The Dark Knight has been done justice at last
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Thu, 3 November 2005
by: Australian Ninja
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Batman. He could kick your ass six ways from Sunday and you probably wouldn't even see him. Gotta love that.
Does the world really need another Batman movie? Yes, yes it does. I consider Batman Begins to be the first "real" Batman movie. That is, the first Batman film not to be campy, not to compromise the character and not to be, in a word.... shit. Yes I'm talking about a certain two movies I shall call Generic Batman Movie number three and Generic Batman Movie number four. To this day I have never watched them and refuse to watch them on principle. Which principle is that you ask? The principle of not watching shit movies of course.
In short Batman Begins tells the story of how a young Bruce Wayne is traumatised by the murder of his parents by a common thug. He grows up and becomes a big mean bat to take revenge and serve justice vigilante style on Gotham City's criminal scum. He also becomes very scary during the process and befriends soon-to-be police commisioner Jim Gordon. A bunch of other things happen too. Including fighting bad-ninjas [go ninjas!], fighting major villains, fighting the economy, fighting plaque and fighting to save the day. The End. Cue Bat-sequel.
So now we come to the release of Batman Begins on DVD and here we have a comic-book junkie [that is I'm hooked on comics - what did you think I meant?] reviewing a movie based on a comic-book character. That's not necessarily a good thing. Two things you yourself should never do: (1) Let a geek write a review of a comic-book film (2) Publish that review. This is my clause for not getting fired from Buttonhole for writing yet another loopy review. Sammy's note: That's essentially who the movie (and our website) was made for dude, so I think you'll be safe for now.
"Man, F*#k those geeks, you can't please them. If I made a comic-book movie I'd make it how I wanted it to be."
Those words may or may not have been said by a certain Mr. Tarantino. I can't verify for sure but it seems plausible that he said that.
Why am I quoting Old Man Tarantino commenting on if he would ever make a movie based on a licensed property? So I have a nice intro and reason to do this…
Before we get into the rest of the Batman film, let me be a geek and nitpick / bitch about the slightest little things that irked me.
*The Batmobile looked stupid. There I said it, feel free to write me death threats but someone had to say it. However the practicality and application of it in the film won out for me in the end.
*In the scene where Batman snares a guy from street level with a zip line gizmo - hauling him up several stories - then yells at him: His cheeks look like they are made of flubber. Instead of being scared I could not stop laughing at this scene as his jowls wobbled and flailed wildly as if he were Jim Carrey. In the extras the scene is replayed with comic-art and the audio from the movie. Strangely, here the scene is really cool without the incredible cheeks of flubber.
*Katie Holmes in my opinion is a fine actress [and gorgeous ...that's the gentlemanly way of saying she's hot] but I don't think she was the best choice for the role of Bruce's love interest in this film.
*That's about it. But hang on. Why didn't they put [blank] character in the film? And how come Batman was such a [blank]ing lame-o? "And furthermore, I'm a whiny pathetic little freak and no matter how good something is all I do it bitch bitch bitch."
Seriously, if I ever meet any of those lame fans that bag everything just because they can, I'll dish them an all you can eat meal of "Here Comes The Pain!"
Fortunately for us the creators of Batman Begins went ahead and made the film how they wanted it to be. And that is part of the reason why it is the best Batman movie…ever. This time they got it right. The look and feel of Batman is spot on. The surly attitude, the social isolation and brooding obsessiveness combined with the strong sense of justice and desire to change Gotham for the better.
|How cool is that? |
During the first half of the film for I began to wonder if we would ever see Batman himself. So much time had elapsed showing Bruce Wayne's ordeals as a wannabe ninja that I started to panic. Perhaps I had been cheated. Maybe Batman was not even in the film, but no I had seen the cardboard cutouts at the cinema months earlier so there had to be some Batman in the film. Suddenly, I thought that maybe Batman was going to be in the last five minutes of the film and then they would rush out a sequel. I seriously began to panic. My spider-sense tingled as I sensed a swearing fit coming on. But then I realised they were building a genuine back story to Bruce Wayne and giving us some good reasons why he became Batman and not a cop or a criminal for that matter. Allowing over two hours to tell the tale of Sir Batty McBat [esquire] was a brilliant decision in my book. Adequate time is available to showcase Bruce Wayne and his motivations and eventual metamorphosis into the dark and scary Lord Vader. I mean Batman.
Choosing Ra's Al Ghul as the major big bad in the film was a smart choice. Let me be frank ["okay, can I be Alice" I hear you ask.] Superman has Lex Luthor. Spider-man has Norman Osborn a.k.a Green Goblin. Batman has would-be world conqueror / saviour Al Ghul. He is the "arch-nemesis" so to speak of for Batman. The Joker; Penguin; Scarecrow; Mr. Freeze; Two-Face; Poison Ivy; George Clooney; -all villains more on the street (or luxury apartment) level.
They are a plague to the people of Gotham City and the box-office. Al Ghul by contrast is a threat to the entire planet's population.
Would Bruce have become Batman if his parents had not died? I could ask the same of Daredevil, his father was murdered too. The two are often compared to each other. I fail to understand why. Other than being vigilantes motivated by the death/murder of a family member(s) I don't find them that similar. I feel Batman is more akin to the Punisher, yet another vigilante motivated by dead family members. Why do I say this? If you think of the most extreme scenarios you can, say being trapped in a blizzard on a mountainside - or perhaps being kidnapped and ruthlessly tortured by an enemy who would come out on top? Both Batman and The Punisher to me are survivors. One is motivated by the need for justice and is tormented by his parent's death. The other is motivated by the need for revenge and tormented by the death of his wife and children. The key difference?
