To me Batman has always been the most interesting of the major superheroes. Bruce Wayne is not the product of some science experiment
gone wrong. He is not an evolved form of human, nor was he subjected to a form of convenient radiation or spider venom. Wayne is just a
man who fights evil.
With Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan, best known for the inventive thriller Memento, seeks to reinvent and rebuild the once
mighty franchise following the disastrous Batman and Robin. He does so by exploring the character of Batman more deeply than ever
before. For the most part Nolan is successful. Begins is truly the rebirth of the series. It exists in an entirely separate universe from the
previous entries in both framework and style.
Begins is serious in tone. This is the story of how Bruce Wayne became Batman. Dramatically, the movie is first rate. The murder of Wayne's
family is particularly effective, as are the psychological themes of fear and revenge. This is a smart film.
The performances are also uniformly solid. Christian Bale is a more than adequate Dark Knight and Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, and
Michael Caine are excellent as usual.
The problem is that the film tries to do too much. The main plot involving hallucinogenic drugs is more complicated than it needs to be.
Begins also spends a bit too much time on Wayne's training after he flees Gotham. This all comes at the expense of the Katie Holmes
character (aka the girl) and her relationship with Batman. It just feels underdeveloped.
But even in these shortcomings Batman Begins shows a lot of potential for the inevitable sequel. It is a great foundation if nothing else.
The biggest disappointment is the action. Most, if not all, of the major sequences are poorly photographed and edited. They are nearly
incomprehensible at times. The climactic elevated train chase is almost entirely forgettable. I would advise that next time they pull back the
camera a few feet and lower the editor's caffeine intake by about 50 percent.
For the most part though, Batman Begins hits the mark. It succeeds in making the Dark Knight truly dark, not to mention interesting and
even deep. With a few improvements the next film could truly be great. As it stands though, Batman Begins is a good start. Or is it restart?
* * *
(out of four)
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson,
Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Cillian
Cinematography by: Wally Pfister
Music by: Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard
Released: June 15, 2005; 140 Minutes