Batman Begins

Batman Begins 2005

I am equal parts overjoyed and annoyed by all of the Batman reviews that have been popping up these past couple weeks. I especially enjoy it when some of the lesser reviewed gems come out of the woodwork, like a review of the first season of Batman: The Animated Series, or some of the DC Animated films. But I’m also annoyed because one of the reasons that I started this blog as a niche review site instead of a general movie review site was to stand out, and yet now I’ll be blending in as I take another look at Christopher Nolan’s already legendary Batman Trilogy. Today I start with the beginning, as that’s typically the best place. This is yet another origin story, but it’s unique in the fact that Batman is one of the few superheroes that kind of skipped over the whole origin story. Yes, Tim Burton’s Batman movie has that pivotal moment in Crime Alley where his parents are murdered, but when the flashback is over, he’s Batman in full force. This is the first time that audiences actually got to see how Bruce Wayne turned tragedy into vigilante.

I think one of the best things I can say about this movie is how finely crafted it is. There are so many moments of foreshadowing, callbacks, even the occasional fan moment. I’ve seen this movie a few times, but my general ignorance of some of the Batman minutia meant that I only now caught the reference to Zsasz, who is a minor villain called to my attention by Kevin Smith and Walt Flanagan, both in their recent Batman comic book run of Cacophony and Widening Gyre, and in their much more recent podcast about Batman. But aside from that, there are so many moments, from the fall into the bat cave as a young boy, to his father’s line about falling down, to the blue flower he picks to train with the League of Shadows, to his actual training under Ra’s Al Ghul. It’s all interconnected, setting up one piece of the puzzle to be put into place later in the movie.

I think one of the other things that makes Batman Begins so important, is that I believe it started the trend in the good superhero movies towards more and more realism. So much about Batman Begins is so believable to the point of almost being real. With the exception of the microwave generator, and maybe a couple other things. From the fact that all of the villains he fights feel like real people. There’s the mob boss, the terrorist, and the corrupt psychologist. While there are again some stretches here, such as the Scarecrow’s theatrics, and some of the claims from the League of Shadows, but the fear toxin is fairly well explained.

And of course it also makes a great prom corsage.

I really have to mention the cast of this movie, it is really one of the best for this kind of movie. Everyone really inhabits their role almost perfectly from Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Gary Oldman as Sergeant Gordon, as well as Liam Neeson as Ra’s Al Ghul, and Cillian Murphey as the Scarecrow. The only role I had a minor problem was Christian Bale as Batman. I thought he was a pitch perfect Bruce Wayne, but I thought he struggled a bit as Batman. It’s not just the often criticized voice, though that does play a large part of it. It just felt like whenever he was behind the mask, he had much less personality than he did during the rest of the movie.

There are a couple big action setpieces in the movie which are both quite spectacular. The Tumbler chase scene is one of the most fun car chases that I’ve seen in a long time, and really shows that it holds its own in the long line of famous Batmobiles. The other is the train sequence which is also quite exciting with its close quarters fighting, though it does feature one of the other problems I have with this movie. I didn’t much care for the overly frenetic style for the fight scenes with lots of quick cuts, close ups and handheld shots. It does a good job of putting you in the middle of the action, but I think it’s used a little bit too much and instead makes it just plain harder to tell exactly what’s going on. Especially in the final train battle, I didn’t catch which person actually jammed the blade into the control panel, and my first impression was actually the wrong one. It’s possible that it was the intention to be confusing, but the reveal to the villain didn’t feel like it was also supposed to be a reveal to the audience.

The one final thing that I thought was the biggest weak point in the movie were some of the designs for the fear toxin induced hallucinations. While the writhing Scarecrow mask was sufficiently gruesome, the oozing mouth, all black Batman wasn’t quite so effecting, and the flying bat with the glowing eyes and mouth at the end was downright Halloween decoration-esque. It’s not nearly enough to ruin the film, but it was a low point in an otherwise fantastic film. Christopher Nolan did a wonderful job creating a new, more realistic version of Gotham for Batman to live in and it has become so many people’s favorite incarnation of Batman. Not only that, but he’s been able to create a trilogy of movies and walk away from it, at least in theory. Only time will tell if he stays away from the franchise forever, and of course, there’s already talk of restarting Batman in the near future in order to join the Justice League, as this incarnation of Batman would be hard pressed to fit in with such unrealistic superheroes as Superman and the Green Lantern. But for now, at least, I’m just enjoying these movies while I can. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.


About Bubbawheat

I'm a comic book movie enthusiast who has watched and reviewed over 500 superhero and comic book movies in the past seven years, my goal is to continue to find and watch and review every superhero movie ever made.

