Sunday, July 11, 2010

'Batman Begins' is a great new start

Batman Begins (2005)
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, and Gary Oldman
Director: Christopher Nolan
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

Bruce Wayne (Bale) returns to Gotham City after spending several years under the tutalage of Henri Ducat (Neeson), a member of an order of martial artists that claim to be devoted destruction of corruption and criminals using any available means. Wayne proceeds to put the skills he has learned, his family fortune, and his access to the applied sciences department of the family company to create Batman, a second identity through which he hopes to avenge the murder of his parents and bring law and justice to corrupt Gotham. Aided by the faithful family butler, Alfred (Caine) and one of the few honest cops in the city, Jim Gordon (Oldman), Batman takes on the powerful Falcone crime syndicate and a strange plot being orchestrated by Dr. Jonathan Crane of Arkham Asylum (Murphy).

I avoided seeing this movie for a long time, because it's been at least ten years since I've read an issue of the monthly "Batman" comic I liked (some of the graphic novels and spin-off miniseries have been spectacular, but the core titles have not been anywhere near to the Batman stories I enjoy) and because other Batman movies from the last 20 or so years have been beyond bad. I was also afraid that this movie might be as drab as the "Batman: Year One" story from Frank Miller.

I am glad that I finally decided to heed the rave reviews of friends and take a look at it. It's an excellent chronicle of Bruce Wayne's start as Batman that manages to incorporate some of Batman's most terrifying foes in a sensible way--R'as Al-Guhl and the Scarecrow--and weaves an excellent thread about the power of fear through the film. The use and portrayal of Jim Gordon is in line with how the character has been used in comics like "Gordon of Gotham" and even "Batman: Year One" (Gordon's portrayal was one of the better aspects of that storyline). The treatment of Alfred was also excellent, and it was great to see Lucius Fox (played by Morgan Freeman) make an big-screen appearance. And then there's the Batmobile; the one in this movie has got to be the funkiest, funnest Batmobile that will ever appear on screen!

The acting was great all around, although I think Cillian Murphy was somewhat miscast as Jonathan Crane, because he's too young for the part; his performance was otherwise excellent. (I wonder if Oldman might not have made a better Crane, despite the fact he was a fine Jim Gordon.)

Finally, Gotham City looked better than it has any of the previous Batman movies; it actually seemed like a real city instead of a movie set or a model.

"Batman Begins" is a great action flick and perhaps the best screen adaptation of Batman so far. It stays loyal to the best aspects of the comic books while telling a unique story.


  1. I've got fond memories of seeing Batman Begins onscreen back when it was released; I'm still quite fond of it today. If I'm not completely enamored with it, it would probably be due to my wish that Nolan hadn't tried to make Gotham City look so... realistic. You comment in this review about how you liked that Gotham feels like a real city here, but honestly, I prefer Burton's Fritz Lang-inspired sets from the early 90's flicks. This is probably why I've always favored Burton's Batman Returns above the other movies: it has the sick and twisted elements of The Dark Knight AND it is so eloquently romanticized.

    What Nolan brought to the series that was so captivating was his rock-solid handling of the action sequences, as well as his writing style--I always thought it was cool how he's tried to Shakespearize the characters. Now if only he could make it look a little more dreamlike.

  2. I agree with your your comments... thanks for stopping by! (I'll also be posting reviews of Burton's Batman films next month, most likely.)

    As for "The Dark Knight," I've not seen it, and I probably won't for some time to come. I was so turned off by the "Heath Ledger or Jesus Christ... can any mortal tell them apart?"-type media coverage after Ledger's death that I can't stomach the idea of seeing this film, or the Terry Gilliam one he was making. (And I LOVE Terry Gilliam movies.)