Batman Begins (Review)

By now you either know that Batman Begins rocks and basically redefined the comic book film genre as we know it, or you don’t watch movies.

So rather than piss around for 1,000 words rehashing the story I’ll cut to the chase and tell you:

The 16 reasons why Batman Begins rocks.

(Alphabetically for your pleasure.)

The Action

In BB Bruce Wayne immerses himself in all sorts of undesirable locations and situations to toughen himself up. This results in him having a wide array of skills and talents developed over many years. The time he spends in Ra’s Al Ghul “funhouse” only furthers his training. This means when they start a fussin’ and a feudin’ Batman can throw down with the best of them.

The Audacity

Since the first big screen effort in 1989 there were numerous attempts to breathe life into the franchise, mostly by injecting the latest “it” actor (Clooney, Schwarzenegger and Barrymore spring to mind), or by talking up the villains rather than working on the story. So imagine coming in and saying “I’m a well respected director who has made a few films, not movies, and I want to start afresh with Batman and make a straight edge version with no flash or hoopla”.

Ballsy.

The Backstory

Rather than just tow the comic line, Nolan built around it to provide far more depth, after all this is not simply a comic with 64 pages, it is a 2+ hour feature film. So Bruce gets the reason for his fear of bats, his development into a fully fledged weapon is addressed in detail and his reasons for anger and determination are cleverly built into the story through his early relationship with Ducard.

The Bad Guys

Yeah the Riddler is funnier, the Penguin zany and Catwoman could have raised the Hotness quotient (imagine Scarlett Johansson in the catsuit instead of Iron Man 2… Wait, is it warm in here?), but instead Nolan kept plugging away using only villains whose existence and creation could be justified.

It COULD happen…

So we get Ra’s Al Ghul (what a handle) who is simply the leader of a longstanding top secret underworld organization, and the Scarecrow, who realistically is a normal guy with a tatty hessian bag on his head. It is the powder that he flings at the unsuspecting that creates the hallucinations. Neither has special powers, which allows the film to maintain its grip with reality.

The Batmobile

They call it the Tumbler in the film, but we all know it’s the Batmobile don’t we? And this is a bad-ass Batmobile, massive wheels, immense power, the chassis equivalent of a bull.

Sweeettt.

The thing actually really worked too, the special features showed the testing process, so most of the stuff in the film that makes you say Oooooh like the aliens in Toy Story 2 is actually real.

The Cast

 

Christian Bale

Morgan Freeman

Michael Caine

Liam Neeson

Cillian Murphy

Gary Oldman

Tom Wilkinson

Rutger Hauer…

Oh alright…

“I need to trade this in for something that can act.”

Katie Holmes!

(Not everything can be perfect.)

The “Comic-Book” Realism

Huh? What I mean is that the film stays firmly in the realistic lane at all times, but the backdrop, characters and dialogue also keep the film faithful to its comic book, ahem graphic novel origins.

Bruce Wayne inhabits a world that could almost exist in so called real life, but also a world that you could totally see with speech bubbles pasted near a character’s lips.

The Dialogue

Speaking of speech bubbles, what the character’s say in BB is obviously important, but instead of just pushing the story along there is a huge amount of depth and dare I say it eloquence in much of the dialogue. It sounds like they are trying to write their own desk calendar with inspirational or meaningful phrases for goodness’ sakes, there’s none of your banal wannabe-funny hack lines here.

Examples:

“Death does not wait for you to be ready! Death is not considerate, or fair! And make no mistake: here, you face Death.”

“When a forest grows too wild, a purging fire is inevitable and natural.”

“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I *do* that defines me.”

“I seek the means to fight injustice, to turn fear against those who prey on the fearful.”

The Director

I’ll let Mr Nolan’s CV since 2000 speak for itself:

(On a related topic, I can’t wait for Inception!)

The Fallibility

Bruce/Batman is just a bloke with some pretty nifty equipment and some impressive physical skills, that doesn’t mean he can’t get hit on occasion.

Being a guy that has sworn to take on crime in all forms it actually means he cops more than his fair share of whacks. Bumps, bruises and near misses are very much the order of the day and Bruce must be patched up on more than one occasion. He also makes mistakes from time to time, and by the very nature of who he is that results in him alienating and pushing aside those close to him.

The Intricacy

As well as the backstory and the character development, little touches like having to order 10,000 masks to avoid suspicion, or how the League of Shadows ninja dudes synchronise their movements to confuse Bruce in early scenes. These little touches all help mesh together the scenes with minimal reason for “what the”.

(But I will always wonder why the flashest opera house in Gotham City has an exit that leads to the filthiest most dangerous alley in Gotham City, another time maybe.)

