The Dark Knight Rises to the challenge

Sorry about the pun, I just can’t help myself.

The other night I saw the new Batman film and I heartily recommend you see it too as it was the most brilliant film I’ve seen since Inception (which is not surprising as Christopher Nolan directed both and I am a huge fan of his).

If you can, I would recommend you see it in India, as the experience was a little different. I paid 150 rupees (~£2) for my ticket and the atmosphere was far better than any film I’ve seen in the UK. The audience whooped and cheered when Batman entered and the tension at certain moments was palpable. On the downside there were subtitles on throughout, so I can’t comment on whether Bane was clear or not. There was also an interval as the two met for the first time, something which initially annoyed me but I think given the middle section’s pacing would have helped the film.

Before I begin to discuss my thoughts in detail, I should mention my bias, which is that I did not like the previous installments because they were too dark. The first spoke of a hero terrorising his enemies and the second created a madman and turned him into an icon.

The Dark Knight was a bitter disappointment for me, as I had been expecting so much, but when it came to it, I felt the film was overloaded and too chaotic for it’s own good. Harvey Dent was underused and the Joker though superbly acted, was far too grim to deserve a 12 rating. I was uncomfortable watching it in the cinema with children. I have become physically sickened with the way that Heath Ledger’s Joker has caused so many people to focus on darkness and just how liberating not caring can feel. To put it simply, I wish the film had never been made.

So why did I want to see the sequel you may well ask? The main reason is that others do and that whether I like it or not, this is an event picture which is going to be seen by a large audience. I therefore wanted to have an opinion on it, as I wouldn’t be able to argue against it without ammunition. I am also a huge Christopher Nolan fan and I believed he could do better. In addition I am a sucker for superhero films, so was always going to hope that this had potential.

Fortunately, there are a lot of good points about this film, the most brilliant of which is the plot. The story that Nolan weaves intertwines with that of the previous two and brings the trilogy to a close. It is really quite a masterpiece in storytelling to behold, joining all the themes together and telling a compelling tale that introduces new characters and unseen aspects of old favourites. Alfred and Brue Wayne get the best arcs, with both showing aspects and emotions previously unexplored.

Of the new characters, Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle is the standout and steals every scene she’s in. Her take on Catwoman is a revelation, by far the best interpretation yet. Catwoman has always been morally ambiguous, with her playing good or bad depending on the situation and her mood. Hathaway does this with ease and throws in some humanity for good measure. Thomas Hardy’s Bane is not as impressive as he is far less theatrical, but is none the less good. With only limited facial expression he gives a solid performance that while not being the Bane I remember is certainly a good choice of villain for Christopher Nolan’s universe. Others are less convincing, with one’s final moment being a sheer joy and another an utter letdown.

The main theme is that of overcoming. This I like very much, as this is a good and righteous focus for a superhero film. Sometimes we need to look at a hero succeed beyond what we think possible to encourage us to push on in the same way. Not everyone will come out of the Dark Knight Rises inspired to act, but I know I was. I always tend to see films from a director’s point of view, and I saw this as a masterpiece of reconciliation and victory by a man on the top of his game. I walked out onto the dark unknown streets having no fear, believing that I was capable of greater things. I may not be becoming a superhero (and even if I was, do you think I’d blog about it?) but I am going to do something. I’m going to change, to put on the identity that I want to be and give up leading a double life with different faces. Playtime is over, now I get serious.

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