Robby Reed Reviews...
At this point in my comic-collecting life, the mere thought of reading another regurgitation of Batmans origin is quite painful to me. Ive read the old "parents-shot-in-alley" routine about 1,001 times now, and I have no desire to see it again, ever, in any form, including a form that is reimagined and fresh. This is the part where I tell you that despite all this, I loved the movie, right? Wrong. I did NOT love the movie. It was OK, and thats about the highest rating I can give it. Heres why.
As a comic book character, Batman has gone through varying degrees of darkness. The original character was only slightly dark; the 60s version was a fun-loving, planet-hopping, body-transforming ball of fun; the Neal Adams version was too beautiful to be dark. There are two Frank Miller versions -- Batman: Year One, which was fun and only slightly dark, and Millers Dark Knight Returns probably the darkest Batman ever. Certainly the Gotham created by Miller in that book was pitch-black. But I hate and despise all dark version of Batman. I like to think of Batman as an inspiring hero, not a psychotic vampire who is as unbalanced as those he fights. Unfortunately, Batman Begins is ALL dark, and so I didnt like it very much. It wasnt really a Batman movie at all.
This is more of a Bruce Wayne movie than a Batman movie. The filmmakers devoted a GREAT deal time to making Bruce seem as real and believable as possible. Yet for me, it just didnt work. Because Batman is NOT real, and the more real they try to make him, the more idiotic it seems that a man is dressing up like a bat to fight crime. Such a thing is NOT real, could never BE real, and attempts to make it real are bound to fall short.
To do what Wayne does, one would have to be completely psychotic. And this is just how Wayne is portrayed -- as a psychotic. Christian Bale is without doubt the best Batman ever, and he brings a fierce intensity to the role. He makes Michael Keaton look like a non-actor, and makes George Clooneys version look like a total joke. Bale is the best -- but he is still not likable. His Wayne/Batman is not a person Id want to spend time with, in EITHER identity.
Bale is intense, thats for sure, but he is also almost utterly devoid of humor. The one-liners they stick in his mouth are so out of place as to be laughable, but for all the wrong reasons. Are we supposed to believe this complete nut-job would take the time to toss off witty bon mots like Dirty Harry on Halloween? What kind of person would DO such things? Who IS he? As one cop in the movie answered, Hes just some asshole in a costume.
Unfortunately, the entire world of Batman as created in this movie is not a world I enjoyed spending time in -- even the short yet over-long 2 1/2 hours the movie took. It is a depressingly dark world of total corruption, sickening violence and deafening noise, a world where giddy psychotics run around loose and even the hero is crazy.
Its not the acting. The acting in the movie is superb, with the exception of the amateurish preenings of Katie Holmes. Compared to such stellar talents as Michael Caine (excellent as Alfred), Morgan Freeman (good in his small role as Lucious Fox), Gary Oldman (fabulous as Jim Gordon) and Liam Neesen (did I spell that right?), Katie Holmes comes off as an exceptionally bad drama student. I should mention that Bale carries the whole movie, and he easily holds his own against this fine ensemble cast. Great actors, but to me, none of their characters were particularly likable, especially the psychotic, humorless Bruce Wayne.
A standout is the actor who plays the Scarecrow, Cillian Murphy, pictured right getting beaten up by Batman. Is Murphy GENUINELY insane? Probably not. But he should be used as a role model for those wishing to act and look insane. He's the kind of actor that can give you the creeps just by saying "hello." I appreciated his abilities, although I didn't like the end to which they were employed. As I said, I don't like "dark." And this movie is ALL "dark."
In one scene, Batman hoists a criminal up into the air and questions him. "That's all I know ... I swear to God!" the terrified man cries out. A near-deranged Batman shrieks back, "Swear to me!" Ye Gods, Batman really IS frightening in this scene -- both the criminal, and to me.
Anyway -- with all that talent, whos the REAL star of the movie? Well, strangely enough, the only character I enjoyed in the whole movie was the new Batmobile! The Batmobile chase scene totally kicked ass, and was the only summer blockbuster-ish scene in the movie. The part where the Batmobile jumps through the waterfall was great! (Although how the cops tailing Batman failed to find those massive tire-treads leading right to the Batcave entrance, Ill never know.)
