Early Pre-Release Analysis: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)
Film : THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
Director : Christopher Nolan
Production House : LEGENDARY PICTURES, SYNCOPY FILMS
Distributors : WARNER BROTHERS
Cast : CHRISTIAN BALE, TOM HARDY, ANNE HATHAWAY, MORGAN FREEMAN, MICHAEL CAINE
At the end of The Dark Knight, District Attorney Harvey Dent’s death has the possibility of sparking off major corruption charges and a huge loss in faith in one of the few uncorrupted sections of Gotham City. To protect Dent’s reputation and the people’s faith (and hence their continued existence), Batman shoulders the responsibility of Dent’s various crimes. To avoid being revealed, he goes underground, all the while being hunted by the police led by Commander Gordon, who knows the truth about what happened.
Eight years later, Gotham City attracts new problems. A new super-strong and highly intelligent “being” called Bane arrives at Gotham City with a little-known past and a view to vengeance and destruction. His only aim : to destroy Gotham City. Batman, who has again become the billionaire Bruce Wayne, has weakened over the years and is no longer in the same situation as he was previously. However, his duty to the City forces him to resurface as Batman once again. But there is more than meets the eye, as Batman now has to deal with the enigmatic and beautiful Selina Kyle, whose sudden appearance in Gotham City also, suspiciously, causes the appearance of the infamous Catwoman. As Batman attempts to thwart Bane’s plans, defend himself from Kyle’s mysterious aura and her possible alter-ego’s attacks, Batman must also deal with his own true identity and his past.
Batman’s weakness, however, is a hindrance to himself and a boon for Bane-Catwoman. With the formidable nature of the coming future, is this the end of the journey for Batman? Is this, truly, the death of the Dark Knight?
Legendary Films is a name that has grown to inspire immense confidence among movie-goers. Films such as The Dark Knight (2008) ,and more notably Inception (2010), have become box office monsters both in USA and all over the world. In addition, both films received tremendous critical acclaim and audience appreciation. Hence, its now pretty clear that the producers have absolutely nothing to worry about in terms of expectations, as their formidable track record ensures immediate attention.
A major part of the cast of The Dark Knight are reprising their roles in The Dark Knight Rises. Christian Bale returns as Batman, but this time there seems to be some more stress on his Bruce Wayne character. Morgan Freeman returns as Lucius Fox, Wayne’s close friend, acting CEO of Wayne Industries and a provider for all the hi-tech gadgets Batman utilizes. Michael Caine reprises his role of Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne butler who was a father of sorts for Bruce, especially when his parents were killed. Gary Oldman returns to his role of Commander Gordon, the superintendent of the Gotham City Police Department.
However, some characters are new to the sequel. Tom Hardy joins the cast, playing one for the film’s principal villains Bane. Accompanying him is Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle. Nolan favourite Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, 50-50) comes as a beat officer. A major surprise was the addition of Ra’s al Ghul, the villain of Batman Begins (2005); the character will be portrayed as a young boy, and later will be reprised by Liam Neeson in his older form.
The casting is huge and very talented. Bale, Freeman and Oldman have all proven themselves, especially in regards to the Batman series; however, Bale was somewhat weak in his some of his recent outings like The Flowers of War (2011) and Terminator Salvation. Hardy has more than proved himself capable in Inception, and suffice it to say he won’t disappoint this time. Anne Hathaway has also had a good time, though she has received flak for some non-film matters (notable among them being her hosting of the 2011 Academy Awards); however, her film track record is almost impeccable, and this is something of a coming-of-age film for her, and she looks all set to prove herself.
Some unfortunate omissions have been made. The saddest of them is the loss of Heath Ledger, whose portrayal of the Joker has gone down in history as one of cinema’s best villains. His untimely death has been mourned. Aaron Eckhart also does not return, as his character Harvey Dent dies in the previous film.
>> Production (Filming)
Needless to say, The Dark Knight Rises is a very big film. Very Big film. The scale and scope of the film has been reported as “like nothing anyone has ever seen before”. And such a scale needs an equally magnificent budget. The production budget of this film is a whopping $250 million; in comparison, Avatar (2009) had a production budget of $237 million. It speaks volumes of exactly how large the producers want to make this film, which has been reported as “an epic conclusion to the Batman franchise”.
With an already sky-high budget, a pre-planned decision was made to not film in 3D. Besides, the 3D craze has waned away in USA (though its still going very strong in Asia and Russia). Instead, it was decided to add to the film’s visual quality by expanding the IMAX portions of it, a wise move seeing the positive response given to Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011).
