The Dark Knight Rises

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The one thing I am certain about this movie is that it is the one I have waited eagerly in 2012, and what I might differ in opinion with a few is that this is not among the best movies of the year. There is another element in which I would agree on, and it is that this is not the best of the series, and where I disagree is at the level of quality of each movie of the Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, with my favourites going in the same path as the timeline, as Batman Begins is my favourite, followed by The Dark Knight and this one, both separated by not much. But I wouldn’t do that without reasons. Ra’s al Ghul v/s Joker v/s Bane is a battle which has a clear winner for many, but The first one is a villain with something special, a big idea. But Batman Begins succeeds in its story, and the Scarecrow is a better villain than Two Face for sure. Both the Two Face and Bane were not used to their potential, and this is where the first movie of the series scores, as it built this triology out of nowhere, with nothing to support it at a time when Spider-Man and X-Men had the status of being the better loved heroes around here.

Without Batman Begins, there is no dark knight, a term which became incredibly popular and was even used with Novak Djokovic, not that much of an expected winner caught between the rivalry between Rafael Nadal who had clay in his pocket at that time, and Roger Federer who ruled the rest of the clay-less world. Therefore, it is just natural to pay the due respect to that movie which started them all. The Dark Knight had all its fame and glory only due to what the beginning had given its viewers, and I have to admit that I didn’t realize that the first time. But as long as the long list of origin stories are concerned, from X-Men Origins to the recently released Man of Steel, Batman Begins has a high place. The Dark Knight Rises continues that legacy which was handed over to it by the more critically acclaimed and more hyped second movie, and has completed the trilogy in style. The problem which this movie has to face is the long trail of near-perfection in the superhero genre that its predecessors had left for this one, and the same thing is both the good thing and the bad thing for this movie; for this one could improve on box-office, as it went on to overtake its predecessors and become the eighth highest grossing movie of all time grossing over a billion United States dollars. But it is to be noted that unlike its predecessors, the film was not nominated for any Academy Awards.

Eight years have passed after Harvey Dent’s death and the covering of the existence of the Two Face. The organized crime has almost been wiped out completely. Feeling guilty for covering up Dent’s crimes and framing Batman for the same, Gotham City’s Police Commissioner James Gordon writes a resignation speech which revealed the truth concerning the two, but decides not to use it at the last moment. Batman has disappeared and Bruce Wayne has kept himself away from all the action. It is at this moment that a burglar Selina Kyle appears, known to most of the fans as the Cat Woman. Bane’s appearance is the other major thing which changes the scenario, as he intends to fulfill Ra’s al Ghul’s mission to destroy Gotham City and thus fulfill the aim of the League of Shadows. He punishes Batman and breaks his back, and then puts him in a prison from where escape is almost impossible. The fellow prisoners tell him the story of Ra’s al Ghul’s child, born in the prison and cared for by a fellow prisoner before escaping, the only prisoner to have ever done so – Batman assumes the child to be Bane, and his actions the revenge for what Batman did to his father.

Meanwhile, Bane traps Gotham police underground and destroys all the exits. He converts Bruce’s own reactor core into a nuclear bomb and uses the bomb to hold the city hostage and isolate Gotham from the rest of the world. Using Gordon’s speech which he had stolen, Bane reveals the cover-up of Dent’s crimes telling the people that the whole police action and passed laws based on Dent’s act was a lie and releases the prisoners from different jails. There is a kind of revolution and the wealthy and powerful have their money and property taken away, are dragged from their homes, and forced to trials presided over by Dr. Jonathan Crane a.k.a the Scarecrow, where any sentence means death on most occasions and otherwise exile. After months of recovery and training both the body and the mind to face Bane, Batman manages to escape the prison and reach Gotham City, and enlist the help of Cat Woman and the others. But with a pseudo-revolution on the run, and all the criminals on the streets with no police force to stop them, Batman has more than what he would wish for this time. It is up-to him to stop the man who broke his back with relative ease, and to prevent whatever Ra’s al Ghul had intended to do.

Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne a.k.a Batman continues his conquests, and here his performance is lowered only due to the absence of a villain who was as good as those in the first two movies, and there is no intellectually superior mastermind who decides who lives and who dies, and there is no wretched of the soul who is half Loki and half Lucifer, made with everything evil and everything psychotic. Instead he has a militant who is more of a physical threat than mental. Unfortunately, his thoughts and decisions are not his alone and himself outsmarting Batman was not something for which he could take credit, and at that point, he loses his significance and still not his presence and power. Still, Tom Hardy’s Bane is excellent in what he does. Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle a.k.a Cat Woman becomes a revelation in the movie, and it is evident that she has trained extremely tried and tried her best to fit into that costume which so much physically demanding. Marion Cotillard outshines herself in the second half, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake comes up with a pleasant performance. Michael Caine and Gary Oldman plays the two normal characters in the movie who makes any impact.

Christopher Nolan did make Inception just a few years before this with that touch of brilliance, it was what stood between the two sequels; it was something which further accelerated the expectations. Here, we get some of it, and considering the fact that Batman has undergone evolution and there is no real base for the same, and there is no end to this superhero, we have to respect this title despite of the hype. It has done all that it could do, but it did nothing spectacular, and yet, this is very well done. It was a good decision to continue the Ra’s al Ghul legacy, and it was hundred percent a good decision not to make this in the 3D – full marks to that. There are movies that are to be enjoyed for fun, and even with all the entertaining elements in this movie, it scores slightly higher at the intellectual level rather than how it is supposed to happen in a regular superhero movie. The movie also leaves open slots, not just for a sequel, but also for a Cat Woman and a Robin spin-off as well as Justice League of America movie, in the model of The Avengers. It is certain that we haven’t seen even a little bit of what the DC’s cinematic universe has to offer its viewers. There is a lot coming, that is for sure with this one being the third highest grossing film of 2012 and also the third highest grossing superhero film of all time.

There is no doubt that the caped crusader has grown enough to lead the Mount Olympus of superheroes as the Zeus of this generation, with his biggest arch-rival Superman failing to live up-to the hype, and his next best rival Spider-Man slowly fading from the scene – both of them coming up with below-the-bat reboots which fails to challenge the Man-Bat. These three are challenged not by those superheroes of childhood, The Phantom and He-Man, but by the man they call Iron Man and his gang of Avengers, as well as X-Men, but they all follow a different path. The world’s greatest detective with the Bat logo has nothing to worry about his position right now, but in case of a reboot, it is all upto him to lose, as the rest have only gotten better. The concept of billionaire playboy, industrialist, and philanthropist itself already has been challenged by Iron Man, and with Man of Steel all the dark elements; The Amazing Spiderman has conquered the heroic elements, and whenever the abilities are glorified, there was X-Men First Class, with Wolverine to follow this year. Therefore, this domination of the dark knight is in a precarious position, and as this end to the trilogy was not as perfect as expected, there is surely a storm coming, and it would consist of more than one superhero. The only fear that I have is that can the Batman remain Batman for long, or will he be completely transformed into the dark knight, and Superman into the man of steel? It is that question which will be answered in a decade.

Release date: 20th July 2012
Running time: 165 minutes
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman, Juno Temple

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Man of Steel

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Behold this moment, for this is that period of time when our childhood superhero, the most popular one of that time, would seem to be someone else when we look at the name of the movie which features him, but then we realize that he is still Superman.  He is the Man of Steel, as Batman is the Dark Knight, both rises and without any doubt, both would end. Both have changed and evolved so much that one can no longer use the common joke about Superman and Batman, what differentiates them from the common man without superpowers is the way they make the underwear into outerwear; for The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel no longer comes with the same, may be they found it incredibly difficult to find one, or in more modern terms, it doesn’t suit the new generation of so called stylish people who despite their own traditions in every possible way.  It is still good that they have learnt that what is to be worn inside should remain inside.  Actually, they are both not the superheroes who continue the legacy, as they move out of it.  Another thing is about this Steel Man and the Iron Man; considering the success of the Man of Iron, may be Man of Steel can make an impact close to enough to it, at least with the adults who still think Superman is a little childish, and with no doubts, too powerful for anyone to like. So, this is a new superhuman, as the alien takes a turn at the road not taken except for Christopher Nolan’s Batman.

