…the craze for the superheroes. That’s what Hollywood’s doing of late, says Mini Anthikad Chhibber as The Dark Knight is all set to rise again on the screens
Reinvention is the name of the game and never is it so pronounced as in the entertainment business. Eons ago, Aristotle spoke of the six basic elements of drama in his seminal work Poetics. Incidentally, the elements are plot, character, thought, diction, melody and spectacle — are the Greeks cool or what? From forever, these six elements and the six basic emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise) have been put together in various permutations and combinations to be presented in a range of entertainment options. So it is only natural that the wheel would be reinvented ad nauseum.
In cinema and on telly, you constantly have successful films and shows being remade. The latest remake is Total Recall with bad boy Colin Farrell stepping in for Arnold “I’ll be back” Schwarzenegger’s Doug Quaid. Another reinvention option is the reboot. James Bond, the longest running franchise (it is 50 years since Sean Connery said Bond, James Bond in Dr. No) is no stranger to reboots. The movies featuring Connery were gritty and close to Ian Fleming’s vision of the ruthless super spy. With Roger Moore as Bond, the movies became quite campy. Shakespearean actor Timothy Dalton’s James Bond films were again rather realistic but grim. After a hiatus, there was Pierce Brosnan as 007 with M changing gender and the latest reboot features a blond super spy in Daniel Craig.
The recently-released The Amazing Spider-Man is a reboot of Sam Raimi’s trilogy starring Tobey Maguire — five years seems too early for a reboot. The Bourne Legacy coming out this year is not a reboot so much as a prequel with some of the characters reprising their roles except for Matt Damon, but then there is no Jason Bourne either.
The Dark Knight Rises, opening this Friday, is the concluding chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, which in turn is a reboot of the four Batman movies released between 1989 and 1997. Tim Burton directed the first two movies and, long before angsty superheroes were the flavour of the season, plumbed the depths of duality of a conflicted character that needs to hide behind a mask.
The ever-changeful Christian Bale, who starred in the Terminator reboot Terminator Salvation, which was all gloomy, doomy and no fun, is a perfect fit for Batman and his alter ego the millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne — both in Armani shirts and shirtless.
Like Tim Burton, who came into the big budget super-hero universe after the success of quirky Beetlejuice, Nolan’s claim to fame prior to Batman Begins (2005) was the twisty thriller Memento (2000), which inspired our many Ghajini films and Insomnia (2002), a remake of the Norwegian film. Nolan, like Burton, proved he is comfortable in blockbuster territory — ensuring enough bang for your buck (spectacle) while keeping a close eye on character and plot — Aristotle rocks, doesn’t he?
The one area where Nolan’s Batman movies seemed lacking was Batman’s love life. Katie Holmes in Batman Begins and Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight did not have much to do apart from looking vaguely worried. That has been rectified with the introduction of Anne Hathway as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman — let’s not even go near Halle Berry’s disastrous turn in Catwoman.
The villain of the piece, Bane (Tom Hardy), is a whole different animal compared to the Joker (played with poignant prescience by Heath Ledger). With a meaner Batmobile and jaw-dropping stunts, The Dark Knight Rises seems to be a fitting finale to the trilogy. Like Bane says in the trailer, “Let the games begin!”
The Tim Burton-Joel Schumacher Batman movies
Batman (1989): Directed by Tim Burton, the Oscar-winning art direction was eye candy of the highest order. Batman was truly a creature of the night, a shadowy, conflicted figure who was a radical departure from the bright cartoony colour and treatment of the Superman films. Jack Nicholson as the Joker essentially played Jack in a purple suit and wicked grin.
Batman Returns (1992): Burton returned to the director’s chair as did Michael Keaton as Batman. Michelle Pfeiffer was Catwoman, while Danny De Vito made for a creepily tragic penguin. Christopher Walken was glorious as wicked tycoon Max Shreck.
Batman Forever (1995): In a bid to become more mainstream, Joel Schumacher was asked to step into the director’s chair. Val Kilmer played Batman, there was also Jim Carrey as the Riddler, Chris O Donnell as Robin and Tommy Lee Jones as Two Face. Nicole Kidman played Batman’s love interest Dr. Chase Meridian. While the film was super successful, it lost its edginess.
Batman & Robin (1997): Ranking among the worst superhero films of all time, this film, also directed by Schumacher, was a commercial success even though it was savaged by critics. George Clooney played Batman. There also was Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy and Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. All that star power unfortunately could not redeem the truly terrible film.