BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
Watched this while I sat on the couch in my Thanksgiving food coma and decided to write a more comprehensive review then I had when it first came out…
After the disastrous Batman and Robin, the Batman series went on hiatus until Chris Nolan rebooted the series with this dark and yet energetic film that returns Batman (Christian Bale) to his origins and portrays The Dark Knight like he should have been portrayed all along, a dark brooding character who dwells in the shadows and not a cabaret act with plastic nipples on his costume. The story starts off with a first half that flashes back and forth between Bruce Wayne’s life as a child (Gus Lewis) and young adult and the subsequent murder of his parents in front of him, and his modern day quest to get deep inside the criminal mind-set by living and acting among them. While in jail in South Asia, Wayne is confronted by Ducard (Liam Neeson) an emissary for Ra’s al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) a mystic who promises to give him the means to fight the criminal element. Ducard trains Wayne in the art of the ninja but, when Bruce finds that Ra’s methods include murder, he rebels and destroys The League Of Shadows hideout before returning to Gotham to put his training to use as a symbol of good who’ll combat the evil rotting away at Gotham… and The Batman is born. But not only must Batman, along with his trusty butler Alfred (a brilliant Michael Caine), scientist Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and good cop Sgt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), battle crime boss Carmine Falcone (Tom WIlkinson) and the psychotic Dr. Jonathan Crane AKA The Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) but, a resurrected Ra’s al Ghul who has a catastrophic plan for the city of Gotham. Now that Nolan’s classic Batman trilogy is complete, I can say that this first entry is the lightest and least drama heavy of the three… thought it is far darker and more intense then the previous series. While Batman/Wayne is a brooding character, he has yet to gain the weariness and emotional battle scars he would experience in the following entries. And that works here as we see a Batman who is new at this crime fighting gig and is kinda enjoying it before the weight of the responsibility he has given himself sets in. There is depth to the character and Bale makes a great Bruce Wayne/Batman bringing the pain and rage that drives him to life, without losing the hero in the process. As for his beginnings, the story not only handles the origin strongly but, gives us some strikingly powerful scenes that give us a far better sense of how this man came to be who he is, far better then the Burton film did. Chris Nolan creates a dark and gothic Batman, both visually and conceptually, but, never gets swallowed up by it. The film is still fast paced and exceptionally entertaining despite it’s dark trappings and Nolan also mixes in 3 villains and large cast of characters and does it without creating an overcrowded mess as with the last film. Every character is developed properly and a fine cast gets equal credit. And what a cast it is. This is possibly one of the best cast films… and series… that you can get. As stated, Bale is great in the part, he creates a Batman who is strong and noble yet very human and he creates a multi-layered Bruce Wayne who is carefree playboy to the outside world and a complex and emotionally scarred man to those few close to him. Watching him evolve the characters over the next two films is a cinematic treat. Caine is simply brilliant as the supportive, caring and honorable Alfred, as is Freeman as the Wayne Enterprises scientist who answers the question “Where does he get those wonderful toys?” and Oldman as the possibly last honest cop in Gotham, who may now have an ally who is above all the corruption and serves the same noble purpose. We can see the hope it gives him, thought is is imbued with caution. Neeson is near perfect… as always… as the villain who shares Batman’s nobility but, with a far different set of principles and methods. Cillian Murphy is slimy and creepy as both Crane and his alter ego Scarecrow and has some amusing cameos in the following entries. Tom Wilkinson practically steals the show as Carmine Falcone, the smug mob boss with a sarcastic sense of humor that makes him even more threatening. Katie Homes may not be quite up to the caliber as some of her co-stars but, she does present a strong and spunky assistant D.A., Rachel Dawes, who is quite believable when she stands up to Falcone’s thugs and Crane’s Scarecrow on her own and also as a caring love interest to Bruce. Rounding out are Rutger Hauer as Wayne Enterprises CEO with his own agenda, Mark Boone Junior as Gordon’s crooked partner and the incomparable Shane Rimmer as a DWP technician. Batman Begins is a great comic book movie and is still one of the best Batman films despite being overshadowed by the masterpiece that is it’s sequel and the epic and operatic third entry. It’s the most “fun” of the three modern classics Nolan has crafted and a great start to a film trilogy that is simply of of the best trilogies in movie history. A Bat Blast!
3 and 1/2 Bats with bats!