Posted on 10/26/10 04:34 PM
BATMAN BEGINS. That title only shows up at the very end of the film. As if to say that the preceding two hours and every previous film in the franchise was just a warm-up, and now it's time for the real show to start. And what a show indeed. Batman Begins is easily one of the best movies in the franchise, as well as a great comic book movie and yet another wonderful addition to Nolan's canon.
Batman Begins details the origin story of the famed superhero. Bruce Wayne is searching for understanding or something in Asia's criminal underworld when he is invited to become part of the League of Shadows, an organization of warriors that seek to rid the world of evil. When he discovers that their next target is Gotham, he destroys the League of Shadows and returns home. There he begins his journey to becoming the vigilante hero that we all know and love.
This story in the Batman saga was long overdue. Just about every first entry in a superhero genre is an origin story. However, the Batman franchise never really got this treatment more than a flashback and character monologue in Batman Forever. I appreciate what they tried to do there, but it needs more than that. And Nolan gave us not only Wayne's origins, but offers a psychological study of the man behind the mask. We get to see that he's just as vulnerable as everyone else, just very driven and committed to justice and good.
The story is also one that I've never heard about before, so it was surprising and interesting. The most recognizable villain here is Scarecrow, but even he doesn't get that much screen time. Rather, we get a lesser known villain, Ra's al Ghul (I had to look that one up to get the spelling right), that plays a more integral part to the development of Bruce's character. It's great to see a superhero film that focuses more on story and character development than flash and thrills.
I'm gonna give kudos to those responsible for capturing the grittiness of Gotham like never before. We don't usually get grit and seriousness like this outside of R-rated films, and especially not in comic book movies. But Nolan makes it work extremely well. The tone of the movie is very dark, a mood more fitting of this universe than the camp and silliness of past entries. You can see how corrupt, dangerous, and menacing the city is without simply being told that it is.
The cast is full of top-notch actors and most performances in the film are superb. Christian Bale is probably the best actor to ever play Batman ever, Adam West be damned. He gets Bruce's vulnerability down perfectly and he's just perfect. I've heard people make fun of his Batman voice, the growl, but I think it's quite menacing and very great. Liam Neeson is a fantastic actor and he is amazing as the villain. Michael Caine adds the comic relief as Alfred, and I love him in this role. Cillian Murphy is creepy and cold and gives another great performance. Every performance is great. The weak link, however, is Katie Holmes. She's serviceable, but her character sometimes came off as annoying, and she was distracting and laughable during the scenes when she was gassed. I'm just glad they got a different actress for The Dark Knight.
Up until this point, it sounds like a serious movie, which it is. But it's also a summer superhero movie, so there's gonna be action and thrills aplenty. The gadgets for this movie in particular are really cool. I love the new batmobile (it's a fuckin tank!!!) and I thought it was cool how the film showed him making his gadgets. The action sequences are awesome and satisfying, particularly the chase scene when the batmobile flies from rooftop to rooftop.
Nolan has more than succeeded in making a satisfying and excellent follow-up to Schumacher's last crap fest. It offers the much needed and very interesting back-story to the character and sets up very well for the sequel. Combine this with The Dark Knight, and the next director to helm a Batman movie will have some very big shoes to fill.