Casting aside the weight and wear the franchise had developed; Gotham's favorite hero is reinvented once more in 'Batman Begins'. Director Christopher Nolan removes Joel Schumacher's disco influence and 'Batman Begins' restores some dignity into the Batman universe. While not as stylized as Tim Burton's vision, Nolan's straightforward mainstream depiction serves this origin story well, which describes the transformation of Bruce Wayne into the costumed crusader 'Batman'.
Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne and 'Batman' fills the role perfectly and is my favorite 'Batman' actor to date. While Bale's take isn't as moody as Michael Keatons, his natural demeanor suits the billionaire by day armor bound crime fighter at night that comic fans have been reading about since Bob Kane created him in 1939. Bruce Wayne's strained relationship with Rachel, played by Katie Holmes doesn't interfere with the rest of the action, though sadly her assistant DA character that starts out as a strong female lead is defused and reduced to yet another victim to be rescued.
And while this new 'Batman' film doesn't feel the same without Michael Gough, Michael Caine fits as a young Alfred, the caretaker of the Wayne mansion and family. Always reliable talents like Morgan Freeman and Rutger Hauer polish up the movie with their presence while Gary Oldman transforms himself into a becoming Detective Jim Gordon, a good cop who assists Batman in his campaign against crime.
Visually the cinematographers play it safe, delivering basic action shots in a very sure way. However the masters at Jim Henson's' creature shop come through with some fun frightening images depicting people's nightmares under the influence of fear gas given to them by the villain Scarecrow. The production design for Batman's gear, especially the Batmobile, takes its cue from the pages of Frank Millers 'Dark Knight Returns', where the vehicle is more of a tank than a sports car.(Try parking that in a compact space!)
As this summers mega blockbuster from Warner Brothers, the film is forced to follow predictable plot points the WB knows so well. The villain of course has a British accent, there's a wise old man who gives the young up and coming kid sage advice, throw in a kiss at the end and when in doubt blow things up to move the story along. Despite the blandness of these elements, the overused Hollywood-ness can be overlooked while the rest of the story unfolds.
'Batman Begins' redeems the DC Comics hero and lays a solid foundation for more 'Batman' movies to come. The film has its predictable shortcomings but stands tall as a summer action movie with real heroes and villains that provide some true comic book delight.
Digging through my comic collection to enjoy some classics from the pages where 'Batman' really began, for Movie Magazine this is Purple.
© 2005 - Purple - Air Date: 6/22/05
USA - 2005