Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Batman Begins

[Pic Courtesy IMDb]

As I mentioned in my book tag, I grew up reading Superman and Batman comics when I was young. I liked Superman initially since the stories were bright, lighthearted and simple. But as I grew older, I began leaning towards Batman who just seemed more 'adult'. Within the comics realm, he was more realistic since he had no superpowers and the stories were darker and more serious.

I liked the first Batman movie even though some parts were a bit too surreal. But I found Batman Returns to be too dark and depressing and since then its been a steep dive in quality since both Batman Forever and Batman & Robin were silly, campy and just plain weird. But Batman Begins has gone back to the roots and reinvented not just Batman's story but the series itself. It is dark without being too depressing; action-packed without being silly; and funny without being campy. In other words, it is the perfect big-screen adaptation for the caped crusader.

Batman Begins opens in a foreign prison where Bruce Wayne(Christian Bale) is holed up willingly as part of his crusade to understand the evil mind. He is brought out by Henri Ducard(Liam Neeeson), who tries to enroll him in the League of Shadows, which has a rather extreme attitude towards eradicating crime(they destroy the entire city which they believe is the breeding ground for crime). Bruce refuses, returns to Gotham and assumes the role of Batman, every criminal's worst nightmare. Meanwhile a psychiatrist(Cillian Murphy), who has assumed the name Scarecrow, has a dastardly plan for the city's residents.

I didn't find quite Bale's stint in prison and the following sequence with Liam Neeson very interesting, mainly because I have never read about segments like that in any of the comics. But the movie takes off once he movies back to Gotham. As in other superhero movies, the transformation of Bruce Wayne into Batman is the most interesting part of the movie. The movie lays out the reasons behind many aspects of Batman that we've come to take for granted. We learn about the reason behind Bruce picking the bat costume, the actual location and preparation of the batcave, the way the different parts of the costume come about and even the origin of the bat-signal.

The movie has a couple more villains than were really needed and things get murky when their plans and motives are described. But the main two villains are just what the doctor ordered. Their plots are suitably megalomaniacal and they are both cool, smart and a good match for a superhero. At the same time, they don't overshadow Batman himself, something that happened in the movies in the original series. The love interest comes in the form of Katie Holmes, Bales' childhood friend and now an assistant DA who is after the same people Batman is but in a different, more legal, way.

The movie has some great set pieces and action sequences. The night shots of Gotham are breathtaking and the monorail in the middle of it all is a marvel. The chase of the batmobile is thrillingly picturized as is the climactic scene in the monorail. And as expected, there are some iconic shots like Bruce standing in the middle with bats flying all around him(which symbolizes his overcoming his fear of them) and the Batman watching over Gotham perched atop one of the buildings. At the same time, some of the action sequences are captured in close-up and in a way where its not clear who is hitting whom!

The cast is wonderful and a big reason why the movie works so well. Bale makes a good Bruce Wayne, his eyes and scowl making it easy for us to understand his inner turmoil. Michael Caine, as his trusted butler Alfred, is alternately strict and caring. Morgan Freeman as always steals the scenes he is in with his meaningful smile and soft but loaded dialog delivery. Gary Oldman plays Commissioner Gordon, the only cop on Batman's side. Liam Neeson is classy and refined while Cillian Murphy is really creepy, with or without his mask. Katie Holmes looks pretty and cute but she and Bale aren't gonna challenge Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst for chemistry any time soon.

Based on personal experience, I think superhero movies are only for existing fans of the superhero who have grown up - or are still enjoying - his tales. I liked the Superman and Spider-man movies but didn't care too much for X-Men, The Hulk or any of the other long list of superhero movies in recent times. So if you like Batman comics, don't miss Batman Begins. It is still a good superhero/action movie for the others but you may not enjoy it as much as us fans.


At 1:24 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

I had the pleasure of watching it last night...

It was awesome! Everyone did a good job... and I agree the chemistry is lacking between Katie & Christian... I absolutely loved Cillian Murphy!

The parts with the prison and training bored me to death, but later on it picked up very well, and I didnt want it to end at all...!

My brother was saying that his one was better than Spider-man cuz this dude doesnt have special power.. Samething you said.. But I still like spiderman he rocks =).

I used to watch x-men cartoons so naturally I liked the movie... Not a hulk fan though...

Anyways, nice review =)


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