In time for Chris Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” I want to go back and review the four great Batman films. Tim Burton’s two an Nolan’s first two. So let’s get started. (there will be spoilers if you haven’t sen the film already)
The years after Tim Burton and Michael Keaton departed from the Batman universe were hard ones for Batman fans. Sure we had the great Batman the animated series, but the drivel that Joel Schumacher was infesting the theaters with was ruining the greatest hero ever. (see my blog that reviews Batman and Robin https://jtrfranklin.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=199&action=edit) Thank the Lord in 2005 Chris Nolan came along and pulled Batman out of Schumacher’s neon hell and put him back where he belongs. Atop the world of comic icons.
Firstly Nolan was smart takeing a more realistic approach. As much as I love the comic look and feel of Burton’s films and the animated tv show, Nolan realized he had to distance his film from the damage of Schumacher’s ridiculusness and took Batman into the modern age and real world. The only problem I saw with this is that it leaves a select few villans to work with. But I’d say he has done alright. We start off with a dream sequence of a child Bruce Wayne and his friend Rachael Dawes. Gus Lewis the boy who plays young Bruce is very good. Bruce awakes in a prison in I’m guessing Singa Por, not sure if it ever says and is confronted by Liam Neeson who plays Ducard/Ras’ Al Ghul. Here is one weak point for me. Ras’ is a great character and a complex villain that in a way this film sort of wastes. Neeson is good in the role and Ras’ is given a prominent part in the story but I would have loved to seen him more and had more to do. He is the beginning teaching Bruce the techniques he will use as Batman. Then at the end trying to destroy Gotham city in the name of justice only to be vanquished. But the film really is an origin story of Bruce Wayne becoming Batman. Which was ok but, I think it went a little too long actually. I liked the not knowing so much about Bruce Wayne. But the story is well told so it’s not a real problem. Bruce takes off over seas after his parents are killed to learn about how the other half live and runs into Al Ghul. After learning to concur his demons and fighting techniques he returns to Gotham and sets in motion becoming Batman to save his city in the name of his dead parents. Bale’s performance is very good and he brings a tortured soul to Bruce Wayne. When he’s Batman however he has the tendency to go over the top at times. Like when he has the dirty cop upside down and he is screaming at him to get information. Keaton had a controlled anger and could be very intimidating while almost whispering. Even Kevin Conroy, who does the voice for the animated Batman, can sound threatening without even raising his voice. Bale is screaming at the guy and it’s almost funny. But he does pull off most of his scenes as Batman. I love the moment Bruce meets Lucius Fox, played with classy convection by the incomparable Morgan Freeman. Fox makes the gadgets that he will use. We get to see the utility belt, grapnel gun, the suit and cape for the first time. I loved it. We also get to see the Tumbler which I have mixed feelings about. Yes it’s cool, and very versatile. But it’s not a Batmobile, it’s just an army tumbler. That being said I really like the moments when it is being drove over the rooftops of the city and across the bridges. Nolan does these kinds of action moments extremely well. As well as the fighting scenes in which you really get the sense that Batman kind handle himself in any situation. All which is done in a beautiful visual style. The action and cinematography for the film is perfectly done. The rest of the cast is good too. Michael Cane is terrific as Alfred, Katie Holmes is good as Bruce’s friend and Gotham DA Rachel Dawes. (too bad she got mixed up with Cruise and missed being in the sequel) Gary Oldman is Jim Gordon and is better than old Pat Hingle, but still not the Gordon I am hoping to see one day. Cillian Murphey is very creepy and ok as Jonathan Crane/the Scarecrow. Here again was to me a wasted opportunity. The Scarecrow is a great villain and he is very weak in the film. But it does provide some great scenes when his hallucination drug is used. The scene when Batman uses the drug on Crane is great. Crane sees him as this black demon while under the effects of the drug. Plus we actually get to see Arkahm Asylum which I would love to see more of in future films of Batman. But the Scarecrow could be done much better. The ending is very well constructed as Ras’ Al Ghul returns to Gotham to unleash the hallucination in the water supply and vaporizing it into the air. Ghul and Batman fight on a mono rail train as it rushes towards the main water supply. Gordon in Batman’s tumbler (which is very funny) drives ahead and blows out the track. Batman gets off the train and leaves Ghul to parish. Very exciting ending.
All in all, Batman Begins is a very well directed, and shot movie. The cinematography is great, directing and editing is sharp, the pacing and script are crisp. The atmosphere was good but has a more noir feel than a Gothic one and I sort of miss that. While Batman is a detective (even though we don’t see that much here) he also is brooding, mysterious and dark and I don’t get that feeling in this film. The villains are weak but the film is more focused on Bruce Wayne which is fine. The story tells a little more than I truly wanted to know about Bruce, but I loved watching him find the gadgets, build the suit and discover the cave. Nolan’s imagining of Batman is very smart but lacks for me the Gothic mystic that Burton’s first film had. That being said Batman Begins is a great film that brought Batman back from Schumacher’s disaster and stuck him back to the forefront where he belongs.
This film get a solid 6 out of 7 stars.
BEST LINES FROM THE FILM :
You must become more than a man in the mind of your opponent (Ras’ Al Ghul)
As a symbol, I can be everlasting (Bruce Wayne)
Bats frighten me Alfred. It’s time my enemies share my dread. (Bruce Wayne)