Monday, July 23, 2012

A Grand End to "The Dark Knight"

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Except that the highly anticipated film of 2012 was marred by the Aurora shooting, most reviews are still glowing. And for me who is absolutely not a comic fan and appreciates a superhero film as it is – a superhero film, The Dark Knight Rises indeed rose to expectations.

It is a superhero flick with the superhero missing for about half of the show. Catwoman is without a single cat unlike in previous portrayals of this character (and for this film, Catwoman was actually not referred as Catwoman, anyway). New York City was deglamorized to a despaired, isolated Gotham City. The production design and costumes were mostly sleek and sexy, bleak and black, ironically putting color to the film. New names were added in this finale, adding to the already sterling cast for this franchise, and they all played their roles remarkably.

Christopher Nolan is a genius. He started fresh with the franchise reboot, gave Batman more flesh in the second installment, and made him a “real” hero in the end. Batman Begins (2005) indeed began it all, explaining how it all started for Bruce Wayne and his other persona, the caped crusader Batman. The medias res, The Dark Knight (2008) unraveled more to Batman and gave the moviegoers the most remarkable villain of all time, Heath Ledger’s Joker. The Dark Knight Rises grandly ends the trilogy, with Batman finally confronting his fear and pain and eventually rising from them and redeeming himself.

From dark, to darker, to darkest – The Dark Knight Rises successfully deconstructed the superhero myth. Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) started the film by hiding in his manor, eight years after taking the fall for the death of Harvey Dent, the honest district-attorney who succumbed to evil toward his end. If anyone has not seen The Dark Knight, they might find asking themselves who Dent is and eventually get lost and confused in the labyrinth of stories that make The Dark Knight Rises.

New characters made the film meatier. New villain, Bane (Tom Hardy), spreads terror through the League of Shadows. Cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), displays such ooziness and balls (sometimes more than to Bale’s Batman) and as expected becomes an unlikely ally and love interest. As the events unfold, Wayne/Batman eventually comes out of retirement and dons the cape once more, roaring with his motorcycle-like Bat-Pod and pilots the “plane,” dryly called “the Bat,” and tries to save Gotham City from annihilation, the place that gave him “nothing but pain.”

Stalwarts Gary Oldman (Police Commissioner Gordon) and Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox, who is like Q to James Bond) continue to give sage support to Wayne/Batman. Nolan again collaborates with his Inception cast: Marion Cotillard (as Miranda Tate) plays as an executive board member of Wayne Enterprises, encouraging Wayne in espousing a sustainable future. Her character turned out to be complex and was concluded in a twist (well, for me she is a surprise as I am uninitiated to DC comics characters). Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as John Blake), is a promising young police officer who is revealed in the movie having the full name of Robin John Blake, and is seen in the Bat cave as the film wraps up. Michael Caine (as Alfred Pennyworth) made me cry thrice as his character of Wayne/Batman’s butler is further established from a confidant to a surrogate father trying to dissuade Wayne from helping Gotham City as Batman. Caine also provided the humor in The Dark Knight, which display of dry, English wit must be caught for a few laughs, a break from the overall somber tone of the film.               

The film also runs political themes in it, like the Occupy Movement or the Arab Springs, the people versus the authorities. The parallelisms in Bane and Wayne/Batman not only focus in their strength in darkness and shadows and masks, but both in their inaudible voices that were sometimes to straining to listen to. It is more forgiving for the case of the masked Bane (whose mask serves as his lifeline), but for Wayne as a Batman? I guess it would remain a puzzle while Wayne suddenly speaks in a bronchial, almost robotic tone when he transforms as Batman.  

Overall, the franchise’s resurrection of Batman under Nolan’s helm is by far, the greatest and it would be hard to top that anytime soon – of a new Batman franchise or any superhero film for that matter.
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