There are some films which are just meant to be unapologetic mindless entertainers – Housefull 1&2, Priyadarshan Comedies, many of the Roger Moore/PierceBrosnan James bond films etc. Then there are some films which at least try to be smart – Kahaani, Khakee, KKG, Agent Vinod, Spiderman 1, Casino Royle etc. Then there are others which are layered, deep and the sub texts overweigh what is actually happening on screen – OLLO, Shanghai etc. The third type is the difficult one for a filmmaker. It caters to a limited audience, has a limited reach, and hence has a limited budget. And due to these budgetary constraints, a filmmaker is forced to conceptualise the story within those constraints. I am not even suggesting that the third type cant be entertaining – they can be hugely entertaining; but for their core audiences only. And thats perhaps the reason why ‘War of the Worlds’ collected in excess of 200mn USD, whereas the better film ‘Minority Report’ collected much lesser.
And this is where Nolan has scored with the Batman series. After a moderately successful ‘Batman Begins’ and the record breaking ‘The Dark Knight’, TDKR comes in with a huge set of expectations. You expect the film to be deep, layered, truthful to each of the characters, follow and close each of the character arcs, and yet be hugely entertaining as a standalone film. And how it delivers!! (Spoliers ahead – Dont read further if you have not watched the film).
At the end of TDK, in an attempt to save Police Commissioner Gordon’s kid from Two-Face Harvey Dent, Batman (Bruce Wayne) falls and injures his leg badly and Harvey Dent gets killed. Batman takes the blame for Harvey Dent’s death and flees. TDKR begins eight years after TDK. Gordon intelligently uses the death of Harvey Dent and brings in ‘Dent Act’ (a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Patriot Act) to lock up most of the criminals in Gotham City without solid evidence. The city is relatively peaceful, Wayne secludes himself in Wayne Manor, and then the storm strikes.
Selena Kyle, a small time thief warns Bruce Wayne about this. She sells her soul to Bane in exchange for a promise of Clean Slate, an app that will delete her crimes from all databases of the world. She is looking for a fresh start. While Alfred discourages Bruce from becoming the masked crusader again(the logic is simple- Bane is so much more faster and stronger than the weak-Bruce now), Fox, tongue firmly in cheek, encourages him. In a fierce fist fight that follows, Bane breaks Batman’s back, sends him to a pit and starts unleashing terror in Gotham City. Bruce must begin allover again to save Gotham.
Just like Batman begins and TDK, TDKR is a bit verbose and needs attentive viewing. But Nolan makes you invest in each of the character that you end up watching the 165 minute film without a moment of dullness. And what character arc this time around -Alfred and Fox , in stark contrast to each other – one white, one black; one emotional, one cool; one discourages Bruce, one encourages him – but unlike the previous versions, this time around, both let Bruce down when he needs them (Alfred leaves him and Fox gets manipulated by Talia to give access of the nuclear reactor to Bane). And there are new characters that support Bruce this time – Blake (who eventually becomes the symbol by the end of the film), Selena (who ends up sharing Bruce’s life after Batman), Gordon and the GCPD.
I was particularly fascinated by how loose ends were tied in this film. Rachael says in the first part that the face of Bruce is a mask and not that of Batman. Bruce needed his father to pick him up when he fell into the pit in the first part. Gordon was not aware of the true identity of Batman. Bruce tells Alfred that what Gotham needs is a symbol. Joker tells Batman that there is no difference between him and Batman, that the people of Gotham are as afraid of Batman as they are of Joker. And the best line of TDK which left a lump in your throat – You either die a hero, or you live to see yourself becoming a villain. All these have been beautifully closed in the final part. Bruce is able to find a life beyond Batman, Gordon finds out the identity of the masked crusader, the symbol for Gotham City continues and GC finally approves of Batman.
The last few minutes when Blake(I loved the way his regal name got conveyed!) gets the GPRS device which tells him about the Batcave, Fox discovering that Bruce had indeed got the software patch that rectified the autopilot in the bat-vehicle, Alfred finding Bruce and Selena(wearing the pearl necklace of Bruce’s mother – a fantastic touch) in Florence is the best last minutes I have seen in a very long time. What a satisfying end to a saga. Hail Nolan!!