Sunday, June 26, 2005

Batman Begins

Finally! Batman done right.

In the last few years the Caped Crusader has had to face his share of evil, not only in Gotham City but also from stylish Hollywood producers that managed to ridiculize the franchise more and more with every deliver. Althouth the first Batman (directed by Tim Burton) had that dark atmosphere which was expected, the movie was not about the hero but was more concentrated on the villain, an overweigth Joker played by Jack Nicholson. The script took a lot of liberties including changing the background story to make the Joker the killer of Bruce Wayne parents back when he was a child. Add to that a soundtrack by Prince and you had a very peculiar Batman. Years later came Batman Returns, with a much more caricaturesque Gotham City. However ths was not the big problem. The real probem came with the new villains (The Penguin played by Danny DeVito and Catwoman played by Michelle Pfeiffer) who totally opaqued the hero.

As if that wasn't bad enough, part 3 brought a new director, a new vision and a new set of problems. Gotham City became even more psychodelic; Robin was included in the plot and in order to quiet the ever existing rumors of homosexuality between the heroes, Nicole Kidman was brought as Bruce Wayne's couple. Once again however Batman was left behind by a pair of villains that were no longer sinister, but plain annoying. After all, what can you expect if the hero is played by Val Kilmer and the villains are played by Tommy Lee Jones (as a horrendous Two-Face, talk about killing a very interesting character) and Jim Carrey (The Riddler).

And then... the coup de grĂ¢ce. Batman and Robin brought a metrosexual Batman played by George Clooney, a pair of unappealing villains played by Uma Thurman and Arnold Schwarzenegger (yes, Arnold), a script full of "witty one-liners" like the infamous "That's why Superman works alone", a Batgirl that was Alfred's niece, and a Gotham City set that used all the colors in the rainbow.

Was it too hard to get Batman right? Batman was not about villains, not about style, and certainly not about suits with nipples. Batman was about darkness, revenge and a redemption that never arrived.

But now Christopher Nolan (director of Memento) does tings as they should have been done from the very beginning. Batman Begins finds an adult Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) picking fights in a prison in a distant Asian country. There he is approached by a man named Ducard (Liam Neeson) who offers him the training --both physical and spiritual-- he needs to fight his demons. Ducard is the right-hand of a wiseman called Ras-Al-Ghul, a mysthic guru with his own ideas of chaos and order. Via a set of flashbacks we learn the story of Bruce Wayne, his phobia to bats as a child which indirectly led to the murder of his parents. After growing up under the care of hs guardian/butler Alfred (Michael Caine), a bitter Bruce decides to act as executioner when the man who murdered his arents cuts a deal with the district attorney. However, a crime lord gets to the man before Bruce can actually kill him, resulting in a sense of failure and the contempt from his love interest, the assistant DA played by Katie Holmes.

By the time Bruce finishes his training and goes back to Gotham City, the city has become a nest of crime and his state has been cleverly stolen by the guardian of his assets, played by Rutger Hauer. It is here where Bruce decides it is time to take justice into his hands. Gaining access to a secret department in his father's organization run by Lucious Fox (Morgan Freeman) Bruce is able to round up a suit, a set of weapons and gadgets and, of course, a vehicle. Night falls, Batman rises. But the deed won't be a simple one, for there is someone with a master plan, the evil psychiatrist Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy from 28 Days Later), who as "Scarecrow" spreads a fear inducing toxin.

The choice of villains for this new Batman movie was simply perfect. Bruce Wayne needs to face his fears both real (his painful childhood memories) and artificial (the dread caused by the Scarecrow's gas). However these villains, as compared to the previous ones, are seriously played. They have their motivations, they have their plots, but they don't make a spectacle about it that will lead to stealing camera time from the hero. Even Gary Oldman, known for his very loud and sometimes oveacted representations, delivers a quiet Detective Gordon that notwithstanding pairs with the hero efficiently. This new Batman is all about the story. It's about an evolution and a new beginning. The mention of the Joker at the end of the movie is simply one of the greatest momens this series had ever had.

My only regret is that we never get to see the Scarecrow with his actual costume, he only wears the mask in this movie, so if you have been wondering why you haven't seen scenes of him in the trailer, you know why now.

There have been rumors of Sean Penn as the Joker for a new sequel, we'll have to wait and see.


At 8:58 PM, Blogger Ryan Oakley said...

I thought Batman Begins was easily the best Batman movie, though I have a soft spot for the attacking penquins in part two. I did hear - but am not sure - that Batman's story in the prequel was lifted from the Electra comic books.


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