Given my fondness for superhero, or comic book hero big-screen adaptations, it hardly seemed fair that I’d not yet seen a single version chronicling the escapades of the great Batman. Though several years old, the first in the trilogy from Christopher Nolan is actually very impressive.
The memory of his parents being murdered when he was a child has been etched in Bruce Wayne’s mind for years now. Following college and the assassination of the man who killed them, Bruce (Christian Bale) disappears. He left his father’s company – his legacy, his home and faithful butler, Alfred (Michael Caine) behind to attempt living with the criminal and experience the mind of the criminal up close and personal. It has led him to an Asian prison that he chose to be thrown into. Mysteriously he finds a benefactor – or rather Ducard (Liam Neeson) finds Bruce rotting in the prison and “arranges” to have him released issuing him a challenge. Once he reaches Ducard’s army of elite soldiers, Bruce is trained in skilled hand-to-hand combat but refuses his final challenge leading to a dismantling of his partnership with Ducard.
Returning to Gotham City, he lives up to his supposed image of a billionaire playboy and reunites with his childhood friend, Rachel (Katie Holmes). It doesn’t take him long to realize that Gotham is a fading city – in order to save it, Bruce creates an alter-ego in a bat-like figure that strikes fear into the criminal. It’s only when his past rears its ugly head that Bruce realizes what he’s fighting to protect is worth preserving.
At the roll of the credits, I liked this movie – a lot. Knowing what’s coming next makes me like it less. Had the trilogy not wondered into such dark and depressing territory – and I don’t have to “see” it to recognize the upsetting twists it encounters, I’d be much more enthusiastic about it. As it stands now, this may be the only movie I watch of this trilogy in a while – working up to the sequels may take a while. (Fortunately, for this happy-ending kinda’ girl, my cousin has assured me that the ending of ‘Rises’ is a good one, and not a mirage!) Separating my feelings of things that are to come and focusing exclusively on ‘Begins,’ I can easily say that I loved this superhero – not to mention his awesome toys! – but I do have bones to pick with the movie, and that is the purpose of this review.
Blowing me away were the great special effects and storyline. I loved how Batman came to be. It was fabulous to encounter such a selfless character and realize that his desire to protect was born out of something he himself feared. It brings the hero down to a more “basic,” human level and it’s a common thread that is much easier to accept than a human man being able to fly or sustain being on fire. (Of course, being a billionaire “play boy” doesn’t hurt Bruce’s quest for a better city either. *wink*) Christian Bale plays this role with finesse and style – and I loved him as well in this as I did the besotted character of Laurie from Little Women. Here, he’s a larger presence and as a result, this character is easily more heroic. His characterization was phenomenal from a purely cinematic perspective though I digress about the shriveling leading ladies these stoic men are given! Seriously, with exception to one or two (with the whiney, spoiled MJ being the worst), superhero’s are rarely paired with a woman who deserves them. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Rachel but she gets all self-righteous on Bruce when he isn’t the one she should be thinking herself better than – in fact, he better than she was, flaws and all.
At its best, this is a film I’d like to watch again. It’s imagined brilliantly and doesn’t seem to ever forget that its hero has a past, even one he chose to make for himself although it clocks in longer than I expected but once the first fifteen minutes pass, its pace never does lag. The script is phenomenal and as previously mentioned the cast wonderful – Bale is surrounded by a supporting cast that is some of the best in the industry including Neeson and Caine as well as an extremely creepy (co) villain in Cillian Murphy’s character. Though this is perhaps one of the darkest movies of its kind, it’s also got an edge by molding its story into one of the most realistic plus I liked how well the cast melded and the chemistry everyone had – from the fabulous camaraderie between Bruce and Alfred to the dilemma of his moral obligation that involves Ducard, there isn’t a flaw I can find in the character relations between a hero and the people who have one of two objectives: To help him create a world of good… or seek to destroy him.
(Parental concerns: Some of the violence could be thought bordering on “graphic” but in reality, the emotional impact is greater since one villain prefers the use of physiological games to torment his victims; a toxic potion is released that causes people to hallucinate and see threats were there is none. There may be a profanity or two. Bruce arrives to a part with two scantily clad women on his arm. The film rates PG13.)