Batman Begins


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"'s good, period.  It's good, question mark?  Yes, it's good, exclamation point!"










Batman Begins
The Masked Reviewer

The latest Batman already has people ooh-ing and aaah-ing about how dark and deep and sinister and interesting it is.  Is it thanks to the writing/direction by Chris Nolan (who brought us Memento)?  Is it Christian Bale (who you might remember from American Psycho or as the bad guy in Shaft, or if you're unlucky, from Reign of Fire) who regails us with his mighty thespian skills as the Caped Crusader?  Could it be thanks to the supporting actors, which include Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Rutger Hauer, and Tom Wilkinson?  Why on earth is Batman Begins so powerful?

Comics fans know the answer.  The Batman hasn't been around for nearly 70 years because of the public's fondness for flying rodents.  The character is one of the greatest in comics, and his evolution over time has resulted in a literary icon that has depth and texture, and kicks some serious ass.

Arguably, the first film to really do justice to a comics franchise was Bryan Singer's X-Men.  Batman has been adapted over the years, including the campy 60's TV show with Adam West and the Tim Burton version of the late 80's with Michael Keaton.  People whose only exposure to Batman was the TV Show were unhappy with the Tim Burton film, because they thought comics were all supposed to be campy and silly, with corny catchphrases ("Holy exploding pickle, Batman!") and weird death traps.  The Tim Burton version was the best comic book adaptation to that point, though it still fell short -- Jack Nicholson was a great Joker, but it didn't have the right feel; too much Hollywood spectacularism (no, that's not  a word -- yet) and not enough grit.

X-Men was a solid adaptation that made comics fans happy.  Regular people (aka normal people) liked it too...hey, who knew that comics could provide good characters?

Indeed, part of the reason the studios have been scooping up every comic license they can get their hands on is not because of a built-in audience.  Hellboy wasn't a household name; neither was Spawn or Blade, for that matter.  But, characters from the comics have been developed over years of writing.  Your typical Hollywood blockbuster doesn't want to devote much time to character, and the writers of those kinds of movies aren't typically very good at it. 

So, here we have Batman Begins.  It's the Dark Knight of the 80's through today.  He's got emotional problems.  He's angry.  He's smart.  He's obsessed with criminals.  He wants vengeance.  He has high tech toys, but he doesn't rely entirely on them.  His origins are re-told, much more accurately than in the Tim Burton film.  Sure, they still take some liberties, but they're very much in keeping with the books.  Chris Nolan obviously knows his stuff, more or less, and the results are compelling.

This is all well and good if you're a comics nerd, like the Masked Reviewer (obviously...hey, don't be shocked when a guy who wears a mask for a living happens to like comic books, okay?), but what if you've never picked up a graphic novel?  This movie isn't just good for comics fans, it's good, period.  It's good, question mark?  Yes, it's good, exclamation point!

Christian Bale is great.  Morgan Freeman is excellent.  Michael Caine is spot on.  Cyllian Murphy (who you may remember from 28 Days Later) is fabulous.  Liam Neeson is amazing.  Everyone else is at least good.  The biggest criticism on the performance is that the portrayal of Jim Gordon is a little bit pansified (that's a verb, meaning "to be made more of a pansy" and no, it's not a word, either), but it's forgivable.  Ken Watanabe (from The Last Samurai) isn't used enough, but with so many good actors, it's hard to give everyone the time they deserve.

Here's where it gets weird.  This is a huge summer movie.  It's based on a comic book.  The criticisms of the film aren't with the acting, strangely, they're with the action.  While Chris Nolan does wonders with character and pacing and storytelling, his action scenes are well below average.  He is not a good fight scene director.  Fighting in the film is dark, confusing, and not at all impressive.  Batman is supposed to be a master of hand-to-hand combat.  It's hard to tell if he knows how to make a fist, even, because the fight scenes suffer from the typical Hollywood fight scene problem.

Who enjoys watching a fight scene that is nothing but a series of quick blurry cuts between random parts of bodies?  Sure, you get to see a quick flash of the star's face.  The theory, supposedly, is that if done right, you get a sense of "being in the combat" -- it's fast, it's furious, it's confusing.  But, it isn't exciting.  It's confusing.  The thing that keeps Batman Begins from being a truly excellent film is that the fight scenes are terrible.  It would have literally been better to show Batman approaching a bunch of guys, then do a cartoon cloud of dust with arms and elbows sticking out, and superimpose BIFF! BAM! on top of it, then show Batman standing over a pile of unconscious bodies.  Has Hollywood not learned anything from Hong Kong?  Watch Ong-Bak and see amazing fight choreography.  Heck, put that guy in a Batman suit and let Christian Bale handle the acting and close-ups, and you've got a great film.

Other minor criticisms would involve scientific inaccuracies that a nerd might get hung up on, but since the Masked Reviewer is no nerd, they will not be mentioned here.  Oh, shut up.

All in all, Batman Begins is definitely worth seeing, and one of the best films this summer.  It will appeal to a very large audience -- people who don't like comic book movies may very well enjoy this movie because it features rock-solid performances and it's interesting.  This is much more of a character study than an action movie, though, so if you're hoping to see a totally exciting movie, this will let you down.  The fight scenes detract from the movie, which will no doubt disappoint many fans. 

Batman Begins should  give fans a tremendous amount of hope for the franchise.  They should crank these out, as Christian Bale is a worthy recipient of the cowl.  The Batman film franchise was getting ridiculously bad over the years, and this Batman saves the could be called Batman Redemption, but no one asked the Masked Reviewer what he thought.


Expectation from the Title: Today is the first day of Howard Fledermaus'ses's new job with the Yankees, fulfilling his lifelong dream of being a bat boy for the age thirty-eight. 

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  He seems like such a troubled young man.  He should see a psychologist, it might make him a happier person.

The Pros: Top-notch acting across the board (impressive for such a large cast), very faithful to the comic books, good writing, interesting.

The Cons: Horrible fight scenes which would be more forgivable if a) fighting wasn't an integral part to the character and b) this wasn't an action film.

If you have trouble spelling, then information on Christopher Bale, Christian Bail, Morgan Freman, Michael Cane, Batman Returns, new Batman, Bat Man Begins, guy from 28 Days Later, Ras Al Ghoul, Ra's Al Ghul, Katie Homes, Leam Neeson, Leeam Neeson, Liam Nielson, is right here too.

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