“It all ends here”
I believe in Christopher Nolan
We live in a time of superhero films, a time of summer blockbusters, a time of unabashed super groups and unwanted reboots.
We also live in the time of Christopher Nolan, whose previous film till then was about a guilt ridden cop who could not sleep. The year is 2005, the year this story begins.
If one would mentally recall the appropriately lit ‘coming soon’ spaces at the cinemas, it would have invariably be a superhero film, either a reboot or a numerical following. They are the perfect mould for a wide release, intact support base and space for extension and a special effects supervisor’s occupational nightmare; but they really did not require anything more than a slice of something of a story to slide between these action sequences.
It was the case before Batman Begins as well, the first live action Batman films went from good to worse, it is also to be remembered that Tim Burton’s Batman was once hailed the movie of the decade; I’ve seen them all including the Joel Schumacher movies which are now seen as the lowest point in any superhero filmdom, but I am yet to see a person who has something good to say about Superman and the Quest for Peace.
I am sure it happens with any franchise as Spiderman now rightly proved, there are times when you do need an over haul; but basically we must understand these are money vehicles for studios, a direct pairing would be the Ajith-Vijay films that we make, by saying that the people in LA only make it better I would risk being called unsavory things. But many fail to realize the whole backbone of all these superhero films are the comics themselves, I cannot speak for the Marvel ones but Nolan’s Batman has been drawn out from not one, but many comic book arcs and it is disheartening to see people lash out in 140 characters or less about TDKR(The Dark Knight Rises) not being as ‘great’ as TDK(The Dark Knight, I’m sure you got that but still).
Who decides whether which is great and which isn’t is a question that not many are wishing to ask, not to others but to themselves. Personally for me Batman Begins is the greatest in the series and It might be because of a skewed up argument as to how the Dark Knight is not all that great, it may be aided because of the sudden rise in the number of people wearing “Why so Serious?” t-shirts and randomly quoting “Some people just like to watch the world burn” whenever they strike a match.
As a famous line goes,” They are the opposite of Batman”
Superman is flawless which makes him boring after a while, what Superman might become is imagined as Dr. Manhattan from the Watchmen, an insensitive mass of nothingness who can never really become human let alone sympathize with us. Nothing but an alien mineral to stop him, his problems are not enemies and a villain like the Joker would have no hold over Superman, it is even doubtful that man of steel would ever indulge in conversation during such a combat. So let’s drop Superman there, let’s leave him in his quest for world peace.
Batman is us, he is human; he doesn’t have any powers and he has as many (if not more) as problems as the average salaried male; in fact never quite recovered from the death of his parents. This very single line lends to further interpretation towards the development of character. Batman Begins simply works because it is as real as it can get.
Christopher Nolan puts in the default ingredients of a coming of age movie and seamlessly binds them to a superhero franchise, it is now clear that the whole idea of Batman Begins came from much irritation of the Joel Schumacher films and Wikipedia informs me that since the success of the Batman reboot, many other comic book adaptations were green lit.
But they have only been costume dramas, fail-safe and entertaining in an established way, nothing cinematic except for the effects; giving people a reason to go back to the theatres. Only Nolan majorly spent time on character development and actually having plots and sub plots, twist and turn them relying on physical stunts and increasingly great acting that none of the arty movies have been unable to provide over the years geography of Gotham and finally the mind of the audience, arrive at a product which is paragon when compared to conventional superhero films but still makes the same money(if not more, to use it again)
That is why it is sad, when we come to know that the only nomination that Batman Begins got was for Wally Pfister’s art of light. Begins pales wrongly when compared to its successor, I feel that it is one of those movie that come and change your life for the better and I watch it whenever I feel sad or happy. There are not a lot of movies that can deal with your emotional extremes.
Why am I building a case for Batman Begins?
Because that is how I feel that true greatness of Rises is realized.
