After the number 1-superhero of DC Comics failed to attract a big audience, he sort of disappeared into the shadows, but not the way he intended.
Four Batman-movies were made: the first two by Tim Burton were class-act entertainment blockbusters, the other two – though still a heck of a lot of fun to watch! – much more of a spoof and a tongue-in-cheek wink towards the super-man dressed in black.
Several years later, Hollywood started to grow a serious interesting in reviving this wonderful character – and who better to do it than Christopher Nolan?
His first of eventually three movies may not be much better than the Michael Keaton-originals, but the bleak obscurity and overall seriousness with which the movie was put together made for a great cinematic experience.
The most interesting thing about Batman begins is – as the title openly suggests – to finally witness how Bruce Wayne became Batman. This transformation was not easily accomplished nor was it an overnight dress-code party gone wrong or something.
As most people know, Bruce Wayne became Batman after his parents were murdered in a dark alley (anyone ever wondered why his parents took the creepy back-door out of the theater instead of leaving through the front, like normal people?), meaning the young kid grew up to be a troubled teenager looking for any way to oppress some serious payback to the crime wave that held Gotham city prisoner.
The journey Bruce Wayne goes through is especially pleasing to watch. When we first meet him, he’s already quite strong and able to fight off a few men, but it’s after he joins a secret monastery with some kick-ass Asian ninjas that Bruce Wayne learns the trade of how to fight with style.
When he returns to his city, he translates his fear for bats (having been attacked by a swarm of them as a kid) into a weaponized symbol that should wreck fear upon every single crime lord in Gotham city.
Batman begins is not just a good movie because the storyline is beautifully told, with the necessary focus on his personal growth in learning the trade of martial arts, but also how he sets up the batcave and – let’s not forget! – his first steps into the criminal underworld, dressed as the near-unbeatable masked dark warrior.
No, Batman begins is also a genuinely good movie due to the casting of Christian Bale as the rich philanthropist – though the use of a heavy voice when speaking as Batman is both a little bizarre and distracting, almost like Batman is suffering from a sore throat.
But there’s also the casting of Michael Caine as the house butler Alfred (no self-respecting American movie or videogame has a butler that’s *not* English) and Morgan Freeman as the man helping out Batman with whatever equipment he might need.
Also quite appealing is the music in the movie, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise, since director Christopher Nolan hired two of Hollywood’s finest music composers, Hans Zimmer (the guy who wrote the film-music of The Rock & Gladiator) and James Newton Howard (he did The Fugitive amongst other things).
Pity however is how the same score is being repeated throughout the entire movie. So, while it’s a beautiful anthem, it’s also strange how these two couldn’t have come up with anything more variable.
The one weakness Batman begins may have is that the enemies, along with their performances, aren’t very captivating.
There’s a hooded freak named Scarecrow who looks to be wearing a sack of potatoes over his head, a dirty brown sack that he turned into some cheap Halloween-mask. We are led to believe that, after administering some poison, that mask is frightening as hell. Ooooo-kay …
Cillian Murphy does his best to bring this character to life. He only succeeds half-way. Towards the end of the movie you’ve seen quite enough of him, and you’re glad the focus shifts onto other bad guys.
Finally, there’s also crime lord Carmine Falcone played quite well by Tom Wilkinson.
This character wouldn’t look bad in a mafia movie, but to be the center of a superhero-movie (though Batman isn’t technically a superhero, I know) seems a little far-fetched.
Fortunately director Christopher Nolan knows how to keep things interesting by shifting his bad guys around, as if it were a board full of chess pieces.
But one cannot deny the obvious … with better enemies Batman begins would’ve been a real contender in the superhero-genre.
Now it’s just a solid-good movie, nothing more.
Did you know?
Christian Bale lost his voice three times during filming after altering his voice while playing Batman.
Give it to me short:
Batman begins tells the birth of the Batman in a beautiful way, despite having to deal with a series of bad guys like Ra’s Al Ghul and a freak who calls himself ‘The Scarecrow’, bad guys who aren’t nearly as interesting as the ones we saw in the older Batman movies (the Joker and Catwoman come to mind).
The casting of the movie is also very delicately done, with Christian Bale delivering one of the finest Batman-performances (though not the best, that’s still and will always be Michael Keaton). Why the actor felt the urge to speak with a ridiculously heavy voice is beyond me – at times it becomes stupendously stupid and breaks with the entertainment.
Luckily, he is assisted by a roundabout of great co-stars such as Morgan Freeman who delivers all the goodies to Batman from weapons and gadgets to the super-awesome Bat-mobile. Let’s also not forget Michael Caine as the British butler and Katie Holmes in a rather stodgy performance as the love interest.
Director Christopher Nolan certainly doesn’t deliver the best Batman yet nor his finest movie to date, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. The cinematography is quite nicely done, especially the shooting of the landscapes and the presentation of the bleakness within Gotham city. The fighting sequences could’ve been done better – it’s not always very clear who’s who in a thick combat fight – and it’s always the job of the camera crew led by the director to make sure the audience can actually ‘see’ what transpires in a scene.
Though the second part of the movie isn’t nearly as interesting as the first part, in which we witness the rise and birth of Batman, the whole thing still comes together in a more-than-decent movie where entertainment meets some sort of realism.