Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

With a rather vague recollection of the first two Batman movies, I waltzed into the cinema on a Saturday morning to catch the third and final installation to the critically acclaimed Batman series by director, Christopher Nolan. After watching the movie, I could not help but think of the Colorado massacre which took place on 20 July 2012. I was in Penang on vacation when I read the news and I was deeply sadden by it. So many innocent lives were tragically and brutally ended. It made no sense. I was especially affected when I read about the death of a 6 year old girl who was said to be "excited about life" and had just learned how to swim. I couldn't help but wonder what was going on in the mind of the shooter before and during this attack on innocent civilians. My condolences go out to all the victims of this horrific tragedy and though I may just be an ignorant Malaysian, I truly feel for them and it is my hope that their families will find healing and solace in the days to come. 

Review on The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises is shrouded in darkness and mystery. Much like the reboot of the Spider-man series, the movie displays a much darker hero, conflicted and divorced from the world around him. Our hero, Bruce Wayne/ Batman (Christian Bale) has been a recluse for the past eight years, having taken the blame for a crime he did not commit. We see him a broken man, having lost his love and reason for living, he sees no reason to move on. He hides himself in a secluded wing of his house where he is served his meals and does not associate with the rest of society. The only person he chooses to come in contact with is his trusty serviceman, Alfred (brilliantly portrayed by veteran actor,  Micheal Caine) who takes care of him and counsels him. 

We learn that in the absence of Batman, a series of crimes have been plaguing Gotham City, including those of the notorious Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) who denies her romantic inclination towards our hero, although it is obvious right from the beginning of the movie when she breaks into his safe and steals his mother's pearl necklace. Our hero does not seem affected by these crime waves and chooses to lead his solitary life, that is until the appearance of our mega-villain, Bane (Thomas Hardy). Wreaking inexplicable violence and causing senseless mayhem becomes Bane's game as he unleashes his reign of terror on the residents of Gotham City. He seems to harness intense feelings of hatred and rage towards our hero but his motivations remain unclear for most of the movie. 

What is a superhero movie without some romance? Romance comes in the form of a "lovely young woman" by the name of Miranda (Marion Cotillard). After hearing about her from various sources, Wayne finally comes face to face with her at a charity event. The two form a romantic attraction. They of course proceed to spend a night together and he seems to genuinely care for her after casting away his most faithful friend, Alfred after some revelations in one of the most touching scenes of the movie. We feel that at this point, Batman is ready to move on. 

After a series of events, including a betrayal from our lovely Catwoman, Wayne is captured and tortured by Bane. He is thrown into a prison underground after being brutally beaten and suffers a pretty serious back injury. While in the outside world, Bane continues his reign of terror on the citizens of Gotham City and forces Wayne to watch. Bane also sets a bomb in motion and kills the only person who can disable it. In the prison, Wayne learns that the only way of escape is to climb up a wall and jump up to a platform before being able to reach freedom. Many have tried and failed. He also has a vision of his dead mentor Ra's Al Ghul and makes the conclusion that Bane is his son and all this is done to avenge his father's death. He spends about two months in jail under the care of the prison doctor and one of its dwellers. He makes an attempt to escape from the prison but to no avail. After learning that fear is the strongest motivation for his survival, Wayne manages to escape from the prison and makes his way to save the people of Gotham City by defeating Bane.

Gotham City is in tatters and many are captured and sentenced to death or "exile" which you will see is pretty much the same thing. Among those captured is Wayne's love interest, Miranda which he vows to save. In a final showdown between Wayne and Bane, shocking revelations come into play which make Bane's motivation somewhat clearer before he is eliminated. But that's not the end to the epic trilogy as there has to be some other element to take care of. Yes, the bomb. This is quickly taken care of by Batman in his final colossal heroic act and contribution to the citizens of Gotham City. 

After watching the movie, the second thought which came to my mind is that I really ought to re-watch the first two Batman movies. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the finale to the trilogy, there is no room for comparison when the other two movies are just vague recollections. I must say however, that Christopher Nolan is a brilliant director. I was totally blown away by Inception and I fail to see any reason why this brilliant director would cease to amaze me with his future work. Bale is brilliant as always and Hathaway fits right into her Catwoman role and costume and is much more convincing than the Catwoman featured in previous movies. Michael Caine is effective as always and manages to bring out a tear or two in some dramatic exchanges between Wayne and him. I did not care much for Bane as the villain though. No doubt Hardy does a good job inflicting terror on the audience, but there is just not enough for me to truly understand his motivation although an attempt is made to address it at the end of the movie.

After all is said, The Dark Knight Rises still delivers as a riveting, engrossing, and exciting watch and a fitting ending to an epic trilogy. Highly recommended for all movie-goers. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Hunger Games

After being on hiatus for one and a half years, I finally decided to write a post for my blog. I am ashamed and sad to say that nothing much has changed since. I guess the only life-changing event is losing 11 kilograms due to my hard work and perseverance at the gym. Who would have thought that I would turn into an exercise freak?

