What is it that makes Batman Begins a good superhero movie? It’s the seriousness with which Nolan and the actors involved approach the material. David Goyer has written a competent script, full of incident that progresses logically, and makes sure every gun dropped around the set in the first few acts is fired by the finale. But that’s all it is, just a good script. It’s not really any more inventive than Tim Burton’s first film, certainly not as quirky and self-conscious as his second one. It’s also not the facile kitsch-fest of Batman Forever (which I found amusing, nipples and all) nor thankfully the truly wretched and mechanical Batman & Robin. But it’s not really these films I want to compare this movie to. Rather, I take it up with the generally kitschy portrayal the DC heroes have received in popular media for decades. While the Wonder Woman series was tolerable in the light of other 70s programming (and Lynda Carter of course ideally cast), has anyone seen the wretched Wonder Woman pilot designed in the 60s, in the wake of the kitsch pop art of the Batman comedy series? A travesty that tried to locate Wonder Woman as a fantasy of a delusional feminist, it totally missed everything the character had to offer in favor of then-timely neuroses. Add that misconception to Hawkman selling candy bars, and various Justice League experiments on videotape over the years. Then think of the Superman films after number 2. Then think of Supergirl. No, don’t. Just admit DC has not been doing a very great job of shepherding its valuable properties to the big screen. Marvel, in recent years, has triumphed over its competitor with little competition. Which is why, when the new DC logo debuts right after the WB in this movie, coupled with some actual comic art graphics (that look a bit suspiciously like the Marvel movie signature), I thought “ah, someone has noticed.” Nolan, like Bryan Singer with the X-men, is an auspicious, creative, inspired director. One who takes this material seriously, who sees past the costume to the mythic resonance underneath. And with a pretty stunning cast, crew and cinematographer, he’s made a film that does more than deliver all the requisite Hollywood action movie beats. He’s revitalized a lackluster series that had lost touch with its roots. And he’s made a film about human character, emotion, desires and crisis. Just exactly as Raimi did with both Spider-Man films. We’re finally getting arguments on-screen again for why we need super-heroes, even 60 years after World War 2. And it’s not just “to contain the bad masked guys even worse than us,” which is what the X-men films sometimes say. In Begins, the message is “society is corrupt, but individual integrity can still make a difference.” The casting director has trotted out Rutger Hauer to occupy the same role that Christopher Walken did in Returns — that is, the greedy corporate bastard that allows for corruption to fester in a city he could save or improve. And unlike the Byzantine Gotham of the first movie (with Anton Furst’s brilliant, nightmarish designs), the icy northeastern clime of the second, or the bad taste exercises of the next two, Nolan’s Gotham is rather like …. a New York that spreads for miles and miles. A Chicago that is all girders and glass. A man-made infrastructure that contains and yet imperils the vital conduits of modern life: public railways and hidden water mains. Rather than delve into all the glories of the corporate and monied landmarks of this Ur city (the only one that matters is the centrally located Wayne Foundation), Nolan spends most of his time in the Narrows, the corrupt and hobbled-together shantytown of multiple stories that might be any ghetto on the planet. Though we only see the criminal elements of this nether world, we get hints of the family lives, the dreams and fears, of normal people living in poverty. Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) is the legal eagle who humanizes this world, especially in a climactic scene where she befriends the child that always appears to worship the hero in this sort of film. This is a more subtle kid than most, though, as most of his lines are etched on his face, emotive expressions that remind us (as Rachel does in words) of what really matters even in such a dark and deadly place. Christian Bale has finally found a movie to house his perfect bod and haunted face; Michael Caine wrings the last bit of irony out of every line delivery by his ultra-practical Alfred; Cillian Murphy is a revelation as the manipulative Jungian predator Scarecrow (and far scarier out of his mask than in); Gary Oldman plays charmingly and wittily against type as the Quixotically noble Lt. Gordon; and Liam Neeson channels all bad daddies everywhere as Bruce’s first adult savior and later enemy. Those are just a few of the many refreshing character turns in this movie rich with top-notch acting talent. Also of note, as this fanciful archetype of fear moves with dispatch through his ornate and decadent city, are several hallucinogenic dream sequences that give us David Lynchian glimpses of yet other sides of many of our characters. Nolan is masterful enough to add yet another level between fantasy and reality the fiction he so expertly charts. If anything is keeping the movie from being a truly timeless film, it is that the old shopworn formulas are so clearly the structure that holds it all together. But with Bale on contract as the lucky title-holder of the newly vibrant franchise, I expect even greater things to come. Batman Begins (2005) Review4.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.