This movie begins in another solar system, another galaxy, which might be strange for a superhero movie, as it is not usually expected unless the protagonist is He-Man of Eternia with all the focus on Castle Grayskull. But, this is a change which works quite well. We see that when the planet Krypton is facing total annihilation due to an unstable core, Jor-El and his wife Lara launch a small spaceship carrying their newborn son Kal-El and a genetic codex. Zod arrives in time, but fails to stop the launch; in rage, he murders Jor-El, but is captured, and he and his supporters are imprisoned in the Phantom Zone, a prison which holds its prisoners who suffer for almost eternity, thus serving as a device for damnation beyond the control of Satan. But they manage to escape when Krypton explodes and their control over the jail is gone. They travel around different planets looking for life as well as things to salvage. Meanwhile, Kal-El lands on Earth and is discovered by Jonathan and Martha Kent, who name him Clark and raise him as their son. So, the Earth’s location and its peculiarities provide the kid with superhuman abilities, which he manages to control with the help of his foster parents. This is where Superman begins his second phase, and the first known phase of this whole sequence of origins.

Living a wanderer’s life fearing for his own power and the possible reaction of the people of Earth about his strength and abilities, he finds a Kryptonian spaceship fron under the ice and meets the hologram of his own father which explains to him more about himself and his origins. The Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane comes to know about the same, but decides not to publish about him without his consent. Meanwhile, Zod finds his existence and comes to Earth with his followers and it is where the twist of fate takes place and the fun begins with the life or death situations, not just for Superman, but also for all Earthlings, all threatened by the superior technology and weapons of the Kryptonians as well as their superhuman strength on Earth. As he plans to terraform Earth and make it another Krypton, eradicating the whole population and replacing them with the Kryptonians with the help of the genetic codex, Superman chooses the side with which he is not supposed to get along despite his own evolution, that is humans. This is the choice which will define him in what is to come, as he is the alien, ghost as well as the guardian angel. With the help of the military and whatever is on his side, he has to prepare for the final battle, as the Kryptonians launch a world engine which terraforms the planet.

I guess Zack Snyder’s movies have never really disappointed me it, as Dawn of the Dead was good, Watchmen was even better, 300 was very impressive, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole had my attention, Sucker Punch was much above the expectations, and here is Man of Steel which raises the expectations for the upcoming 300: Rise of an Empire for which it is incredibly difficult to wait. That should be a hundred percent record which is not seemingly inclined towards being broken. To add to it, the Greek hero of Immortals & the fairy tale princess-to-be from Enchanted make such a genuine combination on-screen even between such complexity and duality which surround an extraterrestrial heritage of thirty three years. Henry Cavill makes that super impact while Amy Adams as Lois Lane makes that character much more dearer to the viewers. Princess Giselle or Amelia Earheart from Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian will now be more of Lois Lane, and that less known Theseus surely has a more powerful real demi-god status this time. But this Superman is not just any other alien, as he is more human than any of the most wretched Earthling. He is more concerned about Earth and human life than the average common man who feeds on his own people and the mother nature. Superman is less involved with that title “super” which is a relief, as it is that word which one uses as a lie when many other words fail; welcome relief again.

As the movie is more inclined towards the Dark Knight series in its theme, but still resembles The Avengers in its alien invasion sequences, there is more to look forward to. Michael Shannon plays the impressive villain, General Zod – an iconic supervillain for sure. The villain is made for what he does, as the newborn babies are all created to be someone; to follow a path or duty – there is no moment when the person looks less focused on the one aim which is the return of Krypton’s life. It is more of a reflection of the current age, when the children are programmed into professional courses, rather than letting them make a choice. The result is just a profit-oriented world without morality and values, slowly moving towards total annihilation as in the case of Krypton. Antje Traue as Faora makes the villain’s sidekick, may be even as good as the General himself. Going back to her role in Pandorum, she is that person one might wish to watch in most of the action movies. Her fight sequence with Superman can be considered second only to the final battle. Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, the editor in chief of the Daily Planet, is that role which is surely going to be explored a lot in case of a sequel. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane plays the roles of Superman’s adoptive parents, and Russel Crowe and Ayelet Zurer his real parents from Krypton, providing some of the best emotional moments of the movie.