So what’s there in this film for us Indians? For a start, Batman is unarguably one of the biggest, if not the biggest, Hollywood franchises in India and enjoys enormous patronage equaled only by the Bond films. The Dark Knight was a smash blockbuster in India and made the director Christopher Nolan a well-known name. And this is a conclusion; expectations are bound to be epic. But there is an even bigger coup in the filming. And that is : a part of The Dark Knight Rises was filmed in India. Yes, filming took place in the Mehranghar Fort located in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. We all know the track record of the previous Hollywood biggie filmed in India. MI4 debuted to $4 million in India, which was 4 times the debut of MI3, and 67% more than MI4′s debut in the UAE. And the MI series enjoys less than half of the popularity of the Batman series. The Dark Knight earned $3.6 million in India; suffice it to say, Rises will earn at least $15 million (77 crores) here. Other shooting locations include Pittsburgh, London, Glasgow and New Jersey.
Obviously, the shooting of the film was not exactly secret. Attempts to proceed filming under false names fell through when Batmobiles and Batpods began to get transported. In addition, on-lookers photographed a new type of vehicle which was wrapped in a sheet, giving rise to speculation that a possibly new Bat vehicle may be used in the film. And for car freaks, the latest Lamborghini Avendiator was used in the film (mostly as Wayne’s new personal car).
The production of the film was not without issues. Mid-way through filming, a major accident took place that left one extra with a paralysed body and a stitched-up eye; charges were filed, and an out-of-court settlement was reached, but the matter has not died down properly. In addition, a Batpod crashed into an IMAX camera during an action sequence; while nothing happened to anybody, the camera was destroyed. And it was one of only 5 such cameras in the world.
>> Release and Marketing
Being a big film and something of a pet project for distributor Warner Bros., a long and extensive marketing campaign was created targeting everything, from Super Bowl to the Internet to television. However, even The Dark Knight Rises was not privy from the ugly head of piracy, and its first theatrical teaser was leaked 3 days before the official launch. The teaser received rather mixed responses; personally speaking, the teaser was outright disappointing. Later, a teaser trailer also got leaked online before release, gaining record hits on YouTube and beating the record set by The Avengers (2012). The trailer was successful in bringing back hype for the film, and showed some truly superb sequences that kept audiences excited. To increase the expectations, the first 6 minutes of the film was shown to audiences at select US theaters, similar to The Dark Knight which was shown with I Am Legend. The feedback was mixed, with people saying that the scale was truly enormous, but commenting that audio quality was poor.
The Dark Knight Rises is scheduled to release on July 20, 2012, which represents the near-end of the busy blockbuster summer season of Hollywood. The decision to present this film near the end of summer rather than in the heavily crowded middle part of it is an excellent choice, and will only help the film’s box office collections as it won’t face the competition other June films will have to face. Its only real threat can be a possible holdover from The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3), but that’s remote.
A major confusion factor has been the title of the film. By all marketing material, it is clearly visible that this film signifies the end of Batman, and of the series. But people are pointing out that if the film deals with the death of Batman, why is the film called “The Dark Knight RISES”? Such speculations have also lead to the conclusion that there may be a surprise factor in the film, or a sort of twist. Such rumours were further fueled when the character of Ra’s al Ghul was added, even after he “died” in Batman Begins.
As A Film
What the audiences are expecting is a great film that can make the Batman series proud. And undoubtedly the quality of the film will be awesome in terms of content. Christopher Nolan is perhaps the biggest director in Hollywood today, having directed films which join universal acclaim with massive commercial success in a way that no other director has ever been able to do. His filming style and story-telling method is gritty and fast-paced, which suits the film perfectly and will only heighten the experience of watching the film at a theater. And the last time Nolan had a dream vision, he created the creative masterpiece Inception. And The Dark Knight Rises is “bigger and better”, in Nolan’s own words. Expect a classic from him; after all, he hasn’t ever let us down.
One point where this film can fail in comparison to its predecessor is the villain. No matter how good Hardy and Hathaway are, it is one hell of a task to match up to the Joker. An ultimate piece of villainy, combining madness with guile and intelligence with ruthlessness, you felt hatred and fear for him. Few villains have ever been that effective. And its almost certain that the Hardy-Hathaway combination may have a number advantage, but they will almost certainly fall short of the Joker fans’ expectations. Though its a bit unfair to make such comparisons, it inevitable happens. But even then, a good performance will mean no major hurdle for the film.
The story seems to be good, though its a bit vague and general. The screenplay should ideally be fabulous, and no points for guessing that the technical department will score in a big way. Some scenes, such as the destruction of the football ground or the breaking up of Gotham City buildings, has already received widespread attention and acclaim. Expect much much more in the film.
The way this film is shaping up, one would be foolish to assume that The Dark Knight Rises will not succeed. Its in the best of hands and will certainly get the right exposure. Content, direction, technology : all world-class. What more is needed? The Dark Knight made a monstrous $1 billion worldwide back in 2008. The international market has boomed like nothing before since then, and some major markets like Russia, China and (to some extent) India have opened up and become huge revenue sources. Anything less that $1.5 billion may be called a disappointment for this film. Here’s hoping for what is arguably the most awaited Hollywood release of 2012!