The Justification

In the early films Bruce is a millionaire playboy who more or less “dabbles” in crime fighting, at least so it seems. Yeah his parents were killed when he was very young but Cloon-Tang, Kilmer and Keaton seemed to spend as much time chasing tail as they did bad guys.

In BB Bruce’s Dad (who was the coolest Dad EVER by the way), was killed in front of his eyes same as before (so was his Mum by the way, but she had 2 words, not lines of dialogue before getting offed). In BB Bruce blames himself for not acting and for putting them in the alley in the first place. Also, everything that happens along the way gives Bruce more reason to stick to his guns and try to help save Gotham, largely from itself.

The Little Touches

  • Bruce feels that he has the upper hand on Ducard in a duel? Not so fast, you can’t win yet.
  • Sergeant Gordon is an honest cop you say? Well let’s show him on a ridealong with a genuinely corrupt cop to prove it.
  • Katie Holmes is a terrible actress and really the only weak point in the film? Well let’s get her in a shiny shirt and have her walk around in freezing cold weather so her nipples poke through.

Attention to detail folks.

The Scope

The action in BB takes place over many continents, there are over a dozen main characters whose dealings and actions reverberate through the story creating implications for others.

Bruce Wayne starts the story a boy, develops into a young man with seriously high minded aspiration, and assumes the identity of a masked vigilante public defender, fighting organized crime and a vastly superior secret organization, defending his city and friends along the way.

All in just over 2 hours. (Batman & Robin was 90 minutes of lingering close ups of various celebrities wearing various outfits, male or female.)

The Seriousness

It would be a little remiss of me to label this as totally somber. BB is not Babel or 21 seconds by any stretch, but every aspect of BB, even those that would ordinarily seem far fetched, are treated with absolute respect and seriousness by the filmmakers.

  • He’s dressed like a bat. Let’s tell ‘em why.
  • Yeah Batman has a cape, well let’s give a reason behind how the thing works.
  • Bad guys want to destroy Gotham City, well let’s give them a reason for wanting to do so, a history that shows they’ve done it before and therefore should be taken seriously, and a valid reason for Bruce Wayne to want to try to stop them.

No nip-nips in this film buddy.

And so on and so forth. Every aspect of BB is checked and double checked so that it makes sense.

The Tone

I think by now I’ve identified that this is a superior piece of filmmaking, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see how well the films holds together. Any “lighter” moments occur in the flow of the storyline or scene and never feel forced, there aren’t any embarrassing parades like in the 89 Batman, or ridiculous plot devices or characters like Batman & Robin or Batman Forever.

This is an exercise in maintaining the story at all costs, and everything moves along deliberately as they achieve that goal.

Now the 6 things they left out that helped.

(Addition by Subtraction.)

Buzzworthy Music

No Prince (and I love Prince but really). No Smashing Pumpkins. No U2. No Seal. No R Kelly. No “Music inspired by the film” crap.

Cheese

No Californian Governors butchering dialogue: “Yowah naht sending ME to da coolah!” “Ice to see you.” Ugh.

No bat-nipples leading to talks about the homosexual subtext of the film.

Cliched Nods

No stupid cameos featuring famous friends of the director or stars.

No “inside jokes” that are talked up so much in interviews and the press that they become “outside jokes” (and aren’t funny in any case).

Flavour of the Month Characters

No actors chosen for roles because they might look good in a catsuit, or more relevantly a Poison Ivy suit. No roles for Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Kardashians, the cast or Grey’s Anatomy, Lost or the latest reality TV crap.

Everyone onscreen is either an actor first-movie star last.

OK except for Katie Fucking Holmes! Why Christopher Why?

Pop-Culture References

Batman doesn’t show up at a ball held by Oprah or Trump, Wayne isn’t interviewed by Oprah, Ellen or Tyra.

No “famous” reporters are on the scene giving reports of his acts.

Bruce doesn’t go to a Laker game and talk to Kobe and Phil, or hang out with Jay Z after one of his shows.

Self Conscious Cool

No scenes where the director slo-mo’s the action and shows it from 27 angles. No extraneous use of diversionary techniques such as cartoon elements (The Losers / Youth in Revolt), or nods or glances to the camera.

No ridiculous non-sequitors or buzzworthy phrases uttered to an empty room after all bad guys are dispatched.

(Now *GULP*, in the interest of full transparency.)

What went WRONG with Batman Begins.

1/ The Joker card “left at the scene” used to indicate what is coming in BB2. Just a little forced and unnecessary.

(½ point deduction.)

2/ Do I need to say it? K-T Cruise. (I even read she had the part written with her in mind. Someone is a seriously deluded and misguided Dawson’s Creek fan!)

(½ point deduction. I’m being generous here.)

Maybe it’s just female actors, cos Maggie Gyllenhaal was even worse!

Final Rating – 9 / 10. At last a comic book movie done right!

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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