Review: Batman Begins

Filed under: Reviews

The caped crusader and his plight to rid his beloved Gotham of evil, begins again.

Many of us remember the crazed anticipation to see the dark knight thwart evil back in the classic 1989 Tim Burton-directed superhero film, Batman. Audiences cheered when Michael Keaton grabbed that thug on the rooftop and uttered "I'm Batman".

That was sixteen years ago, and since then it seems that our hero in black has seen many different incarnations over the years, from a critically-acclaimed animated series to those infamous "bat-nipples" and "latex buttocks shots". Yes, that's right, I dare utter the name Schumacher.

It seemed that silly incomprehensible incarnation of the dark detective was to be the last time we saw him on the silver screen.

Now in 2005, it seems the studio has apologized, but I have yet to see a hard copy or my refund for witnessing the schlock version that was delivered by director Joel Schumacher.

The 2005 version of Batman seems to be awakening from the frightful past, revisiting what makes the character tick.

The film opens where a worn-down and lost Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is locked away in a Chinese prison. Upon his release, Bruce journeys across a desolate wasteland and climbs a mountain where meets up with Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), who takes him under his wing and teaches him discipline, strength, and the mysteries of the ninja. Their training is watched by a villainous ninja overlord, Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe).

When the film returns to Gotham, Bruce begins his crusade to clean up the poverty-stricken city and needs the assistance of his family butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) and weapons expert Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Let the crusade begin.

Director Christopher Nolan painstakingly tries to build on the classic origin of Batman by uncovering a chunk of the mythos that hasn't been touched in the Batman films. How did he get those wonderful toys? And how did Bruce Wayne the boy physically become a man behind a mask?

No matter how much you love the Tim Burton version of Batman, the films themselves never dealt with who Bruce Wayne or Batman actually was. Batman the character was flat and uninteresting compared to the "circus-freak" Joker and the tragic Penguin.

It is that new look at what makes Batman who he is that makes this new film so much fun. This is a movie about the hero, not a zany villain. We learn new secrets and new thrills as Batman finds out who he is. The revelations and presentations of these events are built with humor, warmth, and a new understanding.

I really loved a lot of the new aspects of the origins. I really enjoyed the performance of Christian Bale, who finally delivers a Batman performance that is menacing and approachable. I loved the scenic first half of the film and a lot of the training sequences. I really liked Caine, Freeman, Oldman, and Wilkinson in their character roles that add such depth and majesty to the film. I also felt that Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow was really creepy but believable.

All the sequences involving the new Batmobile are amazing. God, I loved that new car. I never for one minute believed the old Batmobiles were anything more than a gimmick in the first films. Who actually did believe the old Batmobile could climb walls or fly around corners by using a jettisoned cable?

Some of the problems I had with this film had to do with some of the story and a couple of the performances. With such a powerful ensemble, Katie Holmes just can't seem to hold her own. I had a lot of problems with many of her scenes. There is also no chemistry between her and Bale, and their relationship seems very forced. I also was disappointed by the performance of Ken Watanabe " he just seems wasted. I wanted to see more of him.

Batman Begins is a wonderful reconstruction of a social icon and as close as Hollywood could ever get to reawakening this franchise. This film is equal to if not better than the original Burton one. (4 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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