As I bought some goodies
at the concession stand before seeing Batman Begins, the clerk asked me if
I was a fan of the Batman comics or the movies.
When I replied "the comics," he asked if that was Frank Miller's
version of Batman or before. I said, "Much earlier, like the early 1970s." "Oh," he
replied, "when it was campy. When superheroes used oatmeal pies to beat
the bad guys." I laughed and said, "Yeah, I guess you're right."
Starring: Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, and
If the next few movies in the series
are as good as Batman Begins, the movie characterizations of Batman will
be also be divided into two groups: the movies
that came before Batman Begins, or "the bad ones," and those including
Batman Begins and beyond, or "the good ones."
Begins explains how Bruce
Wayne (Christian Bale) establishes the persona of The Batman. The film begins
with Wayne in a Chinese prison, fighting the
other prisoners and beating them senseless. He is approached by Henri Ducard
(Liam Neeson), who promises Wayne freedom if he will join the League of Shadows,
a sort of mystical ninja vigilante group that have been "keeping balance
in civilization" for thousands of years. Wayne accepts his offer for training
and Ducard teaches him the ways of combat, deception and weaponry.
We learn through flashbacks that Wayne's billionaire parents were gunned down
by a thug in an alley, even though Wayne's father attempted to rid Gotham City
of crime and poverty. Bruce, blaming himself for the murder, fled Gotham in
attempt to learn the ways of the criminal mind so he could understand the forces
he would eventually try to tackle to enact revenge for his parents' death.
With Ducard's training completed, he eventually returns to Gotham City and
creates the Batman character to protect his identity and keep his loved ones
safe from harm.
While I'm leaving out a few key plot points, the movie does an admirable job
of reinventing the Batman character without making him cartoon-like or campy
at all. This Batman is believable and that's the key to the film's success.
Although some of the situations might be straight out of the comics, the core
of the film -- Batman's motivation and characterization -- are captivating
and interesting. Where the other Batman films were either freak-shows or all
out camp-fests, this movie is all about doing what needs to be done to save
those you hold dear.
Christian Bale deserves a large part of the credit for making this the most
successful Batman adaptation to date. His Bruce Wayne is charming, slick and
handsome. His Batman is menacing and properly equipped in both gadgets and
attitude. Usually, the actor portraying the character is good at one side of
the character but not the other. Michael Keaton was OK as Batman but was good,
albeit aloof, as Bruce Wayne. George Clooney was an excellent, if less-than-serious,
Batman but not very good as Bruce Wayne. I won't even mention Val Kilmer, who
wasn't particularly good as either persona.
The impressive supporting cast are also worth noting. Michael Caine is a perfect
Alfred, providing just enough comic relief to keep the film from being too
dour. Liam Neeson makes a great tutor for the young Bruce Wayne, recalling
a bit of his Qui-Gon character from Star Wars: Episode I, but a lot more interesting.
It's always good to see Rutger Hauer on-screen and he's given a nice role.
The only downer? Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, a D.A. who's a thorn in the
side of Gotham's crime lords.
By keeping the focus on Batman, director Christopher Nolan and co-writer David
S. Goyer, have done what Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher consistently failed
to do: make a great Batman movie. While it's a little more psychologically
intense than any other comic book film, it's also a heck of a lot more interesting
and entertaining than most as well. Batman Begins is more like Batman Reborn.
shooting on the streets of Chicago, a person accidentally crashed into
the Batmobile. The driver was apparently drunk, and said he hit the car
in a state of panic, believing the Dark Knight's vehicle to be an invading
alien spacecraft. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)