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!”.


Question: “What kind of film do you want to see?”
American 1: “I want a Superhero movie”
American 2: “I want an Iraqi war movie”
American 3: “I want to things go BOOM, BANG and CLANK, with lotsa cool special FX”

Thus, Iron Man was born (Sounds like the perfect specimen for dubbing into all languages, from Bhojpuri to Tamil, doesn’t it?).

Summer is here and as usual, it has brought along with it a string of action flicks. This time around we get to see 3 comic book adaptations. Jon Favreau’s Iron Man is the first of the three and has made it big at the box office. With a series of duds by Marvel after Spider-Man 2 and a title as lame as this, one cannot hope for much.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has got everything one wants – the style, the brains, the bucks and a lovely assistant Virginia Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). He builds WMDs for the American soldiers fighting all over the world. On a trip to Afghanistan, he is kidnapped and forced to build a super-powerful missile from scratch in a cave. Instead, with the help of a faithful assistant (who obviously can speak English and is obviously going to die), Stark builds a metallic suit and manages to escape. On return, he ponders how his own inventions have been used against him and decides to end it all. But his business partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) has other plans. Thus ensues a battle between technologies and (naturally but unavoidably) the good guy beats up the baddie and all’s well.

This could have been another run-of-the-mill superhero movie if not for the character and performance of Robert Downey Jr. The alter egos of all the superheroes hitherto have been wimps whereas Tony Stark is charismatic, brilliant, provides most of the clever lines in the film and can-​survive-​without-​superhero-​costume. Robert Downey Jr. does a great job with his looks and actions that reflect the don’t-care attitude of Stark. Gwyneth Paltrow‘s character as Ms. Pepper does not seem to be well delineated. She means business in some scenes whereas in others, she is a bumbling young girl. Jeff Bridges (The Dude) is good but just reminds me of Goldfinger during the last part of the film.

The screenplay moves from predictability, hovers over tautness for sometime and goes back again to immense predictability. Be alert for the best moment in the film which I will not spoil by mentioning. Special effects galore, one has to admit the film does not lack action at all. A lot of effort has gone into the detail of the armor and flight scenes. The sets of the Stark’s laboratory do not give the complete feel of a superhero movie but are good nevertheless. The film has underplayed the War on terrorism and the politics behind it even though blatant caricaturing of the Jehadis is done.

Lots of bangs, booms and clashes agreed, the film does not give fresh entertainment and succumbs to become yet another bead in the string of Marvel flops. Save Robert Downey Jr., the film has not much to offer and thoroughly over hyped. But if you want some 2 hours of time to kill, Iron Man may be a decent watch to keep you awake.