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If there was ever any doubt that Joel Schumacher ruined the "Batman" franchise, this film certainly puts those doubts to rest. Remember back, if you can, to the days when Batman was more than a glitzy, cornball comedic, as portrayed in both "Batman Forever" and "Batman & Robin", most notably the latter. Schumacher's Gotham looked more like something you would expect to find in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. It was not dark. It was not engrossing. The Schumacher villains relied on both comedy and parlor tricks to carry out their evil deeds, whilst the Tim Burton villains relied on terror and menace and transforming the ordinary into the terrifying. Burton's Gotham was a living crypt -- dark and brooding, filled with sinister demons who wanted nothing more than to rule the world. "Batman Begins" reminds us of those days when Batman didn't have to be funny at all...he just had to be himself. This new Batman is far darker than anything Schumacher ever envisioned, and almost gives Michael Keaton's Batman a run for his money. The villains are everywhere, and they are played with more heart and viciousness than anything Schwarzenegger or Thurman could concoct. "Batman Begins" is the Batman you have been waiting for.
Forget all about Val Kilmer and George Clooney -- the newest hero on the streets of Gotham is Christian Bale (who completely transformed himself for his last role in "The Machinist"). It is almost too bizarre to believe that he went from the exoskeleton in that film to the muscled up caped crusader doing battle against the legions of evil. We first find Bruce Wayne on a sojourn overseas, trying desperately to get over both the memory of his murdered parents and cope with the life he just doesn't understand. Gotham is a terrible place ruled by terrible people, and no one seems to be able to stop any of it. The city is ruled by Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), a mobster who controls all of the seedy elements in the town, and who will stop at nothing to bring Gotham to its knees. While Bruce is away, things get worse. Fortunately for Gotham, while abroad, Bruce is recruited by a man named Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) and is asked to join a secret society known as the League of Shadows. They train Bruce and send him on his path to become Batman. Once home, Bruce takes on the criminal element single handedly and slowly transforms into the same Batman we remember from the first two films. Michael Caine co-stars as Alfred; Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox; Katie Holmes as Bruce's childhood friend and love interest; and, Liam Neeson as the man who trains Bruce into becoming a killing machine.
If that seems like a very vague description of the plot, that's because it is. I really don't want to give anything away, and the best part about the "Batman" films is discovering as you go along. Now, let's talk about direction. Christopher Nolan is a master of direction, as seen in his only other works, "Memento" and "Insomnia". He was the perfect choice to carry on this franchise, and you can tell while watching the film that he truly loves the character of Batman and the development of the persona. His casting is impeccable, with some of the most prestigious names in Hollywood signing on for even bit parts in the film. The art direction and production design is the best it has ever been in a "Batman" film, with the streets of Gotham really becoming a character of their own. And, what about the humor? All of the "Batman" films are known for subtle and intelligent injections of humor. This one is no different. Most of the humorous moments come from Caine and Freeman, but we see all of the characters having so much fun, that is far more rewarding that any slapstick. The most visually stunning scene for me was the first scene where we meet Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy). It comes out of nowhere and is masterfully executed...and scary as hell.
As for Batman himself, Christian Bale does exactly what he needs to do as the masked man. He has that same quality as Michael Keaton, though not quite as dark. That might be a good thing. Maybe Batman should not start off so dark and despondent. Maybe he needs a little more experience and common practice before he becomes the grizzled crimefighter we see in the first two films in the franchise. As Alfred, Michael Caine brings a much needed levity to the film, and he looks totally enthralled to be involved, as does Morgan Freeman, who admittedly took the role for the inflated paycheck. Katie Holmes does justice to her role, just as Kim Basinger and Michelle Pfieffer did to theirs. Tom Wilkinson and Cillian Murphy are both nasty, wicked, and totally enjoyable to watch on screen -- they're no Jack Nicholson, but who is? The standout performance, for me, came from Liam Neeson, who plays against type and goes for something we hardly ever see him strive to reach. Maybe it was just because he was Liam Neeson.
"Batman Begins" is the third best film in the series, and eclipses the final two installments by leaps and bounds. Schumacher had no business touching this franchise, and thank God for Christopher Nolan, who once against proved just how profitable and entertaining the caped crusader can be. Also, here is a little tip: think twice before bringing the kiddies to see this one. I saw this film in a matinee filled with elementary school kids and most of them were terrified at some of the more shocking scenes in the film, as when Scarecrow comes on screen, and when Batman is viewed through the hallucinogenic effects of a drug. If you think you're young one can handle it, go for it, but just be warned that this is not the colorful and madcap Schumacher version that you have grown accustomed to seeing. This is Batman on anti-depressants, and that's just the way we want it.
- added 06/24/2005, 07:42 AM
This movie was amaxing. It's definitely something
everyone should see.
- added 06/24/2005, 11:21 PM
A nearly flawless movie, this had me sucked in
from the beginning. I love the fact that you don't
see the actual Batman character until so far into
the film. Although the Scarecrow's part in the
film was a little short, I do feel he had a major
effect. Overall, this movie was amazing. It's back
to the gritty ways of Gotham, and I loved it
- added 06/26/2005, 06:58 PM
Amazing movie. It was well put together and had
the darkness that should always go along with
Batman. No other word than Amazing.
- added 06/29/2005, 04:34 AM
I think it's a good batman movie but I was a bit
dissapointed.. It looked like every year's summer
blockbuster with a bit of a better 3 dimensionnal
character.. I didn't like the voice Bruce took as
batman nor his jokes on the material he'd buy for
his costume, I didn't like the many Gotham
citizens or drunks or hobos saying funny lines
when action was happening, I didn't like the scene
with Gordon in the batmobile, I didn't like batman
destroying half of Gotham.. those kinda things.
Also, in my opinion, the caped Batman with bat
ears and stuff worked better visually in the 2
first ones. I explain myself: Tim Burton's style
has a comic book, colorful twist to it. When you
put such a character in a Tim Burton movie that
has humour in it and stuff, it works fine. But
when you put it in a movie that tends to be
realistic and dramatic, it just doesn't fit imo.
Anyway, still better than the Schumacher series. I
liked Scarecrow, a lot, even if he wasn't ugly
like he should be. Rent it, it'll
- added 09/20/2005, 05:03 PM
Finally, the Batman series returns to glory.
Batman and Robin was fucking horrible. This one is
quite redeeming, though.
turn the radio off
- added 10/13/2005, 06:06 AM
great flick, an instant classic. it gives batman
the dark feel that he deserves. Bale did an
excellent job in his portrayel, i probably enjoy
him the most out of any of the others. breathes a
fresh breath of air into the batman series and
can't wait for the next one.
- added 06/12/2006, 02:49 PM
Went with two friends to the city to see this the
day it came out. I shit you not, there was
actually a tornado in a field beside us. Not close
enough to affect us, but we could see it. Well
worth it. This was the best Batman film thus far.
Nolan's dark style really shone through on this
one, and Bale is a fucking perfect Bruce/Batman.
- added 10/22/2007, 02:48 AM
Wouldn't a weapon that vaporized all the water in
a city kill the people as well? Even if it only
vaporized the water in the pipes, I'm thinking
there would be some human collateral damage. That
bugged me but still a good movie overall.
- added 11/22/2007, 05:09 PM
This is exactly what Batman should have been.
Batman Forever, Batman and Robin are complete
garbage and this movie proves it. This franchise
hopefully will continue to grow when The Dark
Knight comes out and i have high hopes for it.
- added 05/25/2010, 01:49 AM
When I first heard of this coming out I thought
they could never remake it after that went wrong
at the end of the other, so I'm glad I was wrong.