So the acting is great, the sets are also great ... but what about that little thing called ... the plot? Well, sadly, its as stale as they come. The screenwriter obviously knows comic books, or at least how to steal from them. The entire movie is compiled from various sources. Almost none of it is original.
The first third plays like a one of those old Kung-Fu movies such as The Quest, where Jean-Claude Van Damme goes to the orient to learn Karate, with a bit of Neal Adams Deadman goes to Nanda Parbat thrown in. The conquer your fear scenes in the Orient are like Stallones Rocky training sequences. All they need are some Eye of the Tiger music playing in the background. Toss in some "Kung Fu" TV show-style bromides and you've got the opening.
Its become a horrible cliché of comic book movies that the villain of the piece always has their origin intertwined with the heroes origin. Weve seen it in virtually every comic movie. Were about to see it yet AGAIN as the Fantastic Four movie places Dr. Doom at the scene of the original cosmic rays accident. So it shouldnt be surprising that this well-worn device is used here, with Ras Al Ghul training Bruce Wayne. And it isnt surprising. Its just depressing. And the training is mostly done by kicking the shit out of Bruce Wayne, then telling him to overcome the fear of bats hes had since he fell into that bat-filled cave as a kid.
The second third of the movie shows how the whole bat thing began. How? Well, in a nutshell, Wayne borrows a bunch of hi-tech equipment from an obscure division of Wayne Enterprises, including the groovy new Batmobile. Or Bat-Tank?
This endless array of gadgetry is all just sitting around gathering dust, you see, and only Morgan Freeman knows about it. He just gives all the multi-million dollar equipment to Bruce with a wink and a nod. You own it all anyway! he tells the young and obviously deranged Bruce.
The rest of this section of the movie is stolen en toto from Millers Batman: Year One (panel pictured below). Batman is trapped in a building, so he uses a bat-calling device hidden in his boot heel to call lots and lots and lots of real bats, so he can escape in the confusion. EXACTLY like Millers story, except that the movie bats are FAR more prompt than those slow-moving comic bats. They show up instantly! Must be some HUGE bat-hangout right in the heart of Gotham.
The movies final third is similar to the Batman movie with Jim Carrey, a dreadful mess where Riddler tried to poison all Gotham City, or whatever the hell he was doing. Here, the only way Ras Al Ghul can gas the city, which for some reason he must destroy to save civilization, is to put gas in the water supply, then turn the water into gas.
It makes little sense as they race a train through Gotham, wrecking about a billion dollars worth of crap along the way. At least they didnt try to duplicate Tim Burtons Gotham City. This time around, Gotham looks much more like Manhattan. A DARK Manhattan, of course, but still Manhattan.
And what about good old Batman? Batman, at least the fully-costumed Batman, seems to embarrass the filmmakers. The Bat-Suit is very rarely shown, and when it is shown it is in fleeting glimpses. The fight scenes are edited like MTV videos, and at no time can we ever see Batman actually DOING the fighting. Its more like, uh-oh, here come six Ninjas, whoosh, whoosh, zip, zip -- oh look, theyre all unconscious. I guess Batman beat them up. WOW is he good! I guess. I could hardly see him, though.
For example, the picture on the right of Batman "flying." It looks great in a still shot -- but don't blink during the movie, or you'll miss the shot. It happens so fast you really can't see it at all! If I hadn't previously seen the stills, I wouldn't have known what was going on.
BOTTOM LINE: At no time did I ever have the sensation of actually "enjoying" this movie. Its far too dark and loud for my tastes, and I cant see younger kids liking it either. I can hear the ten-year-old brigade now, screaming, Wheres Batman? All they do is talk! Show Batman! SHOW BATMAN! The Joker playing card Gordon hands Batman at the end may also get them also screaming "Show the Joker! Show the Joker!"
If youre into vampire movies, if you like the dark versions of Batman, and if you dont mind seeing a raging psycho portrayed as a role model for justice -- youll love Batman Begins. Me, I go to the movies for fun, and to escape from the harsh realities of the world -- not to be horribly REMINDED of them. Because the makers of Batman Begins forgot the FUN, for me, they might as well have forgotten the whole movie. (Except for the Batmobile!)