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Monday, April 16, 2012

"'The Dark Knight Rises' or 'The Avengers'"?

The sun rises in the east.
We need air, water and food to live.
‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is gonna be the world’s biggest hit this year. (No, not Avengers! J)
There are some things in life that you know with absolute certainty, absolutely. J
And it’s almost definite that the Dark Knight is gonna be one of this year’s biggest blockbusters but this blog goes a step further and says that it will turn out to be this year’s biggest world hit!

And now that the Avengers will be out in India next week (a week ahead of its US release), the movie is coming across as a pucca paisa vasool big budget superfun extravaganza; in sharp contrast to the dark and somber mood of the 'Dark Knight Rises' and hence its only natural that the big question on a lot of minds is - is it gonna be 'The Avengers' or 'The Dark Knight Rises' this year?
And this post seeks to answer that. J Well, first the facts -

[The Incredible Build Up]

The most gigantic reason to the amazing build up of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is still the first movie. ‘The Dark Knight’s viral campaign in 2008 is considered to be a text book case study in marketing and was themed around building buzz around the villains, especially the Joker with the hugely popular ‘Why so serious’ and Harvey Dent’s “I believe in Harvey Dent”– but what unexpectedly changed it all was Heath Ledger’s unfortunate death (RIP Heath Ledger, but seriously, what a way to go!)  Now, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ follows a similar but much more subdued approach- the viral started with the website that had the now famous Chanting (hear the awesome chanting here – incidentally, it means “He Rises, He Rises” in Moroccan), which when encrypted, links to the movie’s official twitter account; for every comment, a pixel was removed from the website, and it ultimately released the first image of the arch villain, Bane.

A few months later, the first trailer was out which was honestly, quite disappointing – it used too much footage from the older movies and a lot of Bane’s and Gordon’s dialogues were not clear. But fans only had to wait for a lil bit longer when the second trailer came out (above) and it was nothing short of spectacular!!! And it maintained that deep, dark and intense flavor that we’ve always associated with Nolan’s Bat. Continuing with its marketing, there are also the leaked “CIA memos” of a missing Russian nuclear official, obviously a key character in the movie. Later, when the movie MI:4 was released, it had a 6 minute prologue that glimpsed upon the madman that was Bane (see it here). Fans were bowled over by the amazing footage and we now know that the Bat has got one hell of a worthy adversary in Bane. However, the subsequent marketing has been pretty silent of late (as compared to Prometheus or Hunger Games), however very few movies have such intense build up as The Dark Knight Rises has and a lot of the feverish excitement is still due to sheer awesomeness of the first movie.

Now contrast this to the ‘Avengers’ marketing – the Avengers, as an idea, is sheer genius: having many super heroes in one movie instead of just one. And it’s been well planned out as they first had the Iron Man movies, followed by the successful launches of two new franchisees in both Thor and Captain America. And now, they’re combining these successful characters with an old friend, The Hulk and added in few more characters like Black Widow, Hawkeye, Nick Fury and others. But the Avengers’ marketing has not been top notch – it comes across as very comic book and very US centric. Sure they came up with two trailers – the first which focused on the assembling while the second one above (which will blow your mind away) is on the actual fight. But yet the point is that there are still more people who don’t know Avengers than the Bat. The latest news on the Avengers premiere is that the initial reviews for the movie have been extremely positive with people calling the movie as ‘Epic’ and that the Hulk really rocked!!! (see Avengers initial movie reviews here)

Yet, in comparison to the Bat, marketing impact of the Avengers is still way off the mark – like I said, too US centric and too comic book focussed.

Build up and marketing: Dark Knight scores!


[The Nolan factor]

I’ve a big IMDB follower and any movie with an IMDB rating of above 7 is considered to be real good. Above 8, and you have an outstanding piece of work and above 8.5, well, that’s Christopher Nolan. J
Nolan’s last few movies of Inception, Dark Knight, The Prestige and Batman Begins were all above 8-ers and his highest rated movie till date is the Dark Knight – people say that the only person who can top Nolan’s enviable record is Nolan himself and some say he will do that with TDKR. And even if he averages it out at 8, 8 is still a great movie. Chances that he’ll go below 8 is very unlikely.

Contrast this to the Avenger’s director, Joss Whedon, whose directorial attempts - Serenity and Thor - were well received nevertheless however were still rated below 8.
But one argument doing the rounds is that Nolan’s work have all been serious stuff – he’s never really known for doing the light hearted– I mean, if Nolan had directed Iron Man, I’m not sure if we’d have loved it for the reason that we do. And considering that summer movies are known for kids and families, some say that Nolan’s direction totally keeps this group away from his work.
But well, my take is : a good movie is a good movie is a good movie is a good movie. And yes, this is the end of probably the best possible trilogy that Hollywood has ever created. Ever. So that itself will bring in crowds just to see 'the legend end'.

Director credibility: Dark Knight scores!


[The legacy of the Bat]

Let’s face it – even though the Avengers is an assembly of superheroes, the real stars are only two - Iron Man and the Hulk; we never really cared who Thor or Captain America were till about last year – in fact, I’m not sure if we still care! J Sure there is a niche set of fans who followed the comics and know who Black Widow and Hawkeye are; but to most of us, it’s only Robert Downey Jr and the green monster and I’m pretty sure that to most people, its, “ OK… Nick Fury who ??? ”
But the Bat has been a part of our collective conscious for over half a century – also, with various stars from Keaton, Clooney and now Bale donning the black suit and with an even impressive set of actors (Jack Nicholson, Halle Berry, Arnold, Jin Carrey….) having played the villains over the last few decades, the Batman has successfully carved a place in our minds. And yes, our hearts too.

So when you bring in the legacy aspect, the Dark Knight is someone my dad may have liked too when he was a kid. This is important as today, it’s the international market that brings in more money, as was seen in case of movies like the last Pirates or Tin Tin, or even Johnny English, and hence it’s important to have an international appeal, for which requires legacy, which the Bat has oodles of, over the likes of Nick Fury, Black Widow, Thor or Captain or ….
Legacy: Dark Knight scores! And how!



So did you see the 6 minute prologue, the link which I shared above? You still haven’t!?.... What’s wrong with you??? J
People who’ve seen the prologue will agree that Bane is one mean bad ass villain – he’s meaner, smarter, has got a plan and just plain evil. In fact, comic book fans will remember Bane as the guy who broke Batman’s back! Never before has Batman faced a villain who is as physically awesome as Bane. If you remember Joker or Ra Gul, they’re not physically impressive – in fact, the Joker is just puny in front of the Bat – I mean, we knew that if the Bat were to physically fight out the Joker, Batman could make salad of the funny man. Even for Ra Gul, he actually trains the Bat so the Bat becomes as good as the Ra, if not better. But with Bane, it’s a whole different game - Bane brings in that strong physicality and brute force that was missing in the earlier villains and to top it off, he’s smart as hell. If you see the footage, Bane’s followers are willing to risk their lives for him, a trait the Joker’s followers never had, adding to the Bat's troubles.
Yes there is an argument that Bane is not exactly a household name as the Joker or even, Catwoman but strictly speaking, me thinks Bane is a whole lot level darker than the Avenger’s bad man, Loki.

Of course, Avengers has its strengths – in fact, its your perfect pop corn movie – blasts, babes, one liners, more superheroes and a whole lot better trailer. Also, there is the strong prospect of cameos from Marvel's huge universe, like Spider Woman, Ant Man, or who knows, even Spider Man!!! J


So how does all this translate into the big money that this blog forecasts ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ to be? Well simply put, almost everyone will watch both the movies (Avengers could maybe even turn out to be bigger than the Bat in the US) but more people in the international markets will see the Bat than the Avengers due to its wider appeal and it’s the international market that’ll do the trick for the Bat. In fact this blog goes on to say that the Dark Knight will become the third biggest money spinner ever, after Avatar and Titanic, both $2Bn babies. I’m putting the Dark Knight Rises’ gross to be in the region of $1.5Bn (the first one grossed around $1Bn).
So, besides a natural calamity, what else can upset this blog's forecast? Well, if the rest of the year springs up a surprise hit ( like Hunger Games, that blew away the US box office or Titanic 3D that’s re-rocking the international box) or if Avengers becomes that phenomenal a movie, then well, maybe.... But considering that Nolan has still another three months to go, I'm sure he'll be taking the marketing to a whole new level.

