(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on 21 July 2012, retrieved from http://newindianexpress.com/entertainment/reviews/article573697.ece)
Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Director: Christopher Nolan
Rating: 4.5 stars
I don’t remember feeling so despondent at a superhero film, ever. Then again, no superhero has been beaten up like Batman in The Dark Knight Rises. When the film begins, Gotham is a quiet, happy city, where a cop jokes that they’ll be chasing after overdue library books next. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) delivers speeches instead of hunting down criminals – “He’s a war hero, and this is peacetime”, someone says.
Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has sunk into the gloom of losing his one true love, Rachel. With a bent back, crippled leg, and barely any cartilage left on a body that has given its all – or most of its all – for the City of Gotham, he inspires pity, not awe.
When you’re on Wayne’s side, you’re waiting for the supervillain. Here, Bane (Tom Hardy), a man with his nose and mouth hidden behind a muzzle that amplifies his voice, and a penchant for wringing necks, makes you shiver. How will the broken Batman take on this monstrous creature?
It appears Wayne doesn’t plan to. Hell, his maid just made off with his mother’s pearls. That encroachment injects a shot of adrenaline into him, but the effect dies out within minutes of our time, and days of his. He doesn’t even care to see the new contraption Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) has been working on.
Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), one of those Left-wingers who believe in the ‘Other 99%’ and justify stealing on a Marxist principle, has entered into a deal with a devil, who has entered into a more sinister deal with a more sinister devil. And so it is that Bruce Wayne loses all his money, and Batman comes back to life, against the wishes of Alfred (Michael Caine). “This city needs your resources and your knowledge, not your body and your life,” Alfred says. Wayne accuses him of being afraid he’ll fail. Alfred replies that he’s afraid he won’t return, and he’s not burying another Wayne. And so, he must make a hard decision.
Despite the spirited presence of Catwoman, the tender ministrations of Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and the wide-eyed adoration of young Officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), it seems Batman can find no purpose in life. When Bane drawls, “I was wondering what to take first – your spirit or your money”, you know the order doesn’t matter. This is over.
The odd laugh is muted by the dark humour of the social commentary – where the world is ruled by sport and stockmarket games, where the anarchy that is so fashionable nowadays leads to a French Revolution-like kangaroo court, where events in the movie echo reality. The film is less about Batman than about people – about the brutality of the mob, the power of love, the intoxication of power, the determination of the desperate.
With arguably the best cast a superhero film has ever had, the film can afford to play with timelines, and timing. Yes, there are hackneyed lines too, but Bale, Caine and Freeman will make you grin anyway. To its credit, the film isn’t shy of ribbing itself – “He’s as dumb as he dresses”, a cop says, as Batman is cornered.
Despite faulty logic every now and again, the film draws us whimsically into its centrepiece – a fable that is rooted in The League of Shadows, that takes us back to R’as Al Ghul’s (Liam Neeson’s) love affair with a warlord’s daughter, and the terrible events that followed. It may take several viewings to fully understand the film, especially because some of the lines are bound to be lost in the cheering.
The Verdict: If you’re prepared for a Batman movie that is hauntingly introspective rather than action-packed, you’ll love The Dark Knight Rises.