by Gautaman Bhaskaran
Christopher Nolan’s last of the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, weaves a difficult plot through a multitude of characters, not all of them well etched, in a postmodern scenario. We have terrorism, an atomic bomb in the hands of faceless rogues and a community which is held to terrifying ransom. The criminals have a clear motive, to cleanse Gotham city of those they deem corrupt, much like the French Revolution that guillotined the fraudulent royalty and nobility. In Nolan’s work, it is a jihad of another kind, though not waged by Islamic militants, where at least two eminently possible scenarios play out – on a soccer stadium and in the stock exchange. These seem more real now, given the latest murderous shootout in Denver coinciding with a midnight screening of the Batman movie.
However, what remains etched in memory long after the curtains fall is the film’s emotional resonance, which often gets precedence over the spectacle. The fights, the chases and the evil disappear beyond a beautiful horizon of love, warmth and fellow feeling. Those moments between Batman /Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and his trusted butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine), are wonderfully touching. They are brilliant, in fact. When Batman expresses his desire to pull the cap over his face after eight years, Pennyworth is distraught. “I have buried too many people from your family. I will not bury you”, he says tears welling up, and he even resigns so that his master would take him seriously. The first stirring of love between Batman and the cat-burglar, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who on a trial run steals his mother’s pearls, is given a determined push by Nolan, who co-wrote the script with his brother, Jonathan.
Top notch productions values – as are to be expected – add that zing all right. While the chases in a strange flying object piloted by Batman and on a peculiar looking motorcycle used with feline charm and style by Kyle are thrilling, the movie’s other action-packed episodes — the actual siege of the city and the fights (there is a “no-gun rule” here) between Batman and terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy) are a yawn.
In the third part, Nolan introduces us to a peaceful Gotham. The city has begun to rest in quiet slumber, and Batman, the orphan millionaire master of Wayne Manor, is clearly listless, when a new kind of threat explodes. It is then that Batman, who had gone into being a recluse, decides to mask himself once again as a big bat – to play the vigilante-hero – and he does not have to get far to find the dangerous conspiracy. It is being plotted in his own backyard.
Wayne Enterprise is collapsing after a clean energy project is shelved for fear of it being converted into a nuclear weapon. Wayne suspects that a business rival has hired Bane to take over the Enterprise for a nefarious plan to destroy Gotham. Bane is quick to get away with the deadly arsenal, but not before imprisoning Wayne in a prison from which escape is just impossible. Or so, it seems.
As Nolan takes us through a maze of startling revelations, it becomes apparent that The Dark Night Rises is a little too ambitious when it comes to its slate of characters. Batman has a love interest other than Kyle in Miranda Tate (played demurely by Marion Cotillard). Then there are Wayne’s trusted business manager, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), and a young cop, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). All of them crowd out the canvas, and one is left feeling that not enough of each is seen. A certain caricatured shallowness becomes apparent.
If at the end of it all, we are groping for that feeling of doom, Hans Zimmer’s music comes as a saviour with its creepy sensation.