Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Batman Begins

Where to begin...

This is a nearly PERFECT comic book movie. Probably one of, if not THE best one ever made. It's so good it makes the Tim Burton film look like a TV movie.

Why, you say? Well, I'll tell you.

1. It takes itself seriously. There is no cheese present during any of its 2 1/2 hour runtime. There’s over-the-top moments, but nothing that would make someone roll their eyes and say "Huh?".

2. The caliber of actors on display here is mind-bogglingly amazing. There are more Oscar winners/nominees doing their thing in this flick than any other picture I can ever remember seeing: Tom Wilkinson, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe and Morgan Freeman. Plus you have legendary actors like Rutger Hauer, Gary Oldman and Linus Roache as well.

3. The focus stays on the title character. All of the other Batman films usually put equal, if not more emphasis on the villains than Batman. I recall in the original film the Joker had more screen time than both Bruce Wayne and Batman combined. Not here. Bruce Wayne and Batman ARE what the movie is about. The villains are there, but they are second fiddle to the hero. That's the way it should be.

4. No CGI overload. I read that director Christopher Nolan wanted to do virtually everything real for real. He accomplished it. There is only CGI when necessary, like aerial establishing shots of the fictional Gotham City, aerial stunts no human being or vehicle could possibly perform, enhancements to the cinematography when Scarecrow's toxin is affecting someone, or just things that would cost billions of dollars to build from scratch (the monorail). Everything is filmed on a set or a location (no greenscreen), and most of the stunts are real. The CGI bats looked real, but you gotta know that's fake.

5. Perfect casting. Christian Bale didn't seem like a good choice to play The Dark Knight, but after seeing him in action he was the only choice out of the majority of actors working today. He is equally impressive as Bruce Wayne the brooding loner, Bruce Wayne the millionaire playboy, and The Caped Crusader. He changes his voice just enough to be menacing when donning the cape and cowl and he works.

Katie Holmes was another choice I was doubting would work, but she pulled it off. I've never see her acting so serious in a film. You could tell she was really into it and she shares a great chemistry with Bale. I hope they continue to use her as the main love interest for the entire series instead of the 'Chick of the Week' routine they used in the other four films.

6. No hokey love story. Sure there is a sexual tension between Katie Holmes and Christian Bale, but it never goes beyond that. There's no obligatory sex scene or making out scene. The movie is better without it.

7. Action. Great car chase scenes (that was filmed in Chicago!), brutal fights and mayhem galore! This film is the perfect mix of drama and action.

8. Pacing. The movie takes it's time getting to the meat of the story (you don't see Batman until an hour into the film), but you never feel bored once. Everything is interesting either visually or thematically and I'm glad they went that route instead of starting off the movie with a big action scene and working backwards from there. It starts off showing you where Batman came from and what Bruce Wayne had to go through to become him. It works. And once Batman shows up the film continues moving at a steady pace that never slows down.

9. Batman is scary! That's the way his character is supposed to be. Bruce chose the bat as his symbol because it's scary to him, and he uses it to inflict fear into those he preys upon. When Batman is taking out thugs or other evildoers it's filmed like a slasher flick. Quick cuts of someone moving in the background, just out of sight. Then when you least expect it there's a STING! and blammo! He's right behind you.

10. The director and screenwriter. Christopher Nolan (who directed the impressive Memento and the sub-par Insomnia) was the perfect choice to direct this film. He did with this material what Bryan Singer did with “X-Men” (he made a serious film out of cheesy source material). This could have strayed into silliness at any time, but Nolan keeps it focused and on course for the whole run time.

David Goyer (who wrote the three Blade films) should have put the kind of effort into his Blade: Trinity script that he put into this. It would have been a whole hell of a lot better. You can tell he is a Batman fan and wanted to do the character right after the travesty that was Batman & Robin. He did.

11. The Music. The score by Hans Zimmer (my all-time favorite composer) and James Newton Howard is awesome. While it doesn't have a grand theme like the original film, the title character's theme is brooding and dark; lots of violins and other strings enhanced by a great bassline. The action music is energetic without compromising the darkness of the main themes. Long story short I'm buying this soundtrack. 
12. The villains. The other films in the series usually threw in any old villain that was available with little thought, especially in the fourth film. Sure in this movie they use villains that haven't been seen in a flick before (Scarecrow, Ra's Al Ghul and Falcone), but they actually fit into the story instead of just being there to be a bad guy. The Ra's Al Ghul character is there to show Bruce Wayne what it is to be a defender of justice (in a twisted sort of way), and Scarecrow is all about fear; the kind of fear that the Batman wishes to use upon his victims. There's no "I'm Mr. Freeze and I am here to cause havoc just because I can!" The villains have a purpose and motives, and they are developed properly instead of just being caricatures.

All of these traits combine into a nearly perfect comic book film. It's entertaining, thrilling, thoughtful and filled with great characters and a wonderful plot. Go see it NOW!

P.S. the set up for the sequel was brilliant.

5 out of 5

*written 6/20/05

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