Film review: Batman Begins

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Batman Begins

Waiting in the line for my ticket to Batman Begins, I heard a mother in front of me with four-year old in tow complaining that the film was rated M, and how ridiculous it was that a ‘comic book film’ was rated for Mature audiences. I couldn’t help myself. “It isn’t a film for kids” I said. She and her husband looked at me like I was an idiot.

When the lights came up and all the stupid—and borderline criminally negligent—parents ushered their terrified little children out of the cinema, I took solace in the fact they would be up all night trying to get their poor little kids to sleep. I do feel sorry for the kids though. Not only because they’d be having nightmares, but because they were cursed with such dumb, unimaginative people for parents, who couldn’t comprehend that anything in ‘comics’ could possibly explore adult themes.

Thankfully, Batman Begins turns away from such stupity (we were looking at you, Mr Schumacher) and gives Batman the treatment he deserves. Of all the films so far, this one comes closest to the Batman of the 70s I grew up with—the dark, haunted avenger of the crime- and drug-ridden streets of Gotham. It isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s the closest you’ll get. Of course if your idea of Batman is Adam West doing the batsusi and wrestling rubber sharks, you’re going to be very disappointed.

Director Christopher Nolan brings the shadowy, overcast realism of his previous films Memento and Insomnia to the Batman legend, and it’s just what the doctor ordered. The whole film is far more believable than previous efforts, despite the now de rigeur Gothic look of Gotham, and it is further grounded by a story that concentrates on Bruce Wayne more than his alter ego. Perhaps a bit too much, as the first half of the film is just a little too drawn out. At 141 minutes the film feels a bit long and a bit choppy—about three quarters of the way through I thought I was heading for the climax when in fact there was quite a way to go. However Nolan successfully manages to bring what is really two complex films, an origins story and a villainous plot, to the finish line together—albeit in a very noisy and chaotic way.

Thankfully in between the intense action sequences we get some good acting, and liberal dashes of dark humour too. There are a few histrionic lines, but on the whole an essential humanness remains, even in the face of Batman’s cape-wearing antics. Michael Caine sails beautifully through the role of Alfred, Morgan Freeman brings just the right note of good-humoured world-weariness to Lucius Fox, and even Katie Holmes is refreshing as the honest lawyer (hey, it is a fantasy after all) Rachel Dawes. Cillian Murphy at first seems too young for his role as Dr Jonathon Crane of Arkham Asylum, but he plays the part with such intensity and presence that he gets away with it. Also good to see back on the screen is Rutger Hauer. Liam Neeson, unfortunately, continues what seems to be a run of lazy performances as Ducard. But Batman himself? Despite being cursed with a far too distinctive mouth (“hey, you’re Bruce Wayne, I recognise you by your weird upper lip!”), Christian Bale makes a convincingly troubled Caped Crusader.
Just remember, Batman isn’t for kids. Thank goodness.

Four utility belts out of five.

One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. steelbuddha
    Jun 23, 2005 @ 01:16:29

    There were five-year-olds in our second viewing as well. The mother “dutifully” covered her child’s eyes when the Scarecrow started doing his thing, but Hey-zeus Marimba! Are you mad, woman? I was frightened sometimes. Maybe she wants her child to be a Batman villain, and this is the quickest path to insanity.