Posted on July 19, 2012, in 00's movies, DC and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I agree in almost everything but I do think Bale works as Batman too. He’s kind of over acting it but its obvious a persona much like how Spider Man and Peter Parker has different personalities I liked this approach. The other Batmans were more Bruce Wayne in a Batman costume.

    My main flaw was with Bruce Wayne’s playboy persona. I know that it was acted within the film but it really felt shoehorned in. Would have been interesting to start of The Dark Knight with that change instead after Katie Holmes rejected him…

    • Just to continue the Twitter discussion…

      Maybe you glossed over some of the meaning, because there are at least two parts that point directly to Wayne having to put on his shitty asshole persona as a front. Someone mentioned the line from Rachel Dawes about the mask, and the scene I remember with Alfred is when he wakes Wayne up after he’d been out all night. He says something to the effect of “Look, you’ve been out all night again, and you’re not interacting with any of the people Bruce Wayne should be. Get the hell up and act like you’re a normal millionaire.” That’s pretty straight forward, I think.

      • You maybe are right. I watched a copy without subtitles. I’ll definitively pick it up on blu-ray so I’ll make sure to look how it plays again. It was mostly something about his delivery that felt obvious fake in the wrong way in those scenes. Especially when he showed up with the two girls at the party in the beginning. But that scene might also lacked because of their (the girls) acting as well. They felt equally fake and showoffishy I think.

    • I think the first playboy scene was twofold. It was his first attempt at living the playboy lifestyle as directed by Alfred “Buy things that aren’t for sale”, etc. And it was there to have the confrontation with Rachel seeing him living this superficial lifestyle.

  2. I hear you about feeling like your stuff is blending in right now… when I first decided to do “Bat-Month”, I figured it would probably just be you and me talking about Batman other than the new movie. Boy did I guess wrong….

    I agree with both your praise and criticisms of this film. The hallucinations sometimes seemed pretty goofy to me, especially the monster-Batman. And I’m not a fan of jump-cut fights. But the good far outweighed the bad, fortunately.

  3. I agree with everything except for two things.

    1) I think his lack of personality while inside the suit is all you can expect. He’s cooped up in a giant rubber sweat box with limited mobility, so any personality he has as a person should only really show up when he’s Bruce Wayne.

    2) Totally disagree about the hallucination effects. I thought the glowing face as he was flying around was awesome. Keep in mind that it’s what freaked out people are seeing.

    • Agree on the effects I liked it as well. Maybe the completely black monster Batman was a bit over the top but I liked how people genuinely was affected by these visions.

    • I just thought it wasn’t consistent. When the Scarecrow mask came alive the first time, it was impressive. The oozing Batmonster that Dr. Crane sees is pretty good, but not nearly on the same level. And the stiffly flying Batman with glowing eyes and mouth seemed so tame, and not really frightening in the least by comparison. I would have liked to have seen something scarier. The flaming Nitemare was pretty nice too.

  4. The cast is one of the highlights of this film and the subsequent Batman films from Nolan. No matter how minor you think the role, he’s got major players inhabiting every single one of them. That’s where a lot of comic book films fall down. They have the major players played by major actors, but think that’s enough and will cast sub-par actors for the minor roles. You need every player to be amazing in order for the film to really stand up. Michael Caine as Alfred was a little work of genius! I adore how well he and Christian Bale play off each other.

    After doing my pre-TDKR rewatch, I came to the conclusion that I actually like Batman Begins more than The Dark Knight. Well, just like. I think Batman Begins is the better film. It’s got more of Nolan’s finger prints on it from the non-linear storytelling but creating a nice, linear story. Beautiful shots of the glacier… much like Insomnia. It’s got a build up to the ending and it ends. TDK feels like it ends about 3 times before it actually ends.

    Batman Begins definitely started off the whole “comic book films need to be realistic” phase. Before this film it was still fairly fantastical and the comic book genre wasn’t taken seriously.

    Great look at the film, Bubbawheat. Looking forward to your thoughts on TDK.

    • I’m kind of curious how Dark Knight will hold up with me, I think I’ve only actually seen it once, bought it on Blu-Ray but haven’t rewatched it yet (will be tonight probably). It’s practically everyone’s favorite superhero movie, and if it’s not their favorite, it’s in their top 10. I’ll find out by Sunday.

  5. I’ve been rewatching these in anticipation of the new one, and I have to agree with most of your opinions on this one. I also had that weird feeling of being more knowledgable about Batman now than I was when this film came out. It kept surprising me when I realized I now know who most of the characters are from the comics.

    I did have a problem with the new Batmobile though. Sure the action scenes with it were very well done and entertaining, but I thought it looked lame from a mechanical design standpoint, and the whole transforming cockpit for firing mode felt silly. Just my opinion though.

    I didn’t have a problem with the Batman hallucinations, but you’re very right in that they were nowhere near as good as the Scarecrow mask, and a little disappointing by comparison.

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