The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Christopher Nolan
English

 

The Dark Knight RisesFor a large part of its long runtime, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is riveting and conjures up messy themes and moral paradoxes that question the assumptions of the genre the film belongs to. The canvas is bigger than ever in the trilogy, the narrative knottier and the possibilities richer. The film is marked by a preponderance of vertical movements – Bane’s ascent from the sewers, Wayne’s escape from the pit, the Batman’s flight from the cops – and I guess one could tenuously map this to the notion of a Freudian return of the politically (Gotham’s seemingly huge underclass) and psychologically repressed (Wayne’s childhood trauma). But The Dark Knight Rises pursues no such apple-cart-upsetting ideas to completion and instead chooses to couch itself in the rarefied realm of Batman mythos, where the stakes for the non-fan are nearly non-existent. Nolan’s film channels everything from the Old Testament (Gotham as Sodom, Blake as Noah, the plagues, the Great Deluge), through the French and the October revolutions (the storming of Bastille, the twilight of the tsars), to the recent Occupy movements in America in a way that only politically non-committed studio products can afford to. That does not, however, mean that the film has no political viewpoint. Vehemently reactionary, The Dark Knight Rises nearly reduces every issue to a question of bad parenting. The film is rife with appeals for the need of responsible fathers and father figures, with the incurably paternal Batman being something of a godfather overlooking his hapless Gothamite children. (There’s a chuckle to be found when you see Gordon unveiling a statue of the Batman). And yet, I’ve not seen a film as classically solemn and tonally consistent all this year, with all other movies coming across as glorified sitcoms in comparison.

The DC versus Marvel battle continues as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight arrives along the wake of the success of Iron Man (2008). With almost all of the filmdom going gaga over the performance of Heath Ledger even before the film’s release, it was but naturally clever for Warner Brothers to leverage this mass curiosity and fabricate one dark power ride for the audience. The fans had already caught a glimpse of the sober Batman in the previous offering by Nolan in Batman Begins (2005), which changed the whole gravity of the franchise in contrast to the light-hearted prequels by Burton and Schumacher. The film does not disappoint, to say the least.

It is a time when Batman (Christian Bale) has become an integral part of Gotham City’s vocabulary and people have seriously started questioning his position as a saviour of the city. Meanwhile, the crime rate shoots up during the broad daylight. The Joker (Heath Ledger) concocts a series of crimes in the city and “introduces a little chaos into the system”. The district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), his love interest Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and the Deputy Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) join hands in order to track down the Joker, but find themselves unable to save their own skins, quite literally. The Joker demands Batman to bare his identity in order to save the people of the city. Though torn by the consequences of the choices, Batman decides to “endure” and hold his sanity.

Harvey says at a dinner that heroes either die or live long enough to see themselves become villains, quoting the corrupt emperors of Rome. Bruce decides that the people of Gotham City should need a superhero no more and it is their faith in their own laws, the citizens that abide them and the spirit of humanity which binds them all that would save them from the escalating crimes. Taking off from this, the film ends on a contemplative yet grand note, a la Yojimbo, as the masked crusader moves on towards the next stage of his life.  This way, the film raises questions about the need for heroes and dependence on a stranger for safety, opposed to the affirmative answer given by Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (2006).

Much has been talked about the performance of Heath Ledger and no review seems to be complete without the perfunctory statement about the posthumous Academy award. Is the performance that good, one is tempted to ask. The answer is a definite “Yo”. Right from the swaying of his tongue as if to widen his grotesque grin to the Jack Nicholson-esque preoccupation with contorting his facial muscles, you sense that such a performance does not come often. The performance would have lost no fraction of its intensity even if Ledger had been there today.

Christopher Nolan knows how to use his technicians and it shows. The brilliant cinematography is evident and needs no elaboration. The cross-cutting among multiple scenes, especially during key events in the film, tests one’s comfort and at the same time makes long scenes seem shorter. And there lies the success of The Dark Knight. No other superhero film could have gotten away with a excruciating runtime of over 150 minutes. This tautness in cutting is what that gives Nolan the breather to delve into the psychological part of the man behind the Batman, keeping the audience hooked all the while to the staple action scenes.

Though not a definitive statement about Hollywood, this year isn’t as productive as the last and there have been no real winners.  Let’s face it, most of the biggies (Read Indiana Jones and Iron Man) have been a letdown and the rest of them were just fillers. The Dark Knight has been the only film holding its head high amidst this slump. And just for that, “Let’s put a smile on that face!”.

Verdict:

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