The movie is about choices, as Superman chooses to be human and not of his kind, and also chooses to hide between the people with whom he doesn’t belong. He also chooses to end his planet’s last hope of survival by helping the Earthlings. That might have brought the end of his culture and heritage, and all those which he could have achieved as the hero of his own race. In all these decisions, he makes him the most vulnerable, more mentally than physically. Superman is more of a man than the super being, something we could never associate with him during our childhood. Right now, it will be just right to say that he has made himself the most righteous superhero, many times better than Iron Man, and also above his nearest competitors who are Batman and Spider-Man. Well, this is set to break box-office records for sure, and it is already pulling in too much crowd at this part of the world even for those shows which are usually not even a quarter full. The lower critical ratings of this movie compared to the ones like The Avengers and Iron Man 3 forms another thing which is out of this world. The former has such ratings that even Superman might decide to choose any random Kryptonite prison for eternity rather than seeing these one-sided opinions which so many people are actually forced to believe. The movie also proves this dialogue from Kill Bill wrong: “Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman.” Superman became superman because Earth made him so; he was nothing at Krypton. Everybody has life molded by choices, whether it is Superman, Count Dracula, Batman or Skeletor, and it is faith, belief and hope that guides one side, and the exact opposites the other.

So, Man of Steel is a must watch for all action fans, as this genesis go back to the planet of Krypton with stunning visuals and powerful sound effects. There is still the emotional element which has not let go; not yet. The effect of The Dark Knight series is also something which seems to hide, but still stays there. The action sequences are breath-taking, and one can see how well one superhero does all that the whole team in The Avengers could barely manage to do – some might disagree, and they can have enough reasons for that. Here is the man who can smash and also get beaten up like the Hulk and Thor, be aggressive and agile as the Iron Man, be righteous and true to the cause like Captain America, be as accurate as the Hawkeye, and be a better fighter than the Black Widow. This one has won the battle of superheroes this year, as Iron Man 3 would surely have to take the backseat, not by a long distance though, for both would seem to belong to different genres as we consider the souls of them. Thor: The Dark World wouldn’t stand a chance as far as the things seem to be now. This is where you see the need for He-Man and The Phantom again, but this year has been booked by the alien from the other planet, and there is nothing to be done other than to watch this one and enjoy it.

Release date: 14th June 2013
Running time: 143 minutes
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Avengers

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This is a flashback into what was pure entertainment. In the movie, Nick Fury, the director of the fictional intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D recruits Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and Thor to form a group of talented superheroes to stop Thor’s adoptive brother Loki and his army from capturing Earth. Well, even one of these heroes usually proved enough in most of their movies, and having them together was nothing less than classic entertainment at its best. It did beat the other two superhero movies of the year by the box-office collection, an achievement which one have to doubt if it deserved in the case of The Dark Knight Rises, even as it is debatable in the case of The Amazing Spider-Man. Staying at the top of the highest of grossing movies of 2013 list and being the third highest grossing movie of all-time with no intention to be overtaken any time soon, this movie makes regular visits to Star Movies as if it is a home. As Marvel’s Iron Man 3 makes it to the all-time top five grossers list, one has to wonder how good a universe has been created by Marvel using these few lesser known superheroes who were always considered inferior to Spider-Man, Superman, He-Man and The Phantom in this part of the world, Batman being a more recent phenomenon of awesomeness.

Loki has made a pact with the alien race known as the Chitauri as they promise Loki a huge army to capture Earth in exchange for Tesseract, an incredible energy source of unlimited power. In what would seem an ambush, Loki takes the Tesseract from where it is safely secured, and also gain control over several of the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D before escaping. Feeling that the only way of getting it back and saving the world is the Avengers initiative, he brings together the superheroes, and even manages to capture Loki before he escapes later when the group becomes divided somewhat due to Loki’s own manipulative powers and also due to their own lack of admiration towards each other, when Loki’s minions attack the place. It even suggests that Loki’s capture was rather a surrender which was meant to manipulate the Avengers initiative and also weaken S.H.I.E.L.D. Loki’s plane is to use the Tesseract, to open a wormhole above Stark Tower, thus creating the portal for his army to come in and conquer the planet. The Avengers stay divided and fallen, but it is upto Nick Fury to make them that one superhero team again without the pride and prejudice which they seemed to show earlier which had lead to the first victory of Loki.

So, the question remains – who is Loki (Tom Hiddleston)? He is Thor’s adoptive brother and still always the enemy who wishes to rule Asgard as well as most of the worlds which are out there, a character based on the deity of the same name in Norse mythology; the same person we encountered in the game Age of Mythology where he was not this bad, manipulative or close to evil. He continues to be more than what he was in the mythology, and the old Norse poems as he is the super-villain around here on Earth for a change, rather than being Asgard’s trouble during the early times. That should be Marvel’s Loki without whom this movie would not have been possible, thus making him the true unsung hero and the true protagonist. Found by Odin and the biological son of a fallen frost giant king, this god is torn between his double identity between two kingdoms of Asgard and the Frost Giants, still trying to conquer more and more world as possible, and denying his existence of frost for living a god’s life in Asgard. Loki has always lacked the pure strength and bravery of Thor as he went on to become the manipulator and the master of illusion nothing less than a sorcerer who lived on lies, cheating and mischief, this aligning himself to evil from just being a trickster.

