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).

Madagascar 3 Europe’s Most Wanted

This one’s not to be missed…

Pic source: Wikipedia

Our favourite animals are back and as the film’s title, ‘Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted’ suggests they are shaking up things in Europe this time. For those unfamiliar with the series, it follows the adventures of four zoo animals from New York who accidentally get shipped to Madagascar in the first film; crash land in Africa while trying to get back to NYC in the second one and make an impressive journey through Europe in the latest film.

Madagascar 3 starts in Africa where Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) once again decide to get back home – the Central Park Zoo. They go to Monte Carlo to join the Penguins who can fly them in their specially assembled aircraft (if you’re not following what the Penguins are doing in Monte Carlo and where did the aircraft come from, do watch the earlier films). All doesn’t go as planned and the large group of animals is chased by a maniacal animal control officer, Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand). Their plane crashes again and they take shelter in a train carrying circus animals. Here we are introduced to Stefano the sea-lion (Martin Short), Gia the jaguar (Jessica Chastain) and Vitaly the tiger (Bryan Cranston), amongst others. The film has a lot of excitement and moves at a fast pace (editing: Nick Fletcher); there are thrilling chase sequences and a lot of other action, with Europe’s iconic landmarks in the background. While the love angle between Melman and Gloria moves forward, the real mush comes from the love at first sight story between King Julien the lemur (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Sonya the bear (Frank Welker). Their romance is one of the highlights in the film, which also has an elaborate circus sequence inspired by Cirque du Soleil.

Apart from the fantastic animation (Dreamworks) and great use of 3D, Madagascar 3 has some great writing (Eric Darnell & Noah Baumbach). There are the usual character driven lines that make you laugh, especially Marty, King Julien and the Penguins; but the real winning moments are subtle and at times not so subtle references to the European culture. For example, we are informed about the French working culture that requires work for only two weeks a year! Then there is Frances McDormand’s rendition of ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ (No, I have no regrets) that has special significance for the French – it was sung by Édith Piaf in 1960 as a dedication to the French Foreign Legion (seems master composer Hans Zimmer loves the song; he included it in the Inception soundtrack too). I was also surprised with a smart reference to the Rita Hayworth poster from Shawshank Redemption. So many interesting tidbits make the film more engaging and enjoyable for the adults while the children enjoy the animated action.

Directed by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon, Madagascar 3 is a must watch film this summer in 3D.

I am also looking forward to Ice Age: Continental Drift in 3D that releases on July 13. Folks in the UK can enjoy the film at Odeon which has more IMAX screens in the country than any other cinema chain. You can find more information on ticket and viewing options on Ice Age Continental Drift 3D at Odeon web page. In India, Mumbaikars can enjoy it at IMAX Big Cinema in Wadala and in Delhi I am going to try PVR Director’s Cut soon.