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).

Contagion

Don’t talk to anyone… don’t touch anyone…

Contagion; Pic: Warner Bros.

How many times you touch your face in a day? Three to five times every waking minute says Dr. Erin Mears, an epidemic investigating officer in the film, Contagion; which means about 4,800 times in a day.  What surfaces you touch that can give you a deadly virus… peanuts in a pub, door knobs, handshake with a colleague, your own desk at work… there is no way you can avoid touching things or people… what happens when a deadly virus spreads around the world through surface contact (fomite transmission, explained in the film)? Contagion, a riveting new thriller by Steven Soderbergh presents a similar scenario tracing the lives of the affected families, doctors, scientists and investigators as a global pandemic explodes.

The film begins with a dark screen where you hear a woman coughing. You see a business traveller, Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) at an airport bar sniffling and fighting a bad case of flu. ‘Day 2’ flashes on the screen and the camera focuses on the bowl of peanuts lying in front of her. You know it’s not good. Day 3 and she is dead along with the others in London, Japan and Hong Kong. The reason is unknown and the toll rising very fast. Professionals at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are already having emergency meetings. The film begins at a tense note and stays like that throughout; though serious and scary, the director maintains restraint and avoids sensationalizing the subject. The screenplay moves at a breakneck pace except a few parts in the second half. Contagion scares but presents a very realistic picture of what may happen in a crisis situation of a global pandemic.

The film boasts of an enviable ensemble cast of Academy Award® and Emmy® winners and nominees, but the director ensures that none get precedence over the film’s lead, the deadly virus. Matt Damon plays Mitch Emhoff, a grieving husband who is concerned about his daughter’s safety; Kate Winslet plays Dr. Erin Mears, a scientist for whom duty comes first; Marion Cotillard is WHO’s Dr. Leonora Orantes who is on the job to trace the virus’ origin; Jude Law, a conspiracy theorist and blogger; Laurence Fishburne, Dr. Ellis Cheever, head of CDC who finds himself in moral dilemma; and Jennifer Ehle is Dr. Ally Hextall who is working round the clock to develop a vaccine to fight the virus. There are many plots in this global drama that Soderbergh brings together perfectly without giving too much importance to a particular star or character. Look out for the scene where two scientists in isolation suits discuss their weekend while investigating a deadly virus strain. Also, the scene where Mitch checks his wife’s pictures of her fateful trip to Hong Kong, months after her death.

Contagion’s success lies in creating fear in the minds of the audience without making it appear over the top like other disaster flicks. Scott Z Burns’ screenplay is taut and editing superb (Stephen Mirrione), which along with the gripping background score (Cliff Martinez) makes it a must watch thriller.

My rating: *** ½ Three and a half on five