The Bat is back in this telling of an already familiar tale. The fact that it holds our attention for much of its too long running time of 2 hours and 21 minutes is a testament to the visuals and fine acting skills of an interesting, if not entirely believable, cast.
“Batman Begins” tells the tale of Bruce Wayne (now played by Christian Bale) who, as a young boy, witnesses his parents’ murder. That event sets him on a quest for vengence against the criminals of his home city of Gotham. To get there though, Qui-Gon Jinn much teach him to use the Dark Side of the Force. Or something like that.
Neatly ignoring the first four films in the series, “Batman Begins” is an appropriate moniker; it refers to the franchise as well as the character. For the most part, it’s a successful re-imagining of the series, but it all seems a bit diluted. The problem is that it seems as if director Christopher Nolan (“Memento”) wanted to ensure the happiness of hardcore fans who were disappointed with the styles of previous directors and, thus, removed all style of his own. This is the Dark Knight served straight up, with no twist of lime.
It also doesn’t help that the script can’t seem to decide what it wants to do with the character; at one point the Winged Wonder exclaims “I’ll fight these [evildoers], but I won’t be their executioner.” Then he immediately proceeds to kill nearly everyone in a quarter mile radius.
Even a chase scene in the newly revamped Batmobile (which seems like a cross between a dune buggy and a Humvee) seems pedestrian. There is one inspired moment in which it leaps from rooftop to rooftop in order to escape a squadron of police cars, but then as soon as the Batmobile hits the ground, it is joined by another squadron giving chase. So what was the point? And how come the Gotham City police aren’t around at any other time they’re needed during the movie?
The best moments involve a villain called Scarecrow and feature some pretty nifty drug-induced visuals. The acting is also fine, but who can really look at Michael Caine as the Wayne family’s trusty butler Alfred Pennywise and not think, “Wow, that’s Michael Caine playing the Wayne family’s trusty butler Alfred Pennywise!” Ditto for Gary Oldman as a pre-promotion Commissioner Gordon. Moments where he fumbles his way around the inside of the Batmobile aren’t as humorous as they should be, but when he and Bale share the screen, those moments are forgiven. Rutger Hauer and Morgan Freeman are also fine additions, but Katie Holmes as a love interest just doesn’t work. She and Bale have no chemistry together, and the inevitable kiss made me squirm as if I were watching siblings make out.
“Batman Begins” is not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination. The darker tone is for the better, and is a welcome (and long overdue) change after the horrendous, butt-shot filled Schumacher years. I just wish Nolan had shown some of the brilliant, in depth psychological subtext that filled his earlier works, instead of the same old angst we’ve come to expect in our Superhero flicks. Oh well, maybe in the inevitable “Batman Begins Again.”
Pros: It’s about what you expect. Cool visuals. Lots of action and an interesting cast…
Cons: …but said cast is too famous to make these characters believable, and said action has, for the most part, all been done before. What the film really needed was a cast of unknowns (with the exception of Bale), and a director who wasn’t afraid to leave his signature on the film.
Review Rating: 3.5 out of 5 pretty cool mushroom-inspired trips.
“Batman Begins” (2005)
117 Minutes; USA
Rated R for tense scenes and adult situations.
Christian Bale ( Bruce Wayne/Batman)
Michael Caine ( Alfred)
Liam Neeson ( Ducard)
Katie Holmes ( Rachel Dawes)
Gary Oldman ( Jim Gordon)
Cillian Murphy ( Dr. Jonathan Crane)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, based on a story by David S. Goyer
Viewing Format: Theatrical Release