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark a.k.a Iron Man; that arrogant superhero who always gets more attention that he really deserves, and has become a crowd favourite these due to the one-liners. But due to the repetitions and the lack of innovation other than coming up with new suits and facing everything with that inherent arrogance which is the result of being a billionaire and a superhero at the same time, this is not the kind of role-model of a superhero that one should have. If it wasn’t for Robert Downey, this hero should have been dead and buried even before it came into existence in the Marvel movie world; still, this one is no match for his own Sherlock Holmes which will remain his best role for me. The Stark Industries would remain an evil entity run by the arrogance of Tony Stark. Well, without that suit, we know what Tony Stark is; a selfish, arrogant not-so-young character who lacks in goodness comapred to the other superheroes of the team, a quality of evil which he has surely attained with too much spent immersed in science and technology – a lesson for most of those people who are plugged into the internet posting stupid things and spreading hatred of the next level; also applicable to mindless fans, especially those of fixed games like cricket. Well, this guy still saves the world even as he is might be having a torture session with Satan at hell – what good have you done?

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers a.k.a Captain America; probably the best of the team, as a man with values, a modern day knight who knows honour and chivalry. This Chris Evans character is just the opposite of the Johnny Storm or Human Torch which he did in Fantastic Four and its sequel, for this one knows how to align to goodness. Human Torch might have been interesting as a character, but he was still more of the league of Iron Man in his extremity of arrogance and lack of respect for his fellow human beings. While we hope that that series would have a better Human Torch in its possible reboot releasing in 2015, it can be seen that Captain America is the undisputed leader, a deserving one. Captain America: The First Avenger was surely among the best superhero movies ever released, or the only true superhero movie in which the protagonist could be admired for being extremely righteous right from the beginning. We can hope that the 2014 release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier would also make one say the same. He didn’t begin with billions or physical supremacy, and knows what it means to be at the bottom of the pyramid, and this knowledge would help him to keep him from being carried away in the glory, as he is still that weak kid who committed the act of self-sacrificing bravery inside.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor (better known to many as Loki’s “adopted” brother); The next prince of Asgard for as many centuries as possible, as the king will always be Odin; he is based on the deity from the Norse mythology of the same name. He has that great advantage of having good practice at home, as it is his brother who creates all the mischief. He might have been acquainted with Loki from his childhood itself, but as he has tranformed into the god of muscle with special emphasis on the hammer carrying biceps from the controller of thunder and lightning, he might have had the lack of brain not only in this movie, but also in Thor. We can only hope that this character would have his lost brain back on November 8, 2013, when Thor: The Dark World releases. But in the movie, he is shown as the only person who can stand of his own against the Incredible Hulk even when he is on his mentally retarded rampage. That should be a good thing, as Hulk smashes even gods even while belonging to the same green alien race of the Lizardman of The Amazing Spider-Man. Thor’s presence is still the most wonderful thing to be seen, as he is an imposing figure with that hammer, and also brings variety from another world, as the outsider who fights for another world which doesn’t belong to him.

Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner a.k.a Hulk; this character is considered a genius scientist who can’t even control himself – such a waste, but still funny in stupidity adding lots of fun to the movie by being a mentally retarded green monster. Still, it is the original form of the doctor who makes the right impact on the movie. Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff a.k.a Black Widow steals the show even without any super powers, and same is the case of Clint Barton a.k.a Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), both having their moments in the movie. Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) is just there for the job. Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury co-ordinates the whole thing. As this one has turned into more of a plot summary and character analysis, the fact remains that it is what the whole movie is about. These superheroes joined by a story of alien invasion and all the powerful 3D, special effects and CGI that supports it superbly. It is a visual treat like no superhero movie has ever given before. It is something which raised the bar, as it was taken to the extreme low with Transformers: Dark of the Moon when the robots turned stupid enough to ruin the movie with a similar alien invasion.

Release date: 4th May 2012
Running time: 143 minutes
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgård

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.