Batman Begins

In preparation for watching and thusly reviewing “The Dark Knight”, I decided to watch 2005’s “Batman Begins” and refresh my memory on how the restarted franchise began.

Batman Begins (2005)

I’ll go out on a limb and say that comic books are probably the hardest thing to adapt to film due to the fact that they are very visually driven. The second hardest thing to adapt is an origin story due to the fact that if you get it wrong, you will be thrown to the fanboys with no mercy whatsoever. The third hardest adaptable thing to film is probably the story of a likable and happy-go-lucky paedophile. I digress. As I was saying, comic book films have it tough. When you look at Batman purely objectively it’s absolutely crackers. It’s basically the story of a billionaire who fights crime in a rubber bat suit. It’s crazy.

“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

The film follows Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) who is angst-ridden and traumatised after his parents were gunned down in front of him at a young age. After a few flashbacks, we join adult fake-bearded Bruce as he takes a spiritual jouney to “seek the means to fight injustice, to turn fear against those who prey on the fearful” under the instruction of a man named Ducard (Liam Neeson) and the League of Shadows. It’s nice to see a non-cocked up version of Batman’s origin for a change (Tim Burton has a lot to answer for…) Anyway, after Bruce refuses to execute a man as his final test of commitment to justice, he returns to Gotham and starts waging his one-man war against crime.

It’s taken me a while to realise this, but I don’t particularly like Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne. It’s not that he’s a bad actor or anything, he just doesn’t seem to do much with it. At least Keaton had a slightly odd edge to him, making the fantastical notion of a man dressing up like a nocturnal mammal and fighting crime that tiny bit more believable. Mind you, at least Bale’s better than Val Kilmer and George Clooney.Plus, he’s British (Welsh to be precise) so hoorah for that.

I think one of the reasons that Bale doesn’t particularly shine is the fact that he’s surrounded by an all-star cast in this film. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson and Gary Oldman all pull out solid perfomances for this flick. Katie Holmes is surprisingly good too, but I suppose this is because Tom Cruise hadn’t sucked out her soul and offered it to Xenu by this point.
There is some fantastic action too. The Tumbler chase is one of the most unique car chases I’ve seen for a long time and we finally see Batman kicking some arse further than a stiff kick or punch as in previous installments. The camera does seem to have a Bourne-style epileptic fit on occasion, but this can be forgiven due to the fact it mostly behaves itself.

“Now, take this guy: armed robbery, double homicide. Got a taste for theatrical, like you. Leaves a calling card…”

The one thing that lets “Batman Begins” down in my opinion is the lack of a great villain. Before all you Cillian Murphy/Liam Neeson fanpeople start firebombing my room, let me explain. Murphy is intense and very creepy as Dr.Crane, however all his carefully controlled malevolence goes out the window as soon as he puts the Scarecrow mask on and starts chucking poisonous gas into people’s faces. He also abandons all his talk about the mind and inexplicably starts making bad puns (“You need to lighten up”- before setting ol’ Batsy on fire) We don’t really get a conclusion to his story either, he just gets tasered in the face and rides off into the night screaming. I know he’s in “The Dark Knight”, albeit very briefly, but personally I’d have a liked a bit of closure. As for Neeson, well- he’s okay I guess, but apart from the whole “mentor gone bad” thing he doesn’t do much.

So, “Batman Begins” is a really enjoyable film. Fantastic cast, brilliant action sequences and some genuinely interesting characters. It succeeds in explaining Batman’s story correctly and is damn entertaining to boot.

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