Category Archives: 2005
Batman Begins (2005) – Originally written July 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Creation of a ‘superhero’ is such a difficult topic. Whether rushed (‘Spiderman’) or hardly covered (aspects of ‘X-Men’) the original development of a character can make or break an entire chain of films. One such series was the original ‘Batman’ trilogy beginning with Tim Burton’s classic in 1989. This series of films began well but descended into chaos as the main character was recast and bad choices were made in terms of plot and enemy. Yet, this one DC Character (one of two major ones along with ‘Superman’) was never going to be gone for long. So it’s with a personal sense of joy that he has been resurrected for the 21st Century. Best of all the film is actually amazing. ‘Batman Begins’ is not just a rejuvenation but a resurrection and a re-imagining. It is one of the finest superhero films ever (if ‘Batman’ really suits the name superhero) and it will be difficult for a film to beat it to film of the year.
Back to the torments of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), David S Goyer & Christopher Nolan’s story tells of the evolution of Wayne from a tortured soul, through to the saviour of Gotham City. Fighting corruption, moral flexibility and his own fears, Wayne will fight to rejuvenate the city that his long dead parents were such a prominent part of.
It’s hard to know where to start when praising ‘Batman Begins’. More a dramatic piece than your usual superhero story, it is also increasingly dark and plain. You don’t get men in bright red and blue spandex flying across the screen, just like you never really get colour of any sort. This is a film for those with a taste for the different shades of Gothic black, and my God it is glorious.
As the tormented and troubled Wayne, Christian Bale adds a whole new layer onto this playboy billionaire. Deeper than Michael Keaton, less artificial than Val Kilmer, and generally superior in every way over George Clooney, Bale IS Batman.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Bale’s disturbed superhero is actually the way that he embraces the darkness and exploits ‘negative’ emotions. Praying on the fear of the wicked, the only difference here between Batman and his nemesis is that he will not be an executioner. He’ll happily terrify someone and sometimes cross questionable moral lines, but he’ll never go the whole way and truly destroy someone. In a way it’s reminiscent of the way Luke Skywalker defies the Emperor in the ‘Star Wars’ films. Batman refuses to bow down and cross the boundary fully, and yet we sense that deep down he really, really wants to.
Alongside Bale’s hero, we also have an incredibly well constructed cast. Liam Neeson as teacher Ducard, Gary Oldman as future commissioner James Gordon, even heavily cockney Michael Caine as butler Alfred, all thrive on what the writers put in-front of them. Perhaps scarily, even Katie Holmes as deputy district attorney Rachel Dawes manages to drag a suitably good performance out of the bag. Yes this is a rejuvenation of the series both in plot AND in performances too. We need never remember Arnold Schwarzeneger’s Mr Freeze ever again.
Behind the camera, director Christopher Nolan (co-writer with David S Goyer) is amazing. Whilst his friend Goyer proved with the awful ‘Blade Trinity’ (the Blade equivalent of ‘Batman and Robin’) that he is a good writer but an awful directer, Nolan appears to be unable to put a foot wrong. Already responsible for beautifully made films ‘Memento’ and ‘Insomnia’, Nolan is some sort of modern day Einstein when it comes to portraying the darkness of the real world. He provides a compelling, dark and truly moving feeling which manages to keep you hooked for two hours of joy.
Many years ago we felt that ‘Batman’ was dead. Unable to revive under CPR, we thought ‘Batman and Robin’ had been the final nail in the coffin. It’s an amazing and wonderful feeling therefore to find the hero back in the beautiful ‘Batman Begins’. Powerful throughout, the story thrives and you never want it to end. This troubled hero really has began again and it’s like a Phoenix from the ashes. Perfect.