Strange Brouhaha

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Batman Begins

(Warning: Minor spoilers ahead, although they're mostly backstory spoilers, so this warning is primarily intended for people who aren't familiar with Batman. The one big spoiler has a warning attached.)

Holy crap.

No, I mean it: holy crap. Seriously.

There have been a lot of different takes on the Bat over the years. Every new writer, every new artist, brings something new to Batman in the comics. Every actor who plays him brings something, even Adam West. Even Val Kilmer. Every director brings something, although I wish that Joel Schumacher would have left his something at home.

What Christopher Nolan and David Goyer and Christian Bale have created is nothing short of...well, it's almost perfect in every way. Here's the take-home, no matter what else I say: I really loved this movie, and it's really, really good.

The acting was, I thought, really good. Gary Oldman, in essentially a throw-away role as Officer/Sgt./Lt. Jim Gordon, was FANTASTIC. I don't have the superlatives to describe it, really. He just kind of takes That Gary Oldman Thing and turns it on its head and is just...look, he's good. Michael Caine was a great choice to play Alfred, and he and Christian Bale really nail the relationship between Alfred and Bruce. Liam Neeson's Dark Side Qui-Gon Jinn was great. Morgan Freeman took his nothing role and fashioned it into a something role. Christian Bale was fine, but his best scenes came when he played against one of those guys, almost as if he was only as good as the actors around him: when he played against Katie Holmes, let's just say that the superlatives weren't flying.

The writing was good, too. They very nearly perfectly nailed the character of Batman, and while there were some problems with glaringly obvious plot devices in the script, the fact that I can't remember any specifically right now must count for something.

Visually, it was incredible. (I need to head to the thesaurus or something; this is like pointing, drooling and saying "Gooooooood!" in my best Patrick Star impression.) This is a very scary movie, especially when the Scarecrow's fear gas is in effect. Batman himself is absolutely terrifying in places, like when we see him from the point of view of a criminal and the camera is shaking and Batman is yelling...good stuff. And Gotham City is stunning as well, far better than Tim Burton's Gotham, which itself was excellent. This one is much more fully realized: you get the sense that it's a city, rather than a collection of big, dark canyons.

Even the sound is superb. I don't usually comment on the sound in movies; the last time I said to myself "Holy cow, the sound is great!" was when we saw "Titanic." The scene where Bruce's parents get killed is absolutely gut-wrenching, in large part due to the gunshot FX.

I have two complaints about the movie.

The first one is that it should have been better. Remember how I said the acting was good? It was, and the actors all turned in credible performances. But when you have this much acting power in your movie, it just seems to me that you should get to do more with it. I'm not sure what the solution would be, or if there is one, but it felt like the varsity turning in a JV performance, the functional equivalent of somehow getting Robert DeNiro to be in your student film and having him sit and do nothing. I just felt that there should have been more. It's a strange mixture of disappointment and elation. In a sense, that means it's a success for Nolan and his crew, because they left me wanting more.

My second complaint is a spoiler. I will make the text white; if you want to read it, just highlight the next paragraph.

There is one aspect of Batman's character that Hollywood pretty consistently gets wrong, and it's a pretty major one: Batman Does Not Kill. Furthermore, if he can help it, he doesn't allow people to die through his own inaction. Not even his enemies. It was a complete and total disappointment when he said to Ra's Al Ghul, "I'm not going to kill you. But I don't have to save you," and then let him die in the train. This is the big reason why I keep saying that the movie is "nearly" perfect.

Now for the big question: would I recommend that you go see this movie?

If you like Batman, yes. Absolutely. I recommend this without hesitation. If you are a fan, you should pretty much love this movie. But be forewarned that it's very, very intense. If you're a fan of Adam West's Batman, but not Frank Miller's Dark Knight, then you're in for a rough two hours. This movie is very much in the mold of the much-mocked "grim-n-gritty" early '90s general trend in comics; I don't mind loud, banging action movies, but this had even me flinching in places. It's very, very heavy, very intense. If you're particularly sensitive, skip it.


  • (Josh) Penny loved it, I thought it was very good. This is probably dumb, but I just wish that actors playing Batman would drop the husky "I'm Batman" voice. By the end of this movie, I almost couldn't take it.

    Also, Katie's comment about it not being the same Bruce Wayne who'd come back - what?! She'd spoken something like three sentences to him. What are you talking about?

    Still, highly enjoyable. Blew SWIII away.

    This weekend: War Of The Worlds (although I'll probably buy a ticket to something else to keep my dough out of L Ron's hands)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:23 PM  

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