Wow. Amazing. Simply amazing. This is the movie comic book fans have been waiting for, a film that treats itself like a real movie and not just a summer blockbuster. While there is plenty of action, the movie takes its time developing its characters, culminating in an exciting and well-driven story.
"Batman Begins" forgets what happened in the original Tim Burton movies, and definitely bears no resemblance to the God-awful Joel Schumacher sequels, and instead starts the story from scratch, showing Bruce Wayne's slow transformation into the creature called Batman. The movie explores his training, his weapons and, most importantly, his drive to do what he does, but "Batman" is never slow nor boring. Unlike the previous movies, "Batman Begins" is very realistic - at least as realistic as a movie like this can be. Much of the film is treated as a drama, though don't worry - there is enough crime and action to appeal to those looking for popcorn excitement. I loved both Burton films, but they were also cheesy in a way only Burton could pull off. This time around, Christopher Nolan, the man behind such critically-acclaimed drama-thrillers like "Memento" and "Insomnia," has delivered a world and characters that could be real - for the most part.
This is easily the best comic book adaptation I have ever seen. I loved both "X-Men 2" and "Spider-Man 2," but will never be able to watch them the same again. The "Spider-Man" movies especially gnawed at my soul; while entertaining and quite well done, they were so goofy and colorful it was hard to really get completely involved with the characters. Not so is the case with "Batman Begins." The movie is dark, serious and made for adults, with chilling performances from Christian Bale and Cillian Murphy ("28 Days Later"). When it was announced that Bale would be Bruce Wayne, some raised quite the argument, but I never understood it - he looks the part, he's a good actor, and he's proven he can play rich but mentally unstable characters, as seen in "American Psycho." Bale is terrific, and while there were one or two lines that he delivered in Batman speech (using a rougher voice to hide his identity) that didn't quite work, he is the best person to have ever donned the suit. Amazingly, this is the first Batman movie that has devoted itself to the character of Bruce Wayne; all of the other films have spent more time on the villains than the lead character.
That being said, "Batman Begins" is full of interesting characters, both good and bad guys, all of whom are played by talented people. Tom Wilkinson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes and Gary Oldman all deliver great performances in their ensemble roles; Oldman is especially suited for the role of Jim Gordon.
If there were any flaws in the movie I would have to say it is the action. While there is plenty of it and some of the scenes are quite exciting, Nolan hasn't quite mastered how to film such scenes. "Batman Begins" lacks a big scene that just blows the audience away, and there were some moments where Nolan didn't quite build up the intensity of the situation. Part of the problem can be blamed on inexperience with action filming, as some of the fight scenes are difficult to watch as Nolan has zoomed in too close and we are unable to see the choreography of the action; the other part is that "Batman Begins" lacks a mesmerizing soundtrack like the original Burton films did. Personally, I wouldn't have minded hearing the Burton theme at least once.
It'll be interesting to see how "Batman Begins" does in the long run. It is an excellent film with great talent, good direction and a more interesting and plausible story than most (though the movie does suffer near the end from a few questionable scientific theories), but it is also dark and even scary at times; I wouldn't recommend it for young children. "Batman Begins" is the best comic book adaptation, but compared to the "Spider-Man" and "X-Men" movies it doesn't have the same popcorn entertainment that will keep regular moviegoers coming back for seconds and thirds.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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