Watching The Dark Knight Rises makes me think of evil. Its randomness. And its twisted sense of purpose. The two kinds of evil in the world. The kind that starts the fire. And the kind that watches the world burn in silence. And what caught my attention right at the beginning of the film was the dialogue between two human missives of evil,
“Have we started the fire?”
“The fire rises.”
These two men just like the indelible Joker in the previous outing were amongst, ‘‘some men who just want to watch the world burn.” And I wondered if evil in the news headlines should make us wonder about the film’s premise of, ”Speak of the devil and he shall appear?” Do films like these travel down so deep in the collective psyche that someone may want to recreate a part of the horror? But then it also occurred to me that every story about good and evil is not about something out there. But what is within. And that flying batmobiles, ticking time bombs, deep pits of hell, ropes of hope are just metaphors for human experiences.
In a key moment in the film, a Paulo Coelho look-alike in a hell hole of a prison tells a key character to climb out of a well of hopelessness like a child once did. Without a rope. For me, this moment was the one we need to replay in our lives everyday, especially when we try to hold on to ropes that swing between hell and heaven and often leave us crashing to the ground. It is only when we conquer our fears and our need for a rope to hoist us out of our darkness that we actually leap to freedom.
The Nolan noire also establishes again that we are the superheroes. The jokers with painted smiles. The wounded with forbidding masks who in turn seek to wound others or to rescue them. The fence sitters. The bridge blowers. The onlookers. The back stabbers. The opportunists. And the come back kids. Trench warriors. Conscience keepers. Those who will reach out to someone with a coat off our shoulders to show that the world has not ended. And when told, “You don’t owe these people any more. You’ve given them everything, ” will say,” Not everything. Not yet.” We are all of these. Us.
The film also made me wonder about the role we play in ignoring and encouraging the imbalance there is in our world. The distance there is between those who have everything and those who have nothing. The pitch of rebellion in the film is built around the misguided but very real possibility of rogue armies restoring this balance even if it means destroying the very stuff that represents the aspirational other world. Like Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle says,” You think this is gonna last? There’s a storm coming Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches. ‘Cause when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large, and leave so little for the rest of us.”
So is the pure evil that we see around us necessary evil to show us just what and who we have missed while building our Gothams where some live in the sewers and the others in luxurious isolation? As Alfred says, “Maybe it’s time we stop trying to outsmart the Truth and let it have it’s day!”
I did not care much about the story. It reminded me of the Sanjay Dutt starrer Dus. But not much can touch Nolan’s staggering parables and his ability to transcend comic book sketches and look down at the world stretched at his feet a little like his dark, brooding hero and play with chess pieces of epic proportions. Though the watering down of Bane (Tom Hardy) with a back story and his final unveiling as just a cog in the wheel for me compromised his dimensions. Can anyone imagine the Joker with tears? No? Exactly.
And Marion Cotillard never gets real. Hathaway is fun and a part of me wanted her to take over Indian streets, trains and buses to rid them off eve-teasers. Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne is again a lonely shadow, mourning the many losses, not living, but waiting for a part of his life that is over till the compulsive need to rescue others or maybe a death wish pushes him back in the heart of a storm that may just be bigger than him. Joseph Gordon-Levitt shines as the young, unstained and as yet uncompromised hero who has not yet begun to bleed hope and idealism. Caine, Oldman and Freeman?
They are beyond column inches so we will move on to the opening set piece in the plane, the stadium scene, the colliding armies of good and evil on the streets of Gotham which are breathtakingly imaginative but it is the writing that stops time.
It is rare that a caped superhero also gets to live profoundly. And a villain gets to say lines like, “The shadows betray you, they belong to me. I didn’t see the light until I was a man, and by the time I did, it was only blinding! ”