Gurgaon & Vasant Kunj; Promenade in Vasant Kunj; Select Citywalk and DLF Place in Saket).

Cocktail

Neither shaken nor stirred!

Pic source: Wikipedia

Beautiful people in high fashion labels, partying at the most happening places do not make a good film. Unfortunately, the makers of Cocktail think otherwise. The film is dull, boring and predictable; there is neither smart writing nor great performances to engage the audience. Director, Homi Adajania has failed to live up to the high expectations that were set with the slickly cut promos and the dazzling visuals. Unfortunately, the best parts of the film are there in the promos only and one keeps waiting for some more excitement in the film.

**Some spoilers ahead**

The film is written by Imtiaz Ali and Sajid Ali but there is nothing new in the story. Protagonists indulging in casual sex, drinking and partying hard may have been novel ideas for Indian cinema in the last decade but not in 2012. Even from the love triangle point of view, there is nothing new… there are no surprises on who gets the guy – the girl who wears short dresses and drinks or the girl who worships and puts a blanket on her friends when they sleep.  Your guess is as good as the makers’.

Cocktail is about three friends – Veronica (Deepika Padukone), a rich party girl with parent issues; Gautam (Saif Ali Khan), a Casanova from Delhi now in London; and Meera (Diana Penty), a newly-wed girl from India who comes to London to be with her husband (Randeep Hooda), who had only married her for dowry (though he gets her a resident permit in the UK, which she uses quite well!) The writers’ have shown the most amount of creativity in showing how these characters meet – but nothing really seems believable. Anyway, after two-three party sequences, one friendship song and a fancy weekend break in Cape Town (very efficient Visa service in the UK I must say for an impromptu holiday plan); the awesome threesome get in a love triangle (yawn!) From this point onwards you can actually predict the next scene; if you’re going in a group, it can also become a game.

One thing I quite liked about the film and also got a bit miffed with is the styling. Indian Vogue’s Fashion Director, Anaita Shroff Adajania has styled the film and the three lead characters do wear good clothes. Deepika is styled well throughout and carries the look of a London based fashionista quite well. Saif as usual is well turned out and you cannot miss the Burberry jackets and trench; he only needs a little more lip balm. Diana looks pretty and her styling follows her BTM (behenjiturned-mod) story. This is where I have a complaint with Anaita – when Meera lands in London, she has no sense of style and even lesser money; even after she finds a job as a graphic designer, I am assuming she doesn’t earn loads; but the stylist thinks it is ok for her to sport luxury labels – a Tod’s bag for instance.

In the acting department, I am quite impressed with Diana as she has delivered an above-average performance in her first film. I just wasn’t convinced with the way her character shaped up; we are supposed to like her and she is supposed to be the conscientious one but then she does betray her best friend (Tequila shots cannot be blamed for it Mr. Director). Deepika still needs diction lessons but she did go beyond her usual range. Regarding Saif, he was mostly irritating and I mainly blame the character; also he is no longer convincing as a 32-year old! My favourite was Dimple Kapadia as Gautam’s mother who essentially did what Kirron Kher usually does as an aggressive Punjabi lady. Boman Irani was good in his short role and Randeep Hooda was completely wasted.

The film’s music by Pritam is nice and adds a dash of fun (lyrics by Irshad Kamil). I enjoyed ‘Tumhi Ho Bandhu’ (vocals – Neeraj Shridhar & Kavita Seth) and ‘Daaru Desi’ (vocals – Benny Dayal & Shalmali Kholgade) tracks. But my favourite song in the film is not an original one but borrowed from another album; it is ‘Angreji Beat’, sung by Gippy Grewal and Yo Yo Honey Singh. I liked the way they introduced Deepika’s character with this fun song. Cinematography by Anil Mehta is brilliant (as expected); London looks even more inviting through his lens and Cape Town simply gorgeous. Editing by Sreekar Prasad is ho-hum; the film just goes on and on in the second half making you crave for a real cocktail!

Overall, the film leaves you cold and disappointed. This Cocktail is not mixed well; watch it if you don’t mind predictable but good looking stuff.