Friday, June 24, 2005

Movie Review : Batman Begins... Again

Why write a review for this movie so soon, you ask? After all, it's only been out for a week and a half. First of all, I don't appreciate your sarcasm. Secondly, if you would like to send me a check for my time, I would be happy to write movie reviews for you on a more timely basis. So, now that we're done with the interruptions, on with the following review of Batman Begins or, as I like to call it, Batman Do-Over.

This Batman movie is a do-over in the truest sense of the word. Now that this film has been released, we can pretend that all of that nippled-costume foolishness that began in 1989 never happened at all. It provides more reason than ever just to slap Joel Schumaker repeatedly. As someone who appreciates all that is good and decent, I don't believe that I've ever been able to sit through an entire Batman movie directed by either Tim Burton or Joel Schumaker, especially Schumaker. Those live-action cartoons were by accident what the 60's TV show was on purpose - stupidly silly. Stupid silliness (or is it silly stupidity?) in a movie or television show only works when it is intentional, because the audience is in on the joke. As a result, the Batman TV show was funny, as it was meant to be. The Schumaker movies, on the other hand, were just sad.

Batman Begins breathes new life into the Caped Crusader by giving him back some of his dignity. It does this because it is really the story of the man, not the costume. Just as the recent Spider-Man movies were really about Peter Parker, Batman Begins is truly about Bruce Wayne. In fact, we don't even see the costume until half-way through the movie. And to be honest, I was enjoying the movie without it. Director Chris Nolan does a great job of exploring the inner mental workings of the billionaire bad guy buster. Nolan does such a good job, in fact, that by the time Bruce puts on the cape and cowl, the audience will understand exactly why he does it, and why he makes every other decision in his path to becoming Gotham's dark avenger.

Nolan stays pretty true to the origin and essence of the Batman character in the comic books, with only a few liberties taken on the back story. For the most part, these liberties are minor and only serve to enhance the overall story. Speaking of Batman's origins, why does someone have to get his parents killed before he becomes a superhero? Think about it - Superman's birth parents were killed on Krypton. Batman saw his parents gunned down by a thief. And it wasn't good enough for Spider-Man to lose good old Mom and Dad, but his uncle had to get tragically killed as well! Why? Is the Justice League an orphan's only club or something? Maybe it would be too hard for someone to stand up for truth and justice if he's been oppressed his whole life by the love and nurturing care of his biological parents.

On the other hand, I can see where having one's parents around would be distracting to a superhero. "Are you still flying around in those tights and fighting crime? When are you going to get a real job? How am I ever going to have grandchildren if you're out playing dress-up every night? Haven't you become leader of the Avengers yet?"

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, Batman Begins. One of the truly enjoyable aspects of this movie was Christian Bale. His performance demonstrated his considerable understanding of the Batman character. He doesn't show a lot of range in this movie, but he doesn't need it. There is mostly anger and guilt that drives Bruce Wayne, and the audiences will see those emotions ever present, yet simmering just under the surface in Bale. This comprehension of Bruce Wayne distinguishes Bale's performance from that of George Clooney, who evidently thought that Batman was Dr. Ross in a cape.

But it's not just his performance that distinguishes Bale as a great choice of casting for this role. Physically, he's believable as Batman. For one thing, at 6' 2", he's the right height. He did seem a little short in some of the scenes, but that can be blamed on his freakishly tall cast-mates (Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Katie Holmes?). At least he's taller than Michael Keaton. There can be no better proof that Tim Burton smokes crack, than his choice of Keaton for this role. Batman should at least be taller than Kim Basinger, or at least look like he could beat her up in a fair fight. I mean, come on! Yet, Burton was once quoted as saying, "I just couldn't imagine anyone else in the Batman costume besides Michael." And I thought weed was supposed to enhance a person's imagination.

But besides his height, Chritian Bale has one killer physique in this movie. I say that with all the admiration a heterosexual man can possibly have for another. Apparently, it never occurred to anyone involved with the previous movies that Batman should have muscles. Yet, this is important. Even though it seems superficial, Bale's appearance is one of the things that makes this movie superior to the others. Though Keaton and Kilmer both seemed to understand Batman, they didn't look like him, so they were hard to believe in the role.

The one draw-back to this movie was Katie Holmes. Though she does a good job of carrying herself with all the confidence and dignity of a tough assistant D.A., that doesn't change the fact that she looks seventeen. No amount of acting can change that. But then again, she's too young for the role of girlfriend to a middle-aged actor, yet she seems to pull that one off. Even so, her youthful appearance doesn't detract too much from the movie.

The best part about this movie is the story-telling. The plot is incredibly rich with detail. Yet it somehow avoids becoming convoluted. The film runs 2 hours and 20 minutes, but it seemed much longer to me, not because it seemed to drag on, but because there was just so much story. It is this story-telling that makes this a Batman for grown-ups.