For my first entry in the year of 2012, I have decided to write about one of the most successful movies the year has had so far, The Hunger Games. Watching The Hunger Games brings back memories of movies such as Equilibrium, starring the brilliant and talented Christian Bale and the feminist dystopian novel, The Handmaid's Tale, written by Margaret Atwood. Before watching the movie, I had read the plot of The Hunger Games and I found it extremely intriguing. The Hunger Games is the first in a trilogy of novels written by Suzanne Collins, its target audience being young adults. I have my doubts about the nature of the novel being suitable for such a young audience group. The idea of a group of teenagers killing each other violently in order to survive is hardly appropriate for teenagers. But then again, what do I know? The trilogy was actually written for teenagers. The movie, however surpassed all my expectations of what a great movie should be and it is mostly attributed to the great talent of actress, Jennifer Lawrence who has been praised for her work in Winter's Bone (which I have yet to watch and which I hope to watch really soon).

The Hunger Games is set in Panem which consists of a city,  The Capitol and  12 less fortunate districts, District 12 being the main focus of the movie. The Capitol is an extremely rich city, full of bright and vibrant colours and its population displays the most outrageous and flamboyant clothing range possible. This is sharply juxtaposed with the atmosphere in the districts. Grey, blue and white are the colours which drape and dominate the district and its people.

We are introduced to the female protagonist, her family, which consists of her sister and mother, and her possible love interest, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth). They are not happy people. Anxiety, misery and an impending sense of doom hover over the district and its people. Apparently, the districts have rebelled and have to be punished. As punishment for rebelling, every year each district is forced to come up with two "tributes" who are chosen in a lottery. One boy and one girl from each district will compete in a televised event in a fight to the death with the other tributes from the other districts in an arena, resulting with only one survivor. As far as punishments go, this one is pretty harsh.  In District 12, Katniss Averdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers as a tribute to replace her sister who was chosen in the lottery. She is later joined by her male counterpart Peeter Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) who apparently habours romantic feelings for Katniss, but hides his feelings from her. In order to train for the games, Katniss and Peter are sent to the Capitol to meet their mentor and former winner of the Hunger Games, Haymish Abernathy (Woody Harrelson)  who turns out to be a disillusioned drunkard, but not a bad person.

Arrival at the Capitol leaves Peter and Katniss stunned and overwhelmed as the brightness and lavish conditions of the city and its people overtake them. They are brought to their accommodation which is anything but modest. Before the launch of the event, we learn of Peeter true feelings for Katniss as he blurts it out on live  television. Katniss gets emotional, but Haymish thinks it would be beneficial to Katniss and Peeter later in the game as it would create more drama for the audience, and who doesn't love more drama?

The games begin with its announcer wishing all the tributes well with the refrain, "May the odds be ever in your favour:" Many tributes are killed at the very launching of the game. Katniss gets separated from Peter,  who later goes on to form alliances with other tributes. More and more tributes get killed. Katniss, being the lone ranger in the game bonds with one of the younger contestants, Rue (Amandla Stenberg) and is utterly broken when Rue gets killed. After much sorrow and aggravation, Katniss and Peeter find their way back to each other and a romance, or rather a televised romance ensues. They become a couple on screen. As the movie comes to a close, Peeter and Katniss join forces to defeat the remaining tributes. Then it is down to the final two, when suddenly, Katniss gets an idea which may result in the both of them surviving the games. Hoping that it would not be possible to close the games without a winner, Katniss takes out some poisonous berries and suggests that they commit suicide, leaving the game victorless. Finding no other solution to the dilemma, the film-makers succumb to Katniss' ploy for survival and declare both of them the winners of The Hunger Games. Katniss and Peeter return to the district to a disturbingly unknown future, where more rebellion and struggles are in store.

I found the PG-13 rating rather unsuitable as some of the killings were rather brutal for young audiences. I did however, enjoy the movie tremendously. Lawrence was excellent and brilliant in her portrayal of the daring and relentless heroin. I hope to see her in other performances in the near future. The idea of a dystopian society has been dealt with in many movies and novels.The idea has always intrigued me. It truly exposes the hypocrisy and the inherent corruption in mankind.  The Hunger Games heightens the tragedy of the whole situation by sacrificing young lives who are innocent of corruption and the brutal consequences it brings.

Apart from being a social commentary, the performances in the movie really deserve some say here. Newcomer Jennifer Lawrence was a breath of fresh air and left me in awe after witnessing her performance as the young resilient Katniss Averdeen. Josh Hutcherson was convincing as a trustworthy partner and loyal friend which is clearly seen in his devotion to Katniss. Even Woody Harrelson which I usually despise held up his end in the movie as the callous, but clever mentor to Katniss. Liam Hemsworth's role in the movie was too short to reveal any real talent. Although, it is always nice to have some eye candy to gawk at in a movie. All in all, an excellent movie. Highly recommended to lovers of dystopian fiction and people who enjoy watching movies in general. It is highly unlikely to disappoint.