Bruce Wayne will not intentionally kill another human being, fail to rescue yes, but he will NOT murder someone. Frank Castle on the other hand has made a full time career for himself in killing all the criminals he can. A cold-blooded jackal with no remorse or guilt to speak of. Both men reign supreme is hand to hand combat, resourcefulness, and being really really really good at not being caught by police or killed by their enemies and who want to do other stuff good too. But I digress...Only geeks think about this stuff, sane people are too busy having fun.
The Batmobile in action was mighty impressive. Yes I know I bitched about it, but that point aside the scenes with the Batmobile integrated well with the rest of the film and in particular flowed along nicely from Bruce's connections. [Lucius Fox]. In fact, it was the most purely FUNCTIONAL batmobile of all the films. Sure the other films had prettier ones but this thing was a monster. It was not about style but about being usable. It didn't so much glide down the road as the one in the first film and 90's animated series did. No, this thing barrelled and scraped along the highway unapologetically smashing into anything that got in its way while reflecting Batman's sometimes-reckless attitude.
The martial arts displayed in the film were so subtle I didn't take much notice of them. This was good. Batman isn't about fancy kung-fu moves or high spinning kicks. Why spin-kick a guy when you can just smash an elbow into his skull and knock him out cold in one strike? Batman is about being streamlined and effective, I spotted some nice grappling locks used by Bats in the film and can vouch for their usefulness having used a few of them myself. In hand to hand combat Batman is all about using what works and he is showcased as being brutally effective in Batman Begins. Classy work.
So much time is spent showing Bruce's early training and travelling expoloits we see him becoming some kind of mountain ninja-dude. But he refuses to kill a prisoner when asked. Cue big fire and supposed death of Ra's Al Ghul and simultaneously giving a break for Bruce to come back to Gotham.
What I noticed in visual effects is that Gotham City looked weird. But a good kind of weird. It looks seedy, it looks icky and I would not want to go there. It also looked to me really other-worldy. I don't know if this was intentional and other people may have got different impression. I didn't see any bits of Gotham that looked like real city street or suburbs. There was this brownish hue to the city shots that made it look unreal. Other folks probably appreciated the style of it but I'm too much of an ignoramus to "get it." But then art is subjective at best and we all come away with out own unique impressions of a film.
Scarecrow was another wonderful choice as the minor villain in the film. I was sceptical at how they would portray Jonathan Crane on screen. In my mind he is nerdish, looks physically weak, his mannerisms would look fidgety if he sat near you. I could even see him looking like a bookworm with a snivelly nose. Not a threat anyhow. Then as Scarecrow he becomes a boogey-man, a creature similar to Jack Skellington. Not a children's fairy tale type, but a genuinely terrifying twisted [possibly sadistic?] psycho. Who enjoys nothing more than bringing your very own personal nightmares to life for his pleasure.
On screen I loved the effect of showing what the victims of his scare-gas were seeing. The sack-face mask coming to life with worms oozing from his ocular cavities was some powerful imagery both relevant and I feel necessary to show us how messed up a human being Scarecrow is. You've got to be a psycho to invent a gas that leaves people crippled with fear.
|He's great in the sack |
The scene where Scarecrow hallucinates [after inhaling his own gas] seeing Batman as a kind of demon or Man-Bat was scary, I kid you not. A job well done in a film that relies heavily on symbolism and the theme of fear woven throughout the narrative.
Coming back to Ra's Al Ghul in the film he comes across as a total egomaniac. And that's how I always viewed him in the comic. I mean he is so totally full of himself, thinking he's some kind of messiah you wonder if he is mentally deranged or maybe his mother dropped him when he was a baby. He thinks he's doing the world a favour with his methods but really he's more like Hitler than any saviour. No real servant of humanity would betray every person's basic freedom of choice to live the life they choose for themselves. Pain, growth, mistakes, joys, experiencing the consequences of ones own actions are essential for us all to live and learn. Having someone dictate our choice to us just doesn't sit right with me and fortunately not for batman either as he primarily has some hope for humanity. I feel strongly that Ra's was the best possible choice of villain for the film. Only I am left wondering what villain card they'll play in the sequel when they have already used their Ace.
DVD extras. If you're into Batman and DVD extras then check them out. But put aside some time to do it, as the movie is two plus hours long and extras run at around sixty minutes. In the extras, I particularly enjoyed seeing Christian Bale talking about his role in the film [he played the part of the car.] Mark my words; Bale is destined for great things. Here is a dedicated actor the likes of which has seldom been seen or heard since the dawn of the movie industry. The man wasted away to pencil thin for a role in a previous film. For Batman he beefcaked himself up so big that he had to lose weight to fit the costume. He got headaches on set wearing the Bat-suit and took it like a man. A stubborn "do your damn best make the most of it and like it" kind of man.
My hat is off to Mr Bale for his fine performance. It's worth watching "Reign of Fire" just to see his performance there too. He was the best thing to happen to that movie by a long shot.
Also in the extras, great to see that Frank Miller's "Batman: Year One" is acknowledged for its heavy influence in Batman Begins.
It's Batman Jim, but not as we know him. Not the crummy film version Batman anymore, this one is the real deal. The movie is satisfyingly long. Bruce Wayne and Batman are equally developed characters. The bad guys are menacing and you want Bruce to stop them. The actors are top-notch, the movie is violent and dramatic. Batman is too cool for words and he finally has a film worthy of his reputation. And it's about time.
by: Australian Ninja
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