But my bet is – it’s gonna be 'the Dark Knight Rises' all the way!

What do you think???


research n pics: google

[May 30th update - Avengers opened to extremely positive reviews (IMDB score of 8.7), a record breaking $207mill and became the fastest movie to hit a billion!  As we speak, the Avengers' worldwide gross stands at around $1.3Billion.  One way to look at it is that everyone who has seen Avengers is most likely to have seen the awesome third DKR trailer (below), thereby expanding its appeal.  Sure, since DKR is shot in IMAX and not in 3D, it's unlikely to break the 207mill weekend record but I'm still holding on to my prediction of $1.5Billion cume for Dark Knight Rises and of it becoming the third biggest grosser ever, after the Cameron twins. Why, you ask?  Well , cos the Dark Knight has not given us everything.... not yet....   J]

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"The Bike and I are One"

Wow, what a topic…

You know, I’ve been swooning ever since I got this topic…. J

This post is on biking. Or more specifically, a post to define the Indian biker….

Biking for me has been a lot of things that I can’t really put into words. So for a change, I thought I’d keep my incredibly narcissistic side aside and have this post dedicated to some incredible people I know, or specifically some incredible bikers I know. So here’s the drill - I asked some of the avid bikers I know what biking means to them and their answers helped me understand not only what biking means to them but surprisingly also uncovered what it means to me. So here are the people and here are the answers…..

So let me start with my main man, Danny. We’ve been friends since school and has been one of my bestest buddies ever. Of course I hated him in school for the fact that he was a professional model, had a six pack way before Salman and all the women used to completely ignore me when he was around. J Danny is the first biker I know. And in my sleepy town of Kottayam, Danny was a celebrity biker - he had a black bullet with a distinct orange tool box and the sight of him beefed up in a red T shirt and dark shades was machismo at its best. Of course, now he’s a successful businessman and just before he graduated to a Honda City recently, he bought back the biking to his life with a brand new Classic 500. And he tells me that biking to him is mainly about “floating” – Dan’s logic is that in a car, one’s movement is very two dimensional – mostly straight, left or right- but on a bike, you swing and hence that feeling that one is actually flying. Add to that, the wind on the face and the obvious freedom, it’s what he loves to do to de-stress - the joy of flying, the swing, the more dimensions, the wind in the face and the freedom

For the feeling of flying, the freedom and for the wind on his face….

that is why he rides.

“There are bikes, super bikes and heavy bikes… and then there is the bullet”, says Nikhil, one of the coolest bikers I know. We worked together earlier and this guy used to diligently wait for the weekends so that he could take his bike out to explore Bangalore. He told me that in his hometown, Delhi, everybody either has a bullet or aspires for one. He’s the guy who showed me how to start the bullet without getting hurt (he says there is an art in the start!) and in the short time he was in Bangalore, he’s seen more of it on his bullet than I have. One thing he hates about Bangalore roads are the many, many speed breakers that upsets a biker’s ride. Nikhil gave me an interesting twist to biking – he told me he likes biking for the “emptiness” it brings him - every Sunday, when he takes his bullet out for a ride, for the first hour or so, his mind plays out niggling issues that need to be sorted out at office or home but after another hour, his mind just tunes out and goes blank – then it’s only him, his bike and the elements. And that experience reinvigorates him for the next 6 days. Also he likes the fact that at some of the many inhabitable places he’s been to, he’s only had to believe in himself and in God’s good humor and an incident like having a flat tire at such inhospitable places makes him a stronger man, having survived the experience.

