But it's true, for as long as a pretzel's been salty, I've been a huge fan of the boy in black (though he's usually in Blue and Gray in the comic... civil war reference?). And like most, if not all, Batman fans out there, when Cineplexes world wide were cursed by the debacle that was Batman and Robin, I walked straight out of the theatre and attempted ritual seppuku right there in the parking lot. Years upon years (and pounds upon pounds) later, I found myself living in a mystical Shangri-la known as "The Early 2000's" during which Comic Book Movies have enjoyed their renaissance and everything from the good and the bad to the ugly and the obscure has gotten its day in the sun. Sure it's mostly been Marvel lately, but that only means that DC is due, baby! And though last year's Catwoman proved to be the proverbial strychnine in the tea of celluloid, the great, great Warner B. has gotten serious with its darkest and best selling character, dispensing with the neon and the rubber nipples, and bringing in no less a director than Christopher "Memento" Nolan to helm the damned thing! Yep, it's safe to say that the coolest thing since sliced Dooku is now on the big screen!
Isn't it? Everyone thinks so! What does Brother Kneumsi think? Well, I really, really liked it, and while this is possibly the most accurate Batman movie to date, Batman Begins still dispenses with some continuity and pacing for the sake of coolness and profitability. As good as it is, and it is, there is also a feeling that producers chose the biggest and most marketable good actors they could find for the list of characters they wanted in this flick, without paying much mind to how well each actor really was suited to playing each character. Sure some are perfect, but others... well? The good news is that the actors, well-cast or not, are all around excellent, and that beats the hell out of a poorly cast crap-bag actor.
Let's not be too harsh, though, hero, Batman Begins just might be the best Batman film you can buy, and, saints preserve us, this is just the epinephrine we needed to kickstart the heart that J-Dawg Schumacher pumped piss puree through back in 1997! The nipples are thankfully gone from the Batsuit and now show up prominently only on the front of Katie Holmes' silk blouse... again, thankfully!
In Gotham City, a metropolis so corrupt there's no one for a narc to narc to, one family is working hard to make a difference, and in true Bat Mythos tradition, they pay with their lives for the effort, slain by the very social dregs they've sworn to save. With the idealistic Thomas and Martha Wayne (Linus Roache and Sara Stewart) resting in their eternal respite, their idealistic son Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale, going from Bateman to Batman) travels the world in search of trouble.
He finds it. But amazingly, he also finds purpose and direction, and after years of cruel tutelage with the League of Shadows Warriors (led by the excellent Liam Neeson and Ken Watanabe), he returns to Gotham a different man. A Bat-Man!
Let me tell you, he is Batman! And once the movie truly becomes a Batman Movie, it's easy to marvel (sorry) at the story and the actor filling out the armored mantle of the Bat! Bale adroitly handles the dark thinker posing as a billionaire playboy, sometimes morphing between sub-personae at the notice of a hat drop. On the other hand, when Bruce is Batman, Bale is pure menace and exudes fear as if he's got a specially made gland just for the purpose! This hero kicks more ass before 9 AM than most vigilantes kick all day!
Of course he'd have to with villains like Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), Jonathan "Scarecrow" Crane (Cillian Murphy) and a very mysterious and single minded (and consistently mispronounced) Ra's Al Ghul to deal with, neither of whom are even bothering to wait in the wings!
The Hottentots are most certainly on the loose in Gotham, and Batman Begins to shore up the holes in the great wall of Justice! Thankfully he's not alone though. He's got an equally idealistic cop named Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), his butler turned father-figure Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine), a corporate weapons expert named Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), and, of course, what every origin story requires, the childhood friend turned love interest, this time in the form of Katie Holmes' infinitely moral Assistant District Attorney Rachel Dawes!
The film is one hell of a lot of fun and while it dispenses with some of the more overt comedy of Spider-Man 2, it never takes itself too seriously either, and manages to turn the corners of la bouche northward a time or two. Further, unlike recent Bat-Flicks, this isn't a silly movie, and manages to be more than just a "great ride". Naturally, that aspect is there, and the credible takes a back seat... no an actual back-of-the-bus seat... to the impossible more often than you can shake a batarang at. It's a good film, word is bond, but you might find yourself saying "what the hell?" almost as often as you say "wow!"
Mark this, though, the second half of the film manages to fix the gaps of the first half with aplomb, and that includes some of the cool miscasting... to a degree. Again, Bale is perfect as both Bruce and the Bat and that goes in equal measure for Gary Oldman as Gordon! Strangely however, the rest of the major characters show a head-scratcher of a casting call. This is doubly strange considering that all these actors are fantastic and even some of my favorites. Cillian Murphy is fantastic in this film, however, the Scarecrow is a tall, lanky, ugly stork of a man, far too nerdy for the almost-beautiful Murphy to play here. Michael Caine is more Michale Caine than Alfred here, and to be sure Morgan Freeman is incredible, though his Lucius might just be a little too old to maintain his position for long. It's hard to pick this nit too much though, because every actor is excellent in this well-acted film. That includes added characters like Holmes' Rachel and Rutger Hauer's Earle.
Sadly, the unpredictability of the casting didn't spill over to the plot, and many of the second half's "surprises" had a flashing LED Beacon on them from early on. That's not to say it's still not pretty cool, but it's not necessarily original. Nor is much of the Star Wars-like mythology and motifs. There seemed to be so much Star Wars in this film from the casting to the costuming to the tone that at one point, when Batman loses a weapon and reaches for it, I half expected it to fly into his hand courtesy of the Force! But hey, if that's the worst of the worries, I think we'll groove soon, blood!
To make a long review even longer, I may not have liked this movie as much as I could have, or even wanted to, this is the film that will repair the broken bat film franchise, and the only people out there who could truly give this film a hard time are the fat comic book guy clones like me. We'll grow to love it, to be sure, and there will be plenty of chances to do so now. To say this film is left open for a sequel is like saying that rum might be an alcoholic beverage.
Four Stars out of Five for Batman Begins! Don't make the mistake that I did and judge the film before the end! The second rip-roaring half of this adventure more than makes up for the potential continuity breaches of the beginning. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to waddle on down to the comic book store and catch up on my Bat-reading. I hear Jason Todd has been resurrected and has assumed the identity of the Joker's former alter-ego, the Red Hood. If the above sentence is meaningless to you, you're probably cooler than I am! See you in the next fan-boy nerd-alert reel, there, Jeff Albertson! Oh, that's right, I said it, I went there!