Monday, June 20, 2005

Batman Begins

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Batman Begins is the latest movie depicting the adventures of the Dark Knight, and it also happens to be most serious, most realistic, most plausible and most believable Batman movie...ever.

It has been eight years since the last Batman movie, a rather horrendous affair entitled Batman & Robin which starred George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell as the dynamic duo.

The story in Batman Begins is chronologically set earlier than the first four movies before it. Not that it matters, really. Batman Begins is the kick-off movie to an entirely new series, written and conceptualized it seems, from a clean sheet of paper. It tells the story of the Caped Crusader's origins in great detail. It dispenses with the established story lines in the earlier movies, which is probably a good thing, since they got it so wrong. (Batgirl is Alfred's niece is Batman & Robin?)

Stylistically, Batman Begins depicts the Dark Knight in a rather modern, or contemporary way, worlds apart from the gothic and retro adaptation as envisioned by original director Tim Burton. The last two installments (Batman Forever and Batman & Robin) directed by Joel Schumacher bordered on being comedic, and even campy, not unlike the 60's TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. While the first two movies were actually okay (Batman and Batman Returns, both starring Michael Keaton), the latter two installments were quite awful, with overkill use of special effects, shallow acting, and lead actors (Val Kilmer and George Clooney) who can't seem to capture the dark, brooding nature of Bruce Wayne and Batman in the comic books. Who would have thought Michael Keaton would be the best Bruce Wayne/Batman ever? Well, the best, until now.

Christian Bale's portrayal of billionaire Bruce Wayne and his crime-fighting alter ego is pretty spot on, with all the angst, confusion, and desire for revenge as should and can be expected from the character. While this Batman doesn't have the frills of the earlier iterations, it is nonetheless, a pretty solid depiction, and even the new bad-ass batmobile (curiously, it was never referred to as the batmobile in the movie), a cross between an all-terrain vehicle, an APC, and a tank, actually adds more to the substance and realism of the movie.

There lies this movie's strength and weakness. It is much more substantial and realistic than the Batman movies that came out before it, and we have Director Chris Nolan to thank for that. However, this new depiction may pretty much bore kids (and adults) who are expecting non-stop run and gun action and explosions. While it still has those, of course, (no Batman movie would be complete without the action) the action sequences are used to accentuate the substance and realism of the movie, not supplant it, or overpower it, like before. If you're looking for brainless action, this is not your movie. Better rent or buy a copy one of the earlier versions.

However, if you're more of a cerebral viewer, particular about historical and technical detail, and more interested in plot lines than mindless explosions, this movie will be to your liking. The fight sequences in this movie in fact, are not even that well captured on screen, with little apparent choreography and for the most part just a blur (literally) of flying kicks and fists. This was probably intentional, to give emphasis to the plot and storyline, not the action. These nitpicks aside, Batman Begins is a pretty solid movie, and for me at least, the best Batman movie so far. If you're a fan of the Masked Manhunter, you just have to see this movie.

"It's not who I am underneath... But what I do that defines me."

- Batman from Batman Begins





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