Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Batman Begins Review

Batman Begins

Everyone who was scared off by the Joel Shoemacher Batman films are all asking the same question... will "Batman Begins" be any good? Asking your fellow comic nerds probably won't answer the question, because as we all know they dream of being Batman hoping to get a girlfriend even though they, like their fictional idol, are misunderstood. The truth is, they probably will keep dreaming about girls and cars, and each nerd will line up to tell you how or how the film did not live up to the comics.

On the other hand, if you read the numerous reviews on or Entertainment magazine you'll get less of an answer than that with stupid reviews like, "Batman Begins redeemed the entire franchise," or "Dark and gritty, definitely not a movie for kids," or "This is how Batman was meant to be seen on the big screen." All these sound like repeats of the first Batman film, which everyone seemed to forget had the biggest opening of that summer release, and Tim Burton was praised for making the best comic book movie of all time. Since then people seemed to have forgotten about the dark knight in wake of the campy Shoemacher films, and not to mention the slew of other great comic book movie adaptations to see the light of day. If anything was perfect about this film, it was the timing of its release.

Forget the nerds; forget the redundant critics with a limited vocabulary. This is a real film review, and if you don't like spoilers, I recommend you leave now and actually go watch the movie. If you're that curious about it, enough to read what it's about, it only makes sense to go see it anyway.

Let's start with the comic book ties. Any nerd will tell you that certain aspects are inaccurate about the film adaptation, but then again it is a film which is dealing on a much bigger cinematic scale, one which must appeal to mainstream audiences and not just a huddle of die hard comic geeks. Yet I will be amiss if I did not say that even the most hard core Batman enthusiasts will be more than pleasantly pleased with this version of Batman. It has all the regular cast of characters from the comics, including Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), Alfred (Michael Caine), Ducard (Liam Neeson), Dr. Jonathan Crane aka the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy), Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Earle (Rutger Hauer), and Christain Bale as the Dark Knight himself.

Unlike the past batman films it was able to juggle numerous villains seamlessly without messing up the heart of the film. Everyone had screen time, but the focus this time wasn't to make sure every big star had equal billing time; this time it was about Batman. Even early comic characters like Carmine Falcone (played by Tom Wilkinson) -Gotham city's main crime lord makes an appearance. Wilkinson's performance brings that aggressive aggressive king of the world mafia lord superiority to the character and gives him the street talk of a man so in love with himself that he thinks he's god. Every supporting actor, whether it Michael Caine or Morgan Freeman jump into there roles and bring a well rounded richness to this movie.

Batman movie

This film is dark, comparable to the X-Men films, but the characters have real depth this time, more along the lines of the Spiderman movies minus the cheese. "Batman Begins" takes its characters serious, as if they were real people, and it shows by Nolan's gritty direction. The wonderful thing is that the atmosphere of Gotham city was realistically done this time around. Instead of giant moaning heads which bellowed steam in a rusty Harconian city of weird gargoyles, this time the city looks like a real city. It's not a movie set, or a model, it's a real city. To me this was direly needed, and thankfully, they pulled off a believable Gotham.

The dialogue is good, although there are some questionable moments in the understandability of why Ducard is going on this holy crusade. If you watch closely he says he wants to rid the world of evil, but then later on he attempts to kill a city of millions over an ideal to make a point. However, if you notice the blaring contradiction that Ducard believes he is doing the moral thing by ridding the world of evil he wouldn't become stupid and contradict his life's goal by slaughtering millions of good innocents. Maybe it's just me, but even a wacko would still be able to tell the difference, he just wouldn't care.

The Batmobile was one thing I wasn't sure about. I like Burton's version of the car the best. Even though I was skeptical about the "tumbler" it kind of grows on you as the film goes on. The nicest thing about it is that it is a real drivable car and they drive the crap out of the thing! I still don't like the car's looks, but it works in the film.

Giving Jim Gordon he keys to the Batmobile was a great moment in the film. Even though it wasn't a joke, all Batman fans could laugh at it and enjoy it as a great in film moment.

The beginning of the film was wonderful. Instead of opening in the city we start in a concentration camp somewhere in China with a scruffy Bruce Wayne getting roughed up by inmate thugs. The story progresses and we learn how he trains and the skills he gains which eventually make him the warrior of Gotham. The first forty minutes of the film focus on the man's journey to becoming a legend and shooting on real locals makes the movie really flesh out.

My biggest complaint would be the action scenes. I like fast and furious but dark and way too close on top of fast and furious, well; I had a little trouble figuring out what was happening and who punched who. If you don't have an imagination the fight scenes may confuse you. However they are much better than the fight scenes in "The Bourne Supremacy" which will give you vertigo.

The music was nice, but I kind of missed the Danny Elfman movie theme. This time you have entirely new music, and maybe that was a wise choice to take everything from a fresh approach, yet I kept waiting for a swell of base strings to rip into the Elfman Batman theme song. The music overall was really wonderful and it's probably a soundtrack worth buying.

There are many other elements which people will pick apart, like why falcone didn't burn to a crisp being tied to the bat-signal, or the L-train being a mile up in the sky, but let go of the plausibility long enough for your imagination to enjoy the neo-futuristic city design for two seconds and you'll be fine. Sure it has its fair share of mistakes, but it's a movie, enjoy it!


Finally, the Batman himself. Bale brings a straight forward Dark Knight. He doesn't copy anyone else prior but there are only so many ways to play dark and brooding vigilantly of the night. He brings a great tone to the characters voice; however, where Bale really shines is the Bruce Wayne character. Wonderful acting job by Bale here! For the first time we have a fully likable Wayne character -and all though Michael Keaton's Bruce Wayne was funny and charming he kind of fluctuates too much between confused Bruce Wayne and sociable Wayne. Luckily the joking in this movie was kept to a minimal and when there are jokes they seem to be more in character and more in the realistic tone of the film. Bale plays Batman against the Wayne character to create a wonderful contrast in personas. For this reason I think watching Batman works as more enticing because he is so different than the Wayne character. You almost get the feeling that he has a split personality, and this brings real depth to the character, especially when Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) tells Batman that Bruce Wayne is his real mask, and the guy at night on the rooftops is the real man. That was a great moment.

Oh, and if you are expecting cool ninja fights, don't hold your breath. Even though there were no crying sissy ninja's as seen in "Electra" the ninjas were puny wusses. But even picking out the worst faults of this film one realizes that even those are miniscule and trivial. The film is wonderfully cinematic, powerful, and Nolan brings those wonderful scenes which look like a still from a comic book panel. Look at the movie posters and see what I'm talking about, now imagine an entire movie that wherever pause every frame is a keeper! In keeping with the comic book tradition the film ends with a run-on into the next movie by introducing who the villain will be. Overall "Batman Begins" was about making a kiss ass movie, and Christopher Nolan and his crew did just that.

For another good "Batman Begins" review check out:

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