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
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
day...it 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 team...at 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,
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.