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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Going beyond comics

Christopher Nolan's Batman is a superhero with tattered wings, reviews GEOFFREY EU.
The Business Times - July 20, 2012
By: Geoffrey Eu
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Going beyond comics Knight moves: The Dark Knight Rises is rare in that heroic figure like Batman (above, played by Christian Bale), transcends the comic-book genre in memorable style - WARNER BROS PICTURES

IN Christopher Nolan's inspired vision, Gotham City is a place of dark deeds and dirty secrets, where desperate men lurk in shadows, bent on death and destruction - and they're the so-called good guys. In The Dark Knight Rises - the final instalment in Nolan's epic trilogy about the Caped Crusader - Gotham is still magnificently dark and the foe is equally forbidding, a deadly force who looks to finally have the measure of the Batman.

Nothing is ever as it seems with Nolan, a writer-director with a talent for weaving fantasy and harsh reality into a single, beautifully conceived and well-executed whole. A strong, eloquent and thought-provoking script (written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan from a story by Christopher Nolan and David Goyer) about a popular comic book character is interesting enough, but doing it with dazzling moviemaking skill through three consecutive films - complete with high-octane action sequences - is definite cause for celebration.

Nolan's take on the Batman character started in 2005 with Batman Begins and continued with The Dark Knight in 2008. They chronicled the origins of Batman and delved deep into his troubled psyche - foreign territory that is barely touched on in most films of the genre. Under Nolan's watch, Batman, warts and all, is grown up - and so is the audience.

The new movie begins eight years after Batman battled The Joker and took the blame for District Attorney Harvey Dent's demise. Billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse, hanging up his mask and cowl after suffering the loss of a loved one, but also because crime in Gotham has dwindled down to minuscule levels, making Batman's services redundant.

Enter Bane (Tom Hardy) a killing machine with battering-ram strength bent on breaking Batman both physically and psychologically, and taking Gotham down with a nuclear device while he's at it. "I'm Gotham's reckoning," he snarls at one point and by golly he might be right. Bane's own story takes up a significant portion of the movie, although his grille-like face mask and vocal distortions - channelling Darth Vader and Hannibal Lecter - are more than a little off-putting.

At the same time, Wayne encounters Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a slick, sassy cat burglar with a secret agenda. They trade verbal barbs and cross paths at various moments during the film - to satisfying effect. Selina knows how to stick a stiletto (the kind you wear) in a man's throat and drive a supercar fast, but she's also refreshingly quick when required to make a witty remark.

Collectively, Bane and Selina make life miserable for Bruce, and the situation turns bleak after his faithful manservant Alfred (Michael Caine) leaves him. "I've buried enough members of the Wayne family," sniffs Alfred. Bane manipulates the stock market and causes financial ruin for Bruce, who turns to business manager Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a wealthy board member on his company, for assistance. Miranda serves as love interest and counsellor to a damaged soul. "Bruce, if you want to save the world, you have to start trusting it," she says.

Also on his side are Police Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a rookie cop with a knack for nifty detective work. Things get a lot worse when Bane holds the entire city hostage and banishes the seriously injured Bruce to a prison pit in the desert. It looks grim indeed for the Batman: there will be blood, but there is also hope.

Nolan has the luxury of a 165-minute film to develop characters and enhance the narrative arc. He also shot significant portions of the movie with IMAX cameras so that up on the big screen, the images are gorgeous and feature incredible clarity. The Dark Knight Rise s makes a lasting impact on all fronts. It's rare for a heroic figure to transcend the comic-book genre but this Batman does, and does so in memorable style.

Rating: A-

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