Rises is a direct sequel to Begins, the Michael Mannesque grittiness that began in first film is reflected in Rises. This is not some ‘here we go and get the Tesseract’ movie, only while mentioning Avengers and Rises in the same breath that you realize how a foolish movie it is, entertaining nevertheless with Downey-liners and brutal synthesized violence of the Hulk, it is just the display of your Gijoe like action figures, it is not a film. I remember rating it favorably, but you don’t compare them. Avengers is a popcorn film at the very best.
I believe in Gotham City
Batman has grown beyond the imaginations of Bob Kane, from being masked vigilante (what a phrase) to being a symbol of trust and human justice, but Bruce Wayne has also grown or deepened. Within those long halls of Wayne Manor walks a restless soul, a hero who doubts the very notion on what he stands for.
It perfectly understandable if Bruce had stopped wearing the cape after he felt avenged for which he needn’t have worn suit in the first place. But he realizes that one must strive for something higher than revenge.
Fear and justice are two parallel streams in the three films, a young Bruce falling into the well of bats and how he first encounters the reality of the streets are brilliantly shown. He could have simply been everybody’s millionaire turning up at social events and writing cheques for the have-nots, it is doubtful if Bruce would have inherited such idealism if his parents had been alive. There is a lot to Batman/Bruce to most others and that is what I believe Nolan began with; it is just not about fighting villains.
That is what irks me about the Dark Knight, it is a great film nevertheless and nobody can argue about Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker, but I wouldn’t quite forgive him for stealing the movie away from the Batman and the Knight true to his character just stays in the side of his city.
“I’ll be standing where I belong, between you and the people of Gotham” (Begins)
The Joker is like than attention seeking kid during a very interesting and serious class, the kid that would not shut and mouth philosophies, bully people around him, then the teacher would have to indulge him for a moment and then continue with the lesson. A good moment of silence spoiled by fireworks, but then that is how troublers are and Batman would willingly do what is necessary for his city. But marking the performance of a teacher solely based on how he handles a problem child may not be right.
Expecting people to view films in a certain way is not only wrong but also pretentious; The Dark Knight gives people with dreams of anarchy a figure to identify it with, and when anarchy is dealt as chaos in Rises the story comes to a full close.
People who have no belief in social justice and order will not know how to deal with the achieved lawlessness and anarchy is only a representation of non-acceptance in the society. The society is not without its stinks but you do not burn it down, you clean it. You stick to it, you walk with it.
The Batman films for me were not entertainment but social statements with Gotham standing for the world and Batman standing for the fractured individual who wants to act but can’t directly.
“What chance does Gotham have when the good people do nothing?” (Begins)
After a long standing debate with a good friend, we decided to leave the matter of the Dark Knight hanging as ‘the greatest super-villain story ever told’ to give him some credit and I do not believe in the Hitchcock quote as to how greater a villain is, the greater the film is. A villain still remains one, a dog whether he chases cars or not.
Amidst all this talk about the greatest films made, it is the integrity of Nolan to not lose touch with humanity throughout. The franchise can be seen both as Batman stories or stories with Batman in it, bridging the divide between the taste of the fan boys and the frowns of the critics.
That brings me back to my first point, I believe in Christopher Nolan. As an honest director who makes good films who also understands Batman and not as the fanboy director who makes comic books films restricting himself to only a level of exposure. He is a filmmaker first and we must be proud of it.
I believe in Batman
Ever since the movie released there have been countless reviews, everyone I know has posted something about the film, it is understandable that the liking of a film is a personal statement but I cannot understand as to why it has become a social compulsion to have something to say about it.
So this space is used to thank those who stayed silent through the whole ruckus, it is also the space where I beg for forgiveness realizing that for many people Batman may not be as important to others as it is to this author.
I have also realized that summarizing a recently viewed film not only reduced the juiciness of it all, but also gives more feed for garrulous readers to make opinions simply based on what is written and not seeing it for themselves.
It is too early to speak on the epic-ness of Rises, but there can be no doubt that is the best superhero series ever and one of intriguing stories of mankind.
I can only plead with the unfulfilled to look at the Rises as a final part of three and not two.
As I hopelessly scout websites for tickets for another viewing, a sad feeling of how it is all over rises to my throat.
“Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, Dark Knight;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
-adapted shamelessly from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet