I know Iíve mentioned this in a lot of different places throughout my website throughout the years, but Tim Burtonís 1989 Batman movie changed my life. As a kid I had read comics, but stopped relatively early and forgot they existed until that movie came out. When that happened I realized there was a whole new world of comics out there, and that many of them were pretty intense mature stuff and I was hooked immediately. But Batman was the guy that brought me back, and heís remained my favorite ever since. The coolest thing about him is that he is very much a human being. No special powers at all. He just happens to be the ultimate human being. He has trained himself to the point that thereís nothing he canít do, just short of having actual powers. Heís dark and brooding, the product of childhood trauma and a need to avenge a wrongdoing. Heís practically perfect physically, but also as studied and knowledgeable as practically any professional would be in their own field, be it a doctor, engineer, and most especially, a detective. Batman gives Sherlock Homes a run for his money in the category of master detective, but his cowl is definitely cooler than that little brown hat!
Anyway, the 1989 movie, though very, very flawed, was a revelation, and I actually like the equally flawed Batman Returns even more.
But when Shumacher took over as director for the third and fourth films, camp and over the top shenanigans took over and diluted Batman to just another clown in the circus, and the magic was dead.
Batman Begins is the first Batman film in about 8 years, and it is definitely the best one yet. And believe me, it feels good to say that, because I was a little hesitant going in. I mean, I was thrilled when Christian Bale was cast as Bruce Wayne / Batman, and I liked the stellar supporting cast: Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, and Michael Caine, who nailed Alfred Pennyworthís personality perfectly. But I was worried that in an effort to undo done the damage done by the over the top previous films, that this movie would try to hard to be taken too seriously. Donít get me wrong, I do think Batman should be taken seriously, but I didnít want it to be just a crime drama that happened to have a costumed vigilante in the mix.
But the creative team of Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer did it right. Yes, it is more realistic than the previous movies, but it clearly shows Batman for what he is. It sets up his legend nicely, and for that I commend them.
Christian Bale does a really great job as Bruce Wayne and Batman. He nails the anguish, anger, and motivation that drove a man from victim to formidable avenger. He just fits the role(s) perfectly. I hope he sticks around.
Gary Oldman does a nice job as Jim Gordon, not yet police commissioner, but still one of the only good cops in Gotham. Morgan Freeman can do no wrong, and here as Lucius Fox, an employee of Wayne Enterprises, he shines as usual. Cillian Murphy did a good job as Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow, but I have to admit, I donít know that much about the character anyway. I do know they changed his look, making his costume nothing more than a potato sack mask, but I guess that was in keeping with the ďreal worldĒ feel of the movie. I dare say itís an acceptable adjustment, but the fan-boy in me would have liked to see the complete costume, straw hat and all.
Like I said before, Michael Caine is excellent as butler / caretaker /jack of all trades Alfred Pennyworth. Katie Holmes was good and her character was well written. I think one of the most powerful scenes in the film is between her character and Bruce Wayne, as they sit in a car and have an important discussion. Good stuff.
And Liam Neeson is very good in the movie as wellÖ
Batman Begins is flawed. Itís flawed as a movie and itís flawed in itís variances from the source material. But it is still very good, and more importantly it keeps the heart of the comic alive. And, it hints at a sequel which will put a big smile on the faces of comic book fans everywhere. I almost gave it an ďA +Ē, something Iíve done before undeservingly, but instead Iíll go with: