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.
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.