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City rises for the Dark Knight

They came, they saw, they screamed and went away with the promise to be back. The Dark Knight Rises opened in the city with blockbuster bang as bat-geeks homed in on the plexes from the morning.

Salt Lake to Elgin Road and Gariahat to Esplanade, the first look at the last film in the Christopher Nolan-directed trilogy was in packed auditoriums and the demand for a dose of Batman-versus-Bane grew stronger by the hour.

“It’s rare for the 9am shows of a Hollywood film to have 100 per cent occupancy across all multiplexes. The Dark Knight Rises has managed that and the numbers are climbing,” said Debashish Dey of Aum Moviez, the regional distributors of the Warner Bros-produced franchise.

Christian Bale’s last outing in the batsuit, also starring Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, has been generating a buzz since the first promos hit YouTube last year. The fan frenzy peaked on Friday, making plex officials describe footfalls as “astounding”, a notch higher than that for The Amazing Spider-Man, which released last month.

“The Friday footfalls for The Amazing Spider-Man were in the region of 70 per cent while The Dark Knight Rises opened at 90 per cent, with the first few shows going houseful,” said an official of Broadway cinemas in Salt Lake.

At Fame (South City), a group of 84 from the English department of Jadavpur University walked in bright and early for the 9.05am show. Through the day, tickets flew off the counter, holding out the promise of houseful shows for at least a week. “The craze is unprecedented and though the viewer profile is generally young, we also have many middle-aged Batman fans walking in,” said a Fame official.

Like 50-year-old Abhirup Sengupta. “I grew up on Batman comics and I have watched and loved all the films. Nolan has imparted a different sensibility to the films and no one can beat Bale as Batman. I found the film immensely satisfying,” said the Washington-based banker after a show at South City.

At INOX Forum, Batman tees and belts could be spotted as fans walked in for the 9.10am show. They clapped and cheered throughout the film, whether it was Batman pulling himself out of the pit of death, the surprise entry of the Scarecrow or the final showdown. Batman’s back-from-the-brink acts at different points in the film drew loud gasps. Every time the hero overcame all odds to pull himself together, wolf-whistles rang out. But the loudest cheer was reserved for the appearance of Robin.

“I didn’t expect the ending. I didn’t expect Robin! The film was full of surprises,” said St. Xavier’s student Anshuman Banka.

“Batman films have traditionally done amazing business and the way The Dark Knight Rises has begun indicates it will live up to expectations. We expect the film to draw huge crowds on Saturday and Sunday,” said Subhasis Ganguli, regional director, INOX.

While The Dark Knight Rises did the best business at INOX Forum, fans also turned up in large numbers at the plex chain’s Salt Lake, Rajarhat and Swabhumi properties.

The scene was similar at other plexes. “I am a regular at London-Paris in Ballygune and this is the first time I have seen a 9am show go houseful. That shows the power of the Batman franchise,” said Gariahat resident Shyamali Dastidar.

While Bale as Batman got nods of approval from boys and gasps of appreciation from female fans, Bat-geeks were divided on Bane, played by British actor Tom Hardy. “Heath Ledger’s Joker (in The Dark Knight) is a tough act to follow and though Bane was menacing, he wasn’t a patch on Joker,” said Subhendu Banerjee, a software engineer, who watched the film at Fame (South City).

Hathaway as Catwoman and Marion Cotillard as the mysterious Miranda Tate were also hits. “I think Anne Hathaway makes the perfect Catwoman. I loved her scenes with Christian Bale,” said engineering student Rajashree Bhowmick at Fame (South City).

The film-maker also had his takers. “I like the way Nolan interpreted his films differently from the comic books. The Dark Knight Rises only again shows what a fine film-maker he is,” said student Avi Sen at Fame (South City).

“Like in Inception (Nolan’s 2010 psychological thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio), the storytelling was fantastic. I watched with bated breath,” said marketing consultant Rana Basu Thakur at INOX (Forum).

To Nolan’s credit, he won over fans despite his film not being in 3D, unlike The Amazing Spider-Man.

“Batman is always an intense movie-going experience and 3D wouldn’t have helped it in any way. I don’t think Batman fans like myself would have really liked to watch it in 3D,” said systems analyst Suddhasatwa Banerjee at Fame (South City).

Bat-geeks were unanimous in their grouse, that they could not watch their superhero on IMAX like their counterparts in Delhi and Mumbai since Calcutta’s only IMAX theatre shut shop two years ago.

“Batman on IMAX would have made the experience even more perfect,” rued college student Abhranil Sen at Fame (South City).