Batman Begins

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Jeff Albertson, the "Comic Book Guy" from the "Simpsons" would say three words about this movie: Best. Movie. Ever.

I can't tell you enough about this movie, 062005.jpgbut I will try my best. This was, without a doubt, one of the most complete sci-fi/fantasy movies I have watched in years. Was it perfect? No, it has some flaws. But I think the good far, far outweighs the bad here and I will try to convince you why you should see this movie now, in the theaters.

First lets start off with the actors: Gary Oldman as Gordon; Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius; Liam Neeson as Ducard; Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman; Katie Holmes as Rachel. Plus, even Rutger Hauer, who is the Kevin Bacon of sci-fi movies, was in Batman Begins.

The actors make this movie. There is such poise, professionalism and potency on the screen that I was enthralled watching every scene. Michael Caine was brilliant, as a kind, compassionate and witty Alfred. The one-liners Alfred threw out there were hilarious.

Gary Oldman, who I first became enamored by watching The Professional, was outstanding as Jim Gordon. Before walking to the theater, I didn't even know he was in the movie.062005a.jpg His first scene, comforting a young Bruce Wayne, my jaw hit the floor and rolled under the seats in front of me. Also, I loved to see him in a "good" role instead of playing the bad guy.

Liam Neeson as the mysterious Ducard, representing The League of Shadows, a group of omnipresent vigilantes - who disregard the laws of society and bring forth their own justice in a corrupt world. His scenes with Bale were very good, but I won't over gush about him. I think he was solid, but not spectacular like...

Morgan Freeman! Oh, Morgan - we learned to count together on Sesame Street and now we learn how to kick some ass in Batman. I have come full circle. Morgan rules as Lucius Fox a sly and wise old guard who becomes Bruce Wayne's good friend once he returns to Gotham. He could do a herpes vaccine commercial and make it look like Hamlet. He has a brief on-screen mix with Bale and Caine that I just loved to watch them together. They are so smooth and effortless when sharing dialogue.

Christian Bale as Batman, The Dark Knight, was a great pick. After watching him play Bruce Wayne on screen, you laugh at the thought of Michael Keaton as Batman. Bale brings forth the anger and torment that rules the mind of Bruce Wayne unlike any of his predecessors. He plays a hero that is a man first, not a super man.062005f.jpg

Which brings me to one facet that makes this a "complete" movie in my mind.

Batman, in this movie, is a human being. He is one that is at the highest echelon of physical superiority and training, due in part to the League of Shadows. The other half of what makes Batman a super hero - is the access to weaponry, armor and gadgets that only the very wealthy would have the ability to purchase. Plus it doesn't hurt that Wayne Corporation has a division that specializes in such trinkets for Batman - and is run by Lucius Fox.

Which then lends a level of credibility to the movie - if a man, trained in martial arts, along with physical training and the right military weaponry - could he leap from rooftops and fight the bad guys like something more extraordinary we are used to? The believability factor is high in this movie. They even have scenes when Bruce Wayne wakes up the next day from a tough night fighting crime - with bruises and cuts on his body.062005c.jpg He is as mortal as anyone else in the world - but his determination and drive for perfection make him much more dangerous than any thug in Gotham has encountered.

Gotham, itself, is a city much like we can all very much relate to. Its New York city - on steroids. One of the storylines that we are given is the economic chasm that exists in Batman's world. For all the success of the Wayne family, there is the side effect of that achievement - the lower classes of Gotham. This city is divided into the "Haves" and the "Have Nothings", those that rule Gotham derive their power through monetary means - and the majority of those methods are from corruption and deception. The underbelly of Gotham, the part of Gotham called "The Narrows", is represented in the film as a gritty realism. It is presented by dark, rainy scenes with the mist and fog obscuring the world around itself.

The plot, itself, was compact and tidy in how every part of Bruce's world came together. From his early traumatic adolescence, his descent into madness, his exile from Gotham, his training with the League of Shadows, his return as the "Prince of Gotham", his ascension to The Dark Knight - simply brilliant. Without giving too much away, you see how actions can cause a reaction. The death of Bruce's parents begins the cog in the cycle of reformation to Gotham that certain elements didn't plan on occurring. A few key plot twists will keep you enthralled with joy while you watch how Chris Nolan creates magic.

Chris Nolan directed the movie, and you may remember him for the movie Memento in 2000. His brother, Jonathan, wrote the short story which was based on the movie. Chris wrote the screen play and directed the movie. If you recall it was based on a man afflicted with a traumatic injury who sought the revenge of his murdered wife.

Anyone seeing any parallelisms here?

Chris did a wonderful job with the elements of this movie that brings it to life in the eye of the audience. The set design, the costuming, the cinematography were astounding. This wasn't a 1960's campy TV show or a late 80's glossy remake. This was a stab at neo-realism. He took the story and stepped away from the silly noir that the original Batman & Robin represented and created a serious story about a man's drive for justice.

Yes, a man who dresses in a costume like a bat.

But once you leave Batman Begins, you aren't thinking about how silly it would be if someone did that in our world - because the methods how Batman becomes a hero are no longer silly. You have a very rich man, athletic and trained in hand-to-hand combat who has an own division of his company that specializes in prototype military gear. This same man is bent on revenging the death of his parents by dismantling the criminals that hide behind the walls created with bribery and murder. I didn't find it to be all that silly - I found it somewhat believable.

There are, however, two elements of the movie that I did not enjoy. The first is Katie Holmes. I think she is a good actress, but the problem was not with her ability to act - it was with the current news of our day. Her tabloid fodder relationship with Tom Cruise was a major distraction. Each scene she was in - would distract me to the point where I didn't think I was watching Rachel Dawes - but Katie Holmes. On the other hand, I was watching Superman last night and still wondering what idiot cast Margo Kidder as Lois Lane. Maybe in 10 years I will appreciate the soon to be Mrs. Tom Cruise a bit more. Right now, I found her to be annoying.

The next problem were the fight scenes.062005b.jpg The early ones, while he was training in Asia were interesting sword fighting, but the later scenes of street fights I found to be a mess. Everything was a blur and quick action shots which didn't lend much credulence to the abilities of Batman as a fighter, it just was sloppy to watch. Unlike a movie like The Matrix, where certain martial art fight scenes were brilliantly choreographed, Batman didn't do a very special job here. I hope in the sequel they clean that up a bit.

Those two quibbling points aside, I firmly believe this was my favorite movie, of the genre, that I have ever seen. I can only hope that this is the direction for all of the science fiction / comic / fantasy movies in the future. This movie is one that I think people of all backgrounds and interests will enjoy, and even draw in a new legion of Batman fans amongst next generation of moviegoers.

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on June 20, 2005 9:32 AM.

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