Thursday, October 20, 2005

Review: Batman Begins

Got Batman Begins on DVD the other day, I've watched it 2 times since in addition to the 2 times I saw it in the theater. I am a huge Batman fan, it's the comic I always come back to and pick up occasionally, I am always picking up graphic novels that put a bunch of issues together. Batman Begins is in my eyes a near perfect representation of Batman. The training, the explanation of why he is doing what he does, how he puts the cave, the suit, the car, and his relationship with Gordon together, spot on. Christian Bale is the perfect Bruce Wayne and Batman. There are people that can play either side well, but doing both well is extremely hard. Mr. Bale pulls it off with apparent ease, playing essentially 3 characters, young Bruce, current Bruce, and of couse Batman. Bale's Batman is actually scary, the scene in the rain where is has the corrupt cop hanging upside down and he growls "Swear to me!" is menacing. I remember when I saw this in the theater, people were shocking by the ferocity. The picture feels epic like a Batman origin tale should. The other striking thing is that all the main actors are fantastic, the best representations of all these characters, Alfred, Gordon, Lucious Fox, without Michael Cain, Garry Oldman, and Morgan Freeman in these roles, the picture isn't nearly as strong. Liam Neeson is also good, but he has nothing to compare to in Batman film history before. He doesn't get as high praise from me because the first half of his performance is nearly cut and paste from Star Wars Episode I, he plays the wise older teacher again. This isn't to say he phones it in, but he knows how to do this very well. That said, the other side to his performance is very good. I was very fearful that this film would be doomed for me because of Katie Holmes. I don't know what is going on with her, scientology, and Tom Cruise. I couldn't really see her as a strong female character because I only knew her from promos of Dawson's Creak while watching Smalleville on the WB. Thank goodness she is not annoying in this, far from it, I think she's good. When you watch this movie, keep in mind that a lot of the stunts and effects are practical. That's right, Batman being dragged through the city attached to the monorail, that's actually a guy on a cable! This movie is really a template how to carefully use CGI mixed with model work and practical effects for best results. The scale of the practical effects is normally huge, including nearly all the Batmobile/Tumbler work. I got the Widescreen Special Edition of the DVD, and the extras on disc 2 are good, though not exhaustive, and I can practically feel another edition coming. Chris Nolan, the Director, does not provide a commentary, which is usually the tell-tale sign. For a comic book movie, this gets 5/5 stars. For just a regular movie, this get 4/5 stars, I seriously think its that good. What's the difference between a comic book and regular movie in my eyes, the character's. In comic book movies, characters are usually pretty weak, in regular movies, at least these days, they can be weak too, but in something with a lot of effects, usually time for characters is lost in the effects, but I just don't get that feeling in this movie. I think that may also be due to its running time. The movie is 2:20. You could have easily cut 20 minutes out of this and you would have had left any run of the mill comic book movie, but applaud Chris Nolan the Warner Bros. for not cutting to get as many showtimes in as possible for the theatrical run and putting back the character work in the DVD release. Honestly, I don't think this film hits $200 million theatrical if they cut it out, people would have just felt burned by another bad Bat-flick, and bad word of mouth would have killed it. The final shots in the movie are a fantastic setup for things to come, but I have to say I am a little skeptical of everyone being able to execute on this high level again. They will natural feel like they have to top this one, and we know what's coming next. Plus, they eventually will have to deal with Robin, and no one has been able to execute that in a non-crappy way, even the Batman Animated Series ended up going more comedic with this. This movie has definitely buried Batmans 1-4 in terms of quality and characterizations. I still love Batman, but I had problems with it even when that came out, I never thought they would reboot the franchise in such dramatic fashion. After watching Batman Begins, I don't even want to go get the new Batman - The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997. Of course it's on my Amazon Wishlist, so it would make a nice Christmas present if anyone is asking :) My last thoughts are that man did I feel inadequate while watching Batman Begins. Bruce Wayne turns 30 years old in this film, same as me, so I really need to step it up to save a city from crime. I can't even save my family from dirty dishes most nights :)