The year was 1997. The saga of the caped crusader was in complete and utter doldrums with George Clooney donning the suit in the abysmal , critically reviled pukefest –“Batman and Robin” . A succession of four dud movies featuring three different lead actors, the entire franchisee was staring down at the proverbial wrong end of the barrel. Few then could have foreseen that fifteen years down the line, the Batman franchisee will be the one to redefine and shape an entire genre and seamlessly mix commercial success with critical acclaim.
It all changed in 2005 with the irrepressible Christian Bale donning the suit under the tutelage of undeniably the most visionary filmmaker of our times, Christopher Nolan. “Batman Begins” marked the inception (no pun intended ) of a new , revitalized franchisee with drew to a spectacular conclusion in the Dark Knight Rises. Seven years, three awe inspiring blockbuster movies that altered our entire perception of a particular class of films, Christopher Nolan’s tale of the caped crusader will forever remain a shining beacon, the definitive yardstick in the comic book movie genre .
Batman Begins .
While growing up, I rarely considered Batman to be favourite superhero. Its not that I did not like Batman, but I was not actually enamoured with the entire notion that ,he was little more than a rich guy, with limitless cool gadgets at his disposal. An adult now, I see how I misinterpreted Batman’s strength and the true source of his ‘super’ powers.
The origin story is an inextricable part of any superhero mythos. exposing the reasons behind the genesis , the core beliefs and ideals that define their actions.
Batman’s origin lies in tragedy and the sheer refusal to recover something that was denied to him and an overwhelming love for a sprawling, decadent city is the true source of Batman’s superpowers . Here you’ll find no radioactive spiders or alien DNA, just one man’s relentless desire and quest to get rid of everything evil and malicious. Therein lies the essence of Batman’s mythos, depicted brilliantly by Nolan in his opening salvo. “Batman Begins” which,as the title suggests , explores the origin story of the caped crusader , his fury, his helplessness as he watches his parents being gunned down in a petty mugging, and the genesis of his incorruptible idealism of eradicating crime.
Cristian Bale seamlessly portrays the contradictions of two characters, the charm, the joviality of a slightly eccentric playboy billionaire, Bruce Wayne and the sheer agony and frustration of the Bruce Wayne, the Dark Knight, his feeling of helplessness and despair as he recognizes humanity’s inherent darkness. Besides the incredible physicality required for the role, the raw emotion and charisma that Bale oozes on screen, adds a different dimension to the entire narrative.
Not only Bale, but a brilliant ensemble of supporting cast, spearheaded by Gary Oldman, Michael Cane and Kate Moss, breathes new life and zest to the entire story . Batman Begins is not one’s average slam –bam superhero movie that provides instant gratification, rather it’s a dark gritty saga of one man’s descent into darkness and his attempts to rise upwards to give hope to an entire city, teetering on the edge of complete destruction.
The Dark Knight
Nolan’s origin story was nothing short of thematically brilliant, however he delivered an extremely rare, once in a lifetime masterpiece in the next instalment The Dark Knight. Inarguably, the best movie in the franchisee, perhaps the most riveting superhero movie of all time, The Dark Knight was dark, complex and completely unforgettable. It wasn’t a mere entertaining comic book film , but a richly thrilling crime saga, powered by an unbridled, no holds barred , terrifying performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker.
The central premise of the story remained the relationships anood struggles of the dual faceted Bruce Wayne , however it was Ledger’s performance that rightly hogged the entire limelight and overshadowed each and everyone around him. I’ll run out of adjectives describing Ledger’s representation of the Joker. So I’ll simply say that his rendition was perhaps the most definitive representation of Batman’s arch nemesis in the history of this franchisee (even overshadowing Jack Nicholson) in any media whatsoever. Even if this wasn't Ledger's final role before his untimely death, his Joker would still go down in cinema history as one of the most creepily unhinged big-screen bad guys of all time.
The other highlight of the film was Aaron Eckhart’s tour- de-force performance as Harvey Dent. First as the incorruptible DA of Gotham and then later as the Two- Face, a madman born out of Harvey Dent’s descent into chaos, that threatened to engulf the city, he was fighting to save.
Nolan’s Dark Knight is a sprawling crime epic, which demonstrated how comic book adventures can also be cinematic artwork.
Dark Knight Rises
If the Dark Knight was defined and shaped by its memorable villains , the Dark Knight Rises was all about the trials and tribulations of its heroes. Relegated to being a mere sideshow in the Dark Knight , TDKR shifted the focus of its narrative again on Gotham’s prodigal son. Despite boasting a fantastic ensemble of characters , most notably Joseph Gordon Levitt as Inspector Blake and Anne Hathway as the flamboyant Catwoman, like Batman Begins the final chapter of this trilogy revolved around the emotional and physical struggles of Bruce Wayne, as he reluctantly dons the cape again to save his city from total oblivion.
Tom Hardy’s imposing physicality as Bane, glossed over his other failings , but he accomplished more than a serviceable job in moving the plot forward and being catalyst to Bruce Wayne re-assuming the role of Batman, cast aside at the end of the previous film.
The action sequences were notable improvements over previous editions. The Bane and Batman show offs were absolutely epic in sense. Their duels were visceral, primal, shorn of any varnish that Hollywood generally adds to such sequences.
There is so much to love about Nolan’s dark gritty adaptation of the Batman series. That is perhaps why it is not suprising that the franchisee has become the biggest cult comic book trilogies of all time. Nolan delves deep into the Batman mythos and delivers a conflicted, dual natured protagonist and his impossible lone battle against chaos and decadence. This trilogy is and will remain the most definitive, cinematic adaptation of Batman, for I cannot imagine any other iteration, matching Nolan’s in sheer scope and ambition.