Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Today's Movie/TV Review: BATMAN BEGINS

In the last twenty years you can't find two worse movies than Batman Forever and the biggest dog of them all, Batman and Robin.
While both movie and comic fans were often split over Tim Burton's two Batman films, it was universally acknowledged that Joel Schumacher not only killed the Batman film franchise in 1997 but also put a hurting on comic book movie adaptations in general.

Thanks in part to both the Spider-Man and X-Men films, moviemakers learned that if you write a strong script, hire a great cast and have a director who respects the original material that not only will the finished product be good, but the people will come and see it - in droves!

I finally got to the theatre last night and saw Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins and boy, was it good!

Based (in part) on the excellent 1980's mini-series Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, Batman Begins covers the ground between the death of Bruce Wayne's parents and his debut as the caped crusader.

Nolan does a great job covering all the bases, from Bruce's deep rooted fear of bats as a child, to his lost years as a wealthy youth filled with despair looking for some direction and falling in with the criminal element. Along the way he's trained and discovers answers within a dangerous Ninja Cult, lead by it's mysterious leader, Ra's al Ghul.

When he finally returns to Gotham, Bruce creates his new persona, one that will strike fear into the hearts of the criminals that prey upon his city. How he gathers his crime fighting weapons, creates his costume and construct the bat cave are very well done, and smartly written.

Eventually, this new guardian of the people, comes across a nefarious plot that starts with
local mob boss Carmine Falcone, a twisted Doctor (nicknamed "The Scarecrow") and ends in a possible end to the city of Gotham itself.

Not only is this a strong, tight story, but what a great cast! Bale does a nice job both as Wayne and Batman, easily the best actor to ever portray the Dark Night Detective. Also good (though I wish he was in the film more) is Gary Oldman as Jim Gordan. I've always felt that Gordan is almost as important as Batman when it comes to defending Gotham, and it's also great seeing Oldman play a sane character for once.

But easily stealing the film is Michael Caine as Alfred. Every scene, every line and every nuance by Caine is a winner here. Alfred is extremely important to the mythos of Batman and Caine makes this devoted butler his own.

Other nice performances by Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Liam Neeson as Bruce's trainer and Cillian Murphy who (wisely) downplays The Scarecrow more than make up for perhaps the weakest part of the film.

Katie Holmes plays Assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes and everytime she's on the screen, she brings the film to a screeching halt. OK, she's not nearly as bad or annoying as Kim Bassinger in Batman or Nicole Kidman in Batman Forever but that's not saying much. I felt that her character brought nothing to the story or the film, with the exception that someone, somewhere said "We gotta have a romantic interest here!"

That being said, my first thought as I sat and watched the end credits was, "When do we get the sequel!! I want to see more!!!"

And I can't think of a better thing to say about a picture than that.

So let's stand atop the highest building in Gotham and give Batman Begins a well deserved:

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