The film doesn't even rely on brutal violence or fancy fight-scenes (this might be a disappointment to those of you wanting to see that). Yes, there are fights, but they are scarce and rarely show any blood. The only reason I could see for the PG-13 rating was the downright scariness of some of the scenes. The ability to be scary and disturbing without also being excessively violent or gory is a testament to Christopher Nolan's directorial skills.

I've already mentioned how well Bruce Wayne's character is developed in the film, but there are so many other colorful characters and events as well. These characters manage to be interesting without a bunch of silly make-up, crazy clothes, or the shamelessly over-the-top performances given by the actors who played villians in the other Batman movies. There is so much big name talent in this movie, yet no one hams it up once.

I know it might be hard to tell, but I kinda liked this movie. I just hope somebody forces Joel Schumaker to sit and watch it with his eyes taped open. It would also help if that person kept yelling, "Look! This is how you're supposed to make a movie!" Hopefully, they'll make at least a couple of sequels. It will take that many to scrub the images of rubber cod pieces out of my head.

Using a new simplified rating system which I came up with myself, I give this movie a 21.23 stars out of a possible 23.

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Anonymous bellringr said...

You know, I didn't have any desire to see this film before I read your review. :) I thought the first of the "other" Batman movies was ok, hated the next one and never watched them after that.

I'm not a big theater person but I'll definitely be renting it when it comes out.

2:31 AM  
Blogger Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

The comment about a super hero's parents -- classic.

And Joel Schumacher is the devil.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Kittymama said...

My fiance and I saw Batman Begins yesterday afternoon, and we were both pleasantly suprised. The story was great, the acting great, and it seemed both fantastical and believable, if that makes sense.

I liked your review!

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:01 AM  
Anonymous SixOfSpades said...

Even if Nolan / Bale / Caine do continue the franchise, I doubt any sequels could be as rich or fulfilling as Batman Begins, since the essence of Batman is psychological, and any film that delved into Bruce Wayne's past as much as this one did would collapse under the weight of having to retread so much old material--in much the same way that all the Harry Potters suffer from having to spend the first 3 chapters (or 15 minutes of film time) explaining that Harry's a wizard and the Dursleys are morons.

Thoughts on Katie Holmes: A 30-year-old woman who looks 17 isn't truly objectionable: Some women actually DO, and there are plenty of others who try very hard to. What I found noticably odd about her character is that no matter what she was wearing, or what mood she was in, her nipples were always plainly visible. Sure, picking a babe for a romantic interest is all well and good, but do we really need *POINK!* every time we see her?

There are a couple of scientific nitpicks I have with the film, but I'll skip the minor ones and jump to the major: The two things I truly disliked about Batman Begins were
A) Nobody makes a big deal about the fact that roughly 25% of Gotham's population, including 90% of its police force, is now insane and bent on murder and mayhem, and none of these people can be saved.
B) It's apparently a movie law that if you possess (or at least control) some really neat piece of cutting-edge technology, you also have a limitless source of energy to RUN that equipment. Did YOU ever see anyone plug that Microwave Emitter into a power grid with the energy required to instantly boil thousands of gallons of water? 'Cause I sure didn't.

Both of these could have been neatly avoided, simply by not actually turning the Microwave Emitter ON until reaching Wayne Towers, where they could tap into all the power they needed. It's a shame nobody smacked Nolan upside the head with this.

2:27 AM  
Anonymous sandyg said...

Great review! Makes me want to see the movie, which I really wasn't too interested in until I read your review!

2:32 PM  
Blogger flu said...

There is a sequel already in the planning stages, and Mark Hamill is in contention to play Jack Napier, aka 'The Joker'

Mark supplied the voice of the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series.

I think he'd do it well.

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark would be a fantastic choice! I loved him inthe cartoon!

5:45 PM  
Blogger Nic said...

sixofspades, too true. I will be 32 in a week and look in my early/mid 20's. True also about the nips. That last shot of her in the cream satin (b/c that sure as hell wasn't silk) monstrosity that passed itself as a shirt was kind of like "If they were any bigger, I'd have my eye poked out".

Brilliant movie though. Absolutely loved it! I would actually go to see it again. I've never seen a movie twice in the theaters that I can think of, but I would see this one again and SW3 again too.

9:02 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Awesome review. Good to hear that Batman has finally been done right. I am one of the few people in the universe that thinks Peter Jackson overstepped himself by modifying the story of the Lord of the Rings. I don't mind changing the story a little bit, and only when necessary, but it's a just a little bit of hubris to change the nature of the characters. Like the elves showing up to fight at Helms Deep.

3:29 PM  

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