Thursday, June 16, 2005

Dark Knight over Gotham

I’m a fan of Tim Burton’s two Batman movies. They worked for me 15 years ago, and they still work for me. But they weren’t about Batman. They were about Nicholson’s Joker, and DeVito’s Penguin, and Pfeiffer’s Catwoman. Batman was backdrop to big name stars taking their turns as Gotham City villains.

Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins is the first film to focus on Batman. The story, which does include some very effective villains, revolves around Bruce Wayne and his transformation into the Batman. Despite a terrific supporting cast, Christian Bale is the star here. It’s his movie. He’s central to everything. Three cheers to Nolan for relaunching this new Batman franchise into previously untested waters. And for his conviction that Batman is even more interesting than the bad guys he confronts.

Here are a few things I loved about Batman Begins:

  • The relationship between Batman and (future police commissioner) Jim Gordon is obviously central to this new series, as it should be. One of the striking things about the comic book Batman (at least in the past two or more decades) has been his treatment as an honest-to-god vigilante, not an arm of the police force, and Gordon’s often uncomfortable alliance with the Dark Knight. Gary Oldman — for my money, the best film actor around today — plays Gordon perfectly. Every scene between him and Bale is spot-on.
  • This Batman is scary. He treats criminals badly. You can understand why they fear him. Hell, what’s scarier than hanging off a building by your feet, 200 feet above the street, while some kook in a bat mask yells into your face? Granted, the movie’s Scarecrow (played by Cillian Murphy) is scary, too. But Batman is really wet-your-pants scary.
  • This Batman is realistic. His “gadgets,” none of them too outrageous, were all developed by Wayne Enterprises for a U.S. military too bureaucratic to know what to do with them. Nolan shows us a “bat cave” that makes sense. The “batmobile” is a friggin’ high-velocity tank; what better means of transportation when you’re negotiating through a Gotham City that’s part New York, part Beirut? And sure, Batman is athletically fit and well trained, but he can’t scamper up walls without breaking a sweat. He grunts. He groans. When he slowly, achingly pulls himself up and over a ledge, you feel it.
  • Nolan is allowed to fully tell his story. This is a longer-than-usual “superhero” movie, well over two hours. All the pieces seem to be there, and several distinct story threads all weave together beautifully by the movie’s end. I can’t imagine that too much was left in the cutting room, although I’m sure there are lots of deleted scenes left for the DVD this next Christmas.

OK, I’ve said enough. Everybody’s gonna be talking about Batman Begins this weekend, so I won’t ramble further. Let me end with this wonderful summation of the film from one of my fellow online critics: “Basically, this movie rounds up the last four Batman movies, chain-whips them, and then kicks their balls into a sissy-forest.”


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At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The BATMAN series of entertainments exploits the unlovely desire of human beings for a heroic figure to take care of them and provide for their comforts and security, as each man lies all alone with his guilts, and the Moon casts her light on the upper surface of the overcast. It is the function of heroes to smash the pillars of sick societies, bringing untenanted temples down, leaving the peoples without morals or those golden customs of restraint. Then the reconstruction can begin. Alas, sometimes centuries are required to bring back a World Fit For Citizens.

At 12:16 PM, Blogger Wally Conger said...

Boy, you're no fun at all, are you?

At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adrift in a sea of euphemisms, the lonely truth cries out for solace, while encountering only haunted vessels bereft of crew and compass. Learn the function of the HERO and dread his arrival! Pray only that the Prophetic Saint will trail closely in his wake of ruin.

At 4:34 PM, Blogger Wally Conger said...

Say what?!?

At 4:42 PM, Blogger freeman said...

Heh... well, I think waumpuscat is having fun amusing himself, at least.

This movie does sound better than the previous ones.

At 5:49 PM, Blogger iceberg said...

Hmm, if only Vin Suprynowicz could write a similar novel about a do-gooder who battle evil thugs, oh wait he already did?

At 5:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow ... you've got me interested in seeing another Batman movie. I didn't think that would ever happen.

At 11:42 AM, Blogger bkmarcus said...

I believe Waumpuscat is with the League of Shadows.

At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In my world, everyone eats rainbows and poop butterflies."

I agree,
This Is BATMAN. He got it right...


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