For the emptiness, the elements and inner strength….

that is why he rides.

Meet Imran Whoz Sane – a rockstar of a dude who had a wicked, wicked dream for a long, long time. We worked in the same company till he relocated to Malaysia sometime back. And this dude went ahead and done what many of us still dream about – he went ahead and bought himself an awesome 650cc of pure brute force caged inside an elegant and stylish form also known to the world, as the Kawasaki Ninja ER-6F. Besides looking oh-so-cool and turning heads at traffic signals and when he’s burning rubber, he tells me that the reason for his ride is that he like the rush of adrenalin it gives him when he goes full throttle. He adds that he’s a recent biker and the reason he wouldn’t have bought such heavy machinery in India is mainly cos of the lack of roads and infrastructure to support his new found love.

For the adrenalin rush, the image and the dream….

that is why he rides.

When I first heard of women riders, it took me a while to believe that women could actually maneuver and handle these mean, huge bikes; but one image that got stuck in my mind was when I first saw this lady gracefully chugging along on a bullet, in all elegance and poise, evidently having tamed the bullet. And it’s said that the tribe of women riders is increasing by the day. I’m told that the reason why they ride is pretty much the same as the guys. A friend of mine who doesn’t bike (yet!) told me that she associates biking to be a masculine obsession and true to the popular maxim “why should guys have all the fun??”, she’d love to experience that testosterone rush and own a Harley one day. Another person I know is Kavita pictured above. Don’t get fooled by her looks here, but she’s a speed demon in disguise. J When she’s not negotiating narrow roads on holiday in Siliguri, or experiencing the exhilaration of getting scared like hell on the steep slopes, Kavita is usually thrilled when she finds her need for speed on wheels, both two and four.

For the joy, the josh and the joie de vivre with speed..

that is why she rides.

OK, this one totally surprised me at first but once I did a little bit of research, it was pretty obvious why this is also a reason why many people ride - quite a few guys I know got their rides purely because they couldn’t get enough of the way it sounds!!! Only few machines have the fanatic following and the ecosystem of emotions built around it like a Harley does; and one reason why Harley’s legion of fans go for it is for its sound - in fact, Harley even tried to patent its distinct and unique sound (hear the Harley’s heartbeat here). Back home, the sound is not the only reason why my friend Eashwar chose his Enfield Bullet - Eashwar is a bullet know-it-all who’s done over two lakh kilometers on his “bucket of bolts” and he believes that a bike has to be so comfortable that after riding it at 100 for a 100, one should be able to repeat the same feat the very next day comfortably – and he’s found that trait in his bullet, which he opines is the perfect blend of power, stability, reliability and also has a large supporting community of equally passionate bikers.

For the power, the brotherhood and for the roar....

that is why he rides.

So who is the Indian biker? Well, based on the small group that I’ve talked with, I’m led to believe that the Indian biker gets into biking initially for the flexibility, independence and convenience that a bike offers. But after a certain time period (this group thinks its 4 years), each biker would have discovered his riding style and his reason for biking – it could be the need for speed, to lose to the cruise or for the glide of the ride – and after this, they graduate to their next machine. For one group, this is a four wheeler and for the other, it’s two wheels. The first group usually however has a part of their selves still thrilled by the bike that they would invariably also buy a bike as a personal toy a lil later in life; and this time, the bike would be a strong expression of their individual reason to ride. And for the other group, they graduate directly to heavier and bigger two wheeled machines of their dreams. This is the Indian biker.

And they have a strong connect and attachment with their bikes, in fact some people I talked with, affectionately referred to their wheels as "sweetheart" or "my babe" and the like.  Another person likened his ride to his first love, his midwife (cos "she helped him get re-born" J), his mistress and his original love all rolled into one.  Another person quoted something pretty awesome which I used as the title of this post...

for the freedom, the independence, the elements, the adrenalin rush, the joy, the power, the journey....

That is why we ride.

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