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This was published in the Indian Express on Saturday

The Dark Knight is the biggest movie in the world. Critics love it,
audiences drool over it, it’s currently no. 1 on IMDB’s all-time best
films list, and is easily the best superhero movie ever made. It is
many other things as well. One, a swift kick in the pants to people
who never believed that comics, fantasy/SF stories, superhero stories
or people in strange costumes could be taken seriously. Two, a large,
leather-gloved slap in the face to all the shoddy filmmakers, hammy
actors and deranged movie executives down the ages who are largely
responsible for this line of thought, the progenitors of the
innumerable turkeys churned out in genre film from Plan 9 From Outer
Space to Love Story 2050. Three, a fitting keystone on Heath Ledger’s
fantastic and tragically small body of work.

Dark Knight is a brilliant film. Complex, disturbing, serious,
spectacular, intimate, it will churn your insides, fill you with awe
and fear, and leave you stunned. I’ve never seen as quiet a movie
audience in Delhi as the one that trooped out of PVR Saket last
Friday, muttering and blinking, aware that they’d been through a
genuine experience. Where were the louts who talk loudly on their
mobiles all through? Where were the popcorn junkies who invariably
have middle seats and try to give you passing lap-dances at every
possible plot point? And best of all, in India you can actually get
tickets to see this massive film, because most people are elsewhere
watching Imran Khan and Shahid Kapoor.

As a lifelong die-hard fan of fantasy, SF and superhero films, I’m
delighted that Dark Knight was made because it should silence, at
least for a while, both the ‘I don’t watch such movies’
self-mutilators and the ‘Leave your brain outside and just be
entertained’ patronizing scum. This is a film that will move you,
provoke you, and make you think – a dark mirror of the real world
where the political allegory is always sharp and relevant but
thankfully never heavy-handed. Christopher Nolan’s contribution to
speculative fiction cinema, hyper-realism, an exaggerated
representation of reality where even the most outlandish events could
actually conceivably happen, is a concept that should both inspire and
scare future filmmakers, who will now be judged far more harshly.
Suspension of disbelief is fine – after all, it’s no more than nearly
every Indian movie requires from its audience – but a close eye on
internal logic, structure and pace, an obsessive nose for detail and
consistency and a taste for combining the comic-book outlandish with
the eerily normal will now be demanded by audiences for every
subsequent special-effects-intensive summer blockbuster. In other
words, sure, give us the special effects and the explosions, stun us
with scale, but that won’t be enough – you’ll have to tell a good
story, a tight, real, human story, a well-constructed, gripping,
heart-felt story, and only then will we buy your tiffin-boxes, your
toys and mouse-pads. Messrs. Bale, Ledger and Nolan have just raised
the bar, and I suspect it will be a while before anyone else manages
to leap over it.

Producers and creators of entertainment media all over the world are
trying to build mammoth franchises out of existing archetypes new and
old, from James Bond and Narnia to the never-stale Mahabharat, aware
that nothing works like a classic story told in a relevant, visually
spectacular context. Where the whole magical process usually goes
wrong is simply in not paying enough attention to detail, getting the
best ingredients together but becoming so obsessed with the grand
scheme or the profit percentages that the essential element, the story
that drives it all, becomes secondary. Films like The Dark Knight,
which manage to balance the giant-worldwide-big-budget-blockbuster
nonsense with genuine heart, should give us all hope. Sometimes the
hype is justified, sometimes our money goes to talented people who
actually work hard and love doing what they do, who come together to
produce a real work of art. Go watch the film if you haven’t yet.

About Samit Basu

Writes books, comics, films, other stuff.


8 thoughts on “DK

  1. Wonderful review. Dark Knight captured the grayness of things so well. It reminded me of Lady Temat’s line in your book “There is no Good or Evil, Asvin”…

    I’ve often wondered what a movie version of your Trilogy would look like, but maybe I should be careful of what i wish for. It was a bit hard to digest the Hitchhikers movie – i was glad Hollywood didn’t do a movie around Dirk Gently!

    Posted by Amit | August 25, 2008, 2:33 pm
  2. I totally loved watching the reactions of random friends and acquaintances who’ve been rolling their eyes at me all these years for the superheroes/Star Wars love. Most people went to see DK to find out what all the fuss was about, and came back with their mouths hanging open, saying it was the best movie they’ve ever seen. Ha! 😀 Nolan is the biggest movie genius there ever was.

    Posted by Cheeta | August 30, 2008, 11:19 am
  3. I could not agree more! But I do wish to bring forth a point that was worth making – Why Maggie Gyllenhall? No doubt she can act, but she looks like she’s had 4 pound weights hanging from her face all her life!

    Posted by Manish Honnatti | September 2, 2008, 11:43 pm
  4. Very sumptuous review, must say. Nolan’s been a favourite of mine since The Prestige. The same Bale-Caine-Nolan magic repeated itself in the very watchable form of The Dark Knight. I wonder if there ever was a director who told stories with such dynamic momentum and mettle as Chris Nolan. Everyone was brilliant and it obviously made one feel very satisfied.

    Something that a dose of Bachna Ae Haseeno brilliantly failed to do. Us movie-going Indians…we never grow out of our habits.

    Posted by Soumashree | September 4, 2008, 11:34 pm
  5. Yes, a truly brilliant movie that changes the concept of hero.

    Posted by Trailblazer | September 8, 2008, 9:48 pm
  6. Hi Sumit,

    Your review is spell-binding, yet at the end of the reading I could not make out whether it was in praise of the movie or to lambaste those who have not developed taste for such movies. I wonder why magicians do not get such type of popularity though they do many of those disbelieving fits. Is it because they do not have the kind of money behind them as Hollywood blockbusters pump in promotion? Oh yes, with promotion water tastes sweeter.


    Posted by A. N. Nanda | September 16, 2008, 8:48 am
  7. WOW – brilliant review… It’s kind of sad the movie wasn’t all that great, though… I’m a major fan of sci-fi / fantasy books and films, but really Batman was just Very Very Good.
    I liked the review better.

    Heath Ledger, on the other hand, is absolutely BRILLIANT. Beyond brilliant.
    Whatever the greatest, most prestigious award out there is, it had better go to him for sheer skill.

    Posted by Anonymous | November 2, 2008, 9:37 am
  8. I agree. It’s a superb film. We need more like it.

    Posted by vardis | December 5, 2008, 7:28 pm

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Copyright (c) Samit Basu. Images copyright respective holders.
July 2008


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