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Sunday, July 22, 2012

(Published in The Sunday Guardian on

Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson
Director: Christopher Nolan
Rating: 4.5 stars
Batman’s my favourite superhero because he’s self-made, sans superpower. And the near-dystopian The Dark Knight Rises, emphasises the human nature of Gotham’s saviour. A primal movie that takes us back to Ra’s al Ghul  (Liam Neeson) and The League of Shadows, the last film of the Batman trilogy does have gaps in logic. But none of that matters for the powerful sweep of its storyline, for the expertise with which social commentary is slipped in, and for the empathy we feel for each of its many characters.
The story begins with a remembrance event for Harvey Dent, where Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) considers telling the people of Gotham the truth about Harvey Two-Face. We see the shadowy figure of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) hobbling on a terrace, lonely and crippled in the eight years since Rachel’s death. We’re then thrown into high-voltage action, and introduced to the villain of this film – Bane, a muzzled hulk, played with panache by Tom Hardy, who projects a terrorising presence, despite only having the use of his eyes.
With locales ranging from Mehrangarh Fort to New York, and echoes of real events, it’s easy to forget that these are the imagined scapes of a graphic novel series. And that may lead us to wonder at the relevance of an Occupy-like movement in a city destined for annihilation.
The film introduces a host of characters, including Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). The first half rests mostly in dialogue, while the second half is strangely slow-paced, despite some dizzying action sequences. But this is a film of nuance, and missing its subtler moments could make one dismiss it as ordinary. If you pay attention, and have read enough DC comics to know Talia’s story, you may be ahead of the film. Or not – I was taken in by the twists every time.
The story has more Bruce Wayne than Batman, and justifiably so – the point of Batman, the film says, is to be a symbol. The scenes between Alfred (Michael Caine) and Wayne are elevated from maudlin to poignant by formidable performances. It does have its fair share of clichéd comebacks and gimmickry, but the lovely timing compensates.
After despairing for over two hours, the viewer has to choose between being idealistic and pragmatic, just as Batman has done all his life. And you know when you see it that the film shouldn’t have ended any other way.
The Verdict: The Dark Knight Rises is one for fans of Batman, not of action. If you have the patience it demands, you’ll consider it a fitting finale.


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