Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Movie Review: Batman Begins

Take note. Before we begin think about some great entertainment. Think about what it means to be so focused on a character you feel what he feels. Think about a plot so involved that even if the twist is somewhat predictable, it’s so well done that its really the only thing that could have happened o fit the movie. Think about the type of movie where even if you’ve had a bad day watching it gets you so deeply involved that your day becomes the conflict of the movie.

This is Batman Begins. This is not only how Batman movies should be done, this is how James Bond movies should be done. Hell, this is how a lot of movies should be done!

Forge everything you know about Batman. Forget that Michael Keaton threw the Joker off the hundredth floor of a gothic cathedral. Forget Val Kilmer’s silly sidekick Robin and how I wish I could forget the batsuit with nipples.

Batman Begins is a complete re-launch of the Batman story (hence the title). Though this has previously been done on film in the first Batman movie from 1989, the depth to which the character of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is explored is remarkable. From his youth as the heir to the Wayne family fortune, his life is suddenly changed when his parents are murdered. The twist is that in an economically depressed town it is the Wayne family who is striving to help the masses as philanthropists.

Several years pass as the now college-aged Bruce attempts to take revenge on his parents’ murderer. This is stopped by a mafia hitman who wants to shut up a pigeon. When Bruce confronts the mob boss he realizes that as a rich kid he will never be able to stop the rampant crime in Gotham City.

So he disappears. He travels across the globe as a vagabond, and learns the intricate nature of crime. His travels bring him to a mountain enclave where he studies martial arts and becomes a member of an elite Ninja clan. However the philosophical differences between him and his mentor cause him to leave the order and return to Gotham City, not to condemn it but to save it.

That is the essential philosophical plot of this film, salvation vs. condemnation.

In his ascent to becoming Batman, Bruce is aided by his butler Alfred (Michael Caine). Unlike many other instances of the Batman story this one gives much depth to the Alfred character. Not only does he clean the mansion, he also is a friend, companion and mentor to Bruce.

Also aiding Batman is his equipment supplier Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) who serves in a role reminiscent of Q from the James Bond series.

But this movie isn’t all setup. The pacing is done quite well mixing exposition with action quite well using the vehicle of flashbacks. That leads into a plot that could come right out of a high quality episode of CSI (but with better car chases).

Batman Begins shows that when Hollywood really wants to do something right they can. It’s almost like old-time movie making in a modern setting. Just like the old James Bond movies and as visually stunning as any effects film of the 21st century, Batman Begins gets 4/5 stars.

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