140 minutes approx
Bruce Wayne -
Rachel Dawes -
Jim Gordon -
Jonathan Crane -
Lucius Fox -
Carmine Falcone -
Written by -
Christopher Nolan & David S Goyer
Directed by -
So BATMAN BEGINS<, and how. The question is whether this is the best Batman film of them all or the best superhero film of them all. The franchise that most of us had thought was dead and gone is reborn gloriously here, banishing tarnished memories of BATMAN AND ROBIN forever.
This is Batman's origin story, the tale of how a bereaved child, the victim of an awful, random crime, is transformed into a masked vigilante patrolling the night and saving those unable to save themselves. It starts off with Bruce Wayne in a Chinese prison (say what?) taking on what seems to be the whole population. There he is challenged by Henri Ducard to really take on evil, to face the fears within himself and come out as a member of the League of Shadows. Unfortunately, the last step in the training is one that Wayne can't take and so he returns home to fight evil in his own way, and not a moment too soon. Someone is bringing drugs into Gotham city in huge quantities and only putting half of it on the streets. Someone has stolen a top secret microwave emitter capable of flashing huge amounts of water to steam and someone wants Wayne's crusading legal friends dead.
The look of BATMAN BEGINS is astonishing. Gone are the hard black shadows and gothic stylings of Tim Burton's originals. Mercifully, there is also not a hint of neon blues, greens or pinks. Here the colours are muted, faded, washed out, reflecting the city of Gotham and the characters that inhabit it. Gotham is New York ultra. The buildings are recognisably real, but heightened. The aerial view seen as Bruce Wayne comes home, could be an aerial shot of the Big Apple. So whilst the city towers broodingly over slum streets suspension of disbelief is challenged only by the railroad system and even that ends up looking like the New York metro of a million movies.
The gloomy, edgy look the place is echoed in the stylings of the action. The camera flashes around the punch-ups in a hyped-up version of THE BOURNE SUPREMACY's kinetic action to the point that you don't see the punches land or the kicks connect, but it looks more real and heightens the grittiness. No MATRIX bullet time games here.
The gizmos, too, are stuck in the real world. The Batmobile is a military prototype and looks like it. The Batsuit takes most of the film to perfect and the bat-shaped Ninja stars that Wayne produces on a workshop lathe are decidedly low-tech.
What really grips, though, and lifts BATMAN BEGINS above the pack are the plot and the characters. Plot and character in a comic book movie - what will they think of next? The characters here are complex and conflicted, just as they were in the Burton versions, but the writing is infinitely better and the players excel in their roles almost across the board. Christian Bale as the coming of age Batman is perfect. Angry, confused and lashing out at himself and the world, his taking on the mantle of the bat never seems anything less than convincing. He is the core of the film and carries it with an ease an naturalness that none of the previous wearers of the suit were ever able to manage.
Support across the board is excellent. Liam Neeson is a stand out as Henri Ducard, Wayne's tutor, though there is more than a whiff of Qui-Gonn Jinn from THE PHANTOM MENACE in his mentor character.Michael Caine also steps in as Alfred the Butler and provides a measure of heart, just as Michael Gough did before him. Cillian Murphy's Dr Crane (aka The Scarecrow) is a terrifyingly convincing, brilliantly-played villain whose drug-induced tortures of fear make him a surprisingly effective and original bad guy likely to cause a few nightmares. Morgan Freeman plays the supplier of all Batman's gadgets and is as dependable as ever, though he can do this sort of thing in his sleep. When is he going to get another role to stretch him even a little bit? Katie Holmes is the girlfriend who is also a district attorney and so finds herself in peril more often than the average citizen of Gotham and the part is as thankless as it sounds.Gary Oldman is thankfully reined in as the young Jim Gordon (one day to make Commissioner, I'm sure) and so gives one of his better performances. Ken Watanabe is Ra's Al Ghul, the leader of the sect that trains Wayne to become the Bat and does all that is required of him, which is precious little to be fair. In fact, the only bum note in the whole cast is the usually reliable Tom Wilkinson as a tough american gang lord. Perhaps it's just all those memories of THE FULL MONTY, but I just couldn't believe in him.
So, the summer has well and truly started. You can forget REVENGE OF THE SITH, blockbuster season starts here. Can any of the rest of this year's offerings match up? It's a tough ask, so come on Messrs Spielberg and Cruise, bring it on because the Bat is back and in style.Top
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