"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Monday, September 22, 2008

Movie Review: Batman Begins

I was able to catch a lot of movies flying back & forth to Germany these past two weeks in case you were wondering why so many moview reviews.

So how did Batman become Batman? Well, this movie basically provided me the lowdown on all of that, as well as all of the background required to understand his transformation from young, rich punk to old, rich punk with a huge chip on his shoulder and a Batsuit in his closet. Add to that, trouble in his city of Gotham by the way of a variety of baddies, and I've got a movie co-starring that Katie Holmes for whom Tom Cruise likes to jump on couches. What ensues is lots of cool bat-shite…!

A dark, edgy, origin-based Batman flick that kicks the asses of the last two Bat-tries, kickstarts the disenfranchised franchise and finally provides me with an actor who is completely believable as both Bruce Wayne and Batman himself, Christian Bale. Batman Begins is great movie in many ways, but didn’t completely blow me away, as it seems to have others, with a small number of nagging bits, nudging me along the way. First, allow me to get the good stuff out of the way.

Based in reality, unlike its predecessors, this film really gave me that sense of a world that might actually be possible, with characters, gadgets and situations, all set in an environment that doesn’t go over-the-top (the little amount of CGI in the film also helped to that effect). That said, that realistic approach actually bothered me a little about halfway through the film, as I was impressed by its ability to keep things realistic, but missing the “fun” aspect from the comics and the first two Bat-flicks. The film’s grandly entertaining finale did make up for some of that though.

The actors in the film were also great across the board, particularly Bale, who I’ve fallen in love with since American Psycho, and who here, continued to embody characters entirely, with a rendition of Bruce Wayne that married his anger, humor and action-man personas idyllically. Tom Wilkinson was also tops as Falcone, as was Michael Caine as Alfred the Butler, adding that required sense of Wayne history and honor to the proceedings.

Bad-guy wise, I have to give the thumbs up to Cillian Murphy, super-creepy as Dr. Crane and the Scarecrow (maybe even more so as Dr. Crane!) with a steely look that would put the fear in anyone. Gary Oldman was good, but I wish he had a little more to do, while Katie Holmes actually wasn’t as bad as I thought she might be, in fact, she was just fine. Unfortunately for her, I thought that her character was too young to play that role, and would have preferred to see an older actress in her place.

Kudos also go out to director Christopher Nolan who was able to nix Joel Schumacher’s disaster Batman scenarios, and present the world with something a lot closer to what we’ve been reading in the comics for years, as well as a great pace, respected thespians, a memorable score, a decent amount of action pieces, and the return of the friggin’ dark knight…with the emphasis on the word “dark”.

That said, I had a bunch of “little problems” with the film, the biggest of which would probably have to be its fight sequences – the hand-to-hand combat stuff – which much like many of the most recent Hollywood flicks, were simply edited too fast, cut too quickly and left way too much to the imagination (Is that his hand? Was that his leg? Was that the baddie kicking him or he kicking the baddie?). For goodness sakes, why don’t directors leave the camera back a ways anymore, so that the audience can actually see the people fighting? Quick-cut-fighting sucks!!

Other small bits that bugged me included Batman’s voice when he was Batman, versus his voice as Bruce Wayne. In theory, I was actually very much for this idea, as it makes more sense to change your voice when you’re in a friggin’ Batsuit, but every time Bale spoke in that voice, I just thought it sounded goofy and forced.

I also didn’t like how they ended things with the Scarecrow (that’s the best that you could come up with?), thought the design of the Arkham Asylum was boring as heck, appreciated the scenes with the “Tumbler”, but still missed the Batmobile (which really can’t be replaced by an all-terrain vehicle – sorry!) and didn’t like the handful of one-liners one bit.

Last paragraph aside, I really did enjoy the movie overall, with its awesome look, its brilliant story, providing me with a great sense of why this dude decided to don Batman, and the charismatic performance by Bale, and creepiness from Wilkinson and Murphy, providing the film with just that right amount of evil. Gotham City was also wickedly designed, and the film’s subway conclusion was a breathtaking ride.

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