06 July 2005

Batman Begins

Often the films which we most eagerly anticipate are the ones which disappoint us the most. This has all-too-often been the case in the past for me.

I had been looking forward to seeing Batman Begins since late 2004 when I first read about the cast and director involved. That being the case, I may as well get straight to the point: I was not disappointed with this film.

Christopher Nolan first made his name with Memento, and although Batman Begins is more mainstream and ‘polished’, it nevertheless has his stamp all over it, both in the well- put-together flashback sequences that make up the first third of the film, and in other parts too: this is no cheesy, slick, cartoony Spiderman-style film. This is Batman as he really would be yet, strangely, totally true to the comics.

The cast, as I said above, looked good on paper. However, there is always a fear when such a great array of famous actors is assembled that they play on their own fame, rather than simply act the part. That fear is more than quashed here, as just about everyone is superb.

I’m not usually the biggest Gary Oldman fan, but here he goes totally against the usual Oldman grain and is all the better for it as Gordon (who looks eerily similar to a young version of Gordon from the Batman animated series, a world away from the bumbling idiot of the Tim Burton Batman films). One scene that I particularly enjoyed was the one where Gordon leaves his house and finds Batman sitting on the steps above him. The mood and tone felt like it had been lifted directly from a comic book.

Christian Bale has been threatening to be a major star ever since, as a fresh-faced twelve year old, he was superb in the Empire of the Sun. Since then he has flirted with various cinematic disasters (Reign of Fire, anyone?) as well as some decent indie films (the Machinist) and the not-as-bad-as-its-made-out-to-be Equilibrium. Here, however, Bale takes his work to a new level. No doubt cynics will say, after watching this, that such a great talent is wasted on a character who they would presumably regard as being fit only for childrens’ cartoons, but Bale makes Batman, and Bruce Wayne, utterly believable and real. If a sequel is planned, they must make sure at all costs that he, and Oldman, return, because they are both so perfect for the parts.

The rest of the film is also star studded – Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine. I especially, of these, liked Caine as Alfred. Although playing the part very differently to Michael Gough in the older films, it worked perfectly in the context of Nolan’s darker, grittier take on Batman. Cillian Murphy is also great as Dr Crane/The Scarecrow, and will prove to be one of the better actors to come out of Ireland in some years.

Unlike many, I personally also thought Katie Holmes was fine. It is possible that next to such a great cast and with such a good script and director, Holmes looked like the weak link in comparison, but let’s face it: she is hardly comparable to, say, Jar Jar Binks, which is what some of the more crazed fans seemed to be suggesting.
If anything, were I to look for a fault in the casting, I would have to point to Tom Wilkinson as Carimine Falcone. Even as a non-American, I found his accent sounded rather fake and unconvincing.

I also loved the fighting scenes. Whilst they might seem, to some, ‘choppy’ and blurred, I thought this method worked amazingly well. Batman doesn’t use guns, but he is usually fighting people who do. He has to come in in a blur and take people out as quickly as possible, and the way the fights were done really conveyed that.

Whilst the last 30 minutes do veer into more conventional action film territory, I nevertheless enjoyed them hugely, and the previous sections of the film had built the characters up so well that I actually cared about them.

All in all, I would have to rank this as possibly the all-time greatest superhero film, and easily the best film of 2005 so far (and one of the best of the noughties yet)



Blogger shave said...

Nice review. I too really enjoyed Michael Cain as a butler. Brilliant. Bale was top drawer and the story wound up in such an unconventional and meaningful way that I fear a(nother) sequal could never do it justice. I really really enjoyed this movie.

Thumbs up!

8:42 AM  
Blogger Wess said...

I've heard only good reports about Batman Begins...I think I'll have to go and watch it on the Big screen!

Good review RD.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Random One said...

This was an excellent film! i was not expecting much at all after watching the trailer but thought it was fantastic...the typical hollywoodesque features have been merged extremely well with the darkness of the story and characters. Definitely worth watching on the big screen! And hopefully they will release a nice DVD package for it too!

9:43 PM  
Blogger Les Natrels said...


Don't expect greatness from this mediocre run of the mill action flick

nothing special

sorry, but for special, keep looking.

7:01 PM  
Blogger knitphomaniac said...

I absolutely agree that of all the cast, Katie Holmes seemed a bit out of place. Yes, she's cute, in her own Dawson's-Creek kind of way... but let's face it, if she weren't dating Tom Cruise, she likely wouldn't've been cast for the part. Aside that, great cast and a great addition to the Batman movies and superhero film genre.

12:04 AM  
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