Review: Batman Begins
Last Thursday I finally got around to seeing Batman Begins. Being an avid comics fan and having been disappointed majorly by Daredevil and Hulk, I was very pleasantly surprised when I finally saw the movie. This is easily the best Batman movie to reach movie theatres. Here's a few reasons and observations so you can decide for yourself:
The main thing that screws up my enjoyment of Scifi and Fantasy movies these days is the story arc. Many movies these days spend ages on exposition, then have a dramatic climax with lots of pyrotechnics, and then just stop. Daredevil was a prime example for this deficiency. They just had Matt and Kingpin fight, then Matt told Fisk he wouldn't kill him and that's it. No mention that Fisk knows Matt is Daredevil, no hint at dangers to come, nothing.
Batman Begins on the other hand has a well-developed and healthy curve in its story arc. There's lots of exposition, but against my fears, it works just fine in relation to the remainder of the story. The pacing of the story is pretty much perfect. They get you into the story, and into this world smoothly. Once you've gotten over the idea that there may be a secret society like Ra's al Ghul's, and a city like Gotham, the whole movie is consistent in itself and works just beautifully.
Another nice aspect is the dialogue: There are so many lines that get picked up again and again. Not in the melodramatic way most Hollywood movies do, but more in a throwaway fashion, like it would be in real life. And these are lines that actually make some sense, not distant ideals, but concrete pieces of advice. Although the Batman has ideals, he's probably one of the most pragmatic super-heroes, and it shows in every nook and cranny of the movie.
|All of this would make for a nice movie, but then you get the actors. Here we have Christian Bale, a man who could make Equilibrium work as more than a Matrix rip-off (and the first Batman actor since Adam West who didn't have those pouty lips). We have Michael Caine an established actor who exudes seriousness and trustworthiness when he needs to, but has played so many different roles in such great ways he raises the entire movie a notch. A great Batman needs a great Alfred, something Dennis O'Neil and the other Batman: Knightfall writers noticed and used to great advantage, and which David Goyer incorporated into this movie. The moment you see Alfred's reaction to Bruce's opinion of Wayne Manor, you know there can be no other Alfred.
|"Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible... a... a..."|
As if in answer, a huge bat flies in the open window!
Bob Kane: Detective Comics
We have Liam Neeson, a favorite of genre fans who shows that, while he may not have a good hand at choosing decent parts, he finds an occasional gem nonetheless and proves the original Darkman wasn't a fluke. We have Gary Oldman as Lt. Gordon, the Batman's first ally, played as the lone idealist of Gotham PD, and who with this role finally gained my forgiveness for the atrocity that was the Lost in Space remake. A surprise to me was Cillian Murphy as Dr. Crane. Looking like the nondescript second villain, he was given a backstory that tied all the loose ends together, and drew in numerous other aspects of Batman lore.
Morgan Freeman and Katie Holmes didn't get much to do, but just like Alfred, they provided the necessary support. Batman can't realistically happen without anyone noticing, but David Goyer's Batman has supporters in the right places. And with Katie's Rachel, we have the character that can demonstrate to us the real world's view of the Batman.
The characters are where this movie has its strength. While the plot and the story arc provide a solid foundation, the author intelligently wove the core aspects of Batman into the whole plot, but not ostentatiously so. If you want to know what Batman really is about, this is the best movie to tell you. And if you'd rather read, there's always Dennis O'Neil's Batman: Knightfall novelization.