Thursday, June 16, 2005

Batman Begins (My review) 

Batman Begins, directed by Christopher Nolan

Having just returned from a showing of "Batman Begins", I found myself wondering if I was satisfied with the films conclusions about the nature of justice and revenge, good and evil. This alone should be a good sign, since most of the previous films after "Returns" never managed to pose any lingering questions beyond whether or not Arnold would be better in politics than metallic ice suits. Dark and almost distopic at times, the plot centers on the origins of Batman, arising from the tortured childhood of Bruce Wayne, son of Millionaire philanthropy, and haunted by memories and guilt from his parents' untimely demise. He separates himself from the world following an encounter with his parents killer, and undertakes a life of crime and vagrancy, eventually ending up in the hands of a mysterious martial arts master in an undisclosed Eastern country. Typical training sequences ensue, and after a falling out of sorts, literally and figuratively, its back to Gotham. Needless to say, its all Batman from there. "Begins" is not without its share of plot twists, although some were more than predictable. The cinematics and effects were at least on par, if not above, most expectations.
Christian Bale was a decent Bruce, over-acted (as most were) although that may not be a bad thing. The film itself poked fun at its overblown theatrics on several occasions, and this conclusion was valid, despite not necessarily being a criticism in itself. This is a movie based on a comic book, after all; a movie about a super hero. I usually enjoy Morgan Freeman anyway, and this was no exception, although it may be because he seems to play the same likable character in most of his roles. Gary Oldman and Michael Caine as Alfred are veterans, and turn in good supporting performances, although I found Katie Holmes to be a little flat. Cillian Murphy is dully creepy as Scarecrow. The acting erred on the side of dramatic, which at times can get tedious, especially when enduring the seemingly endless series of clich├ęs and one-liner sentimental nothings at the end of the film. Linus Roache as Daddy Wayne embodied this best, coming off as a caring, but perhaps too idealized, vision of a father/humanitarian. Overall, however, the cast seemed to be well drawn together, and for the most part excellently cast. It was the ideas that the film explored, however, that were by far its strongest asset.
Extended essays on the implications of the films ending are sure to abound, but to spare any readers a spoiler, I will only say that it seems at best a semantic resolution to the problems posed earlier by both hero and villain: the role of compassion and vengeance in carrying out justice. I have written briefly on the subject before, although that posting hardly does the discussion of the subject in a "Star Wars" context justice (Hat Tip: Andy). It would seem that Batman cannot fully surrender himself to the Dark side, in keeping with the analogy, a position at odds with his would-be mentor. Perhaps this ongoing conflict is what makes this rendition of Batman so appealing. It is not hard for all of us to identify with the rage Bruce Wayne feels when confronted with the corruption of a system that would let his parents' murderer go free, or know the location of a dangerous crime boss and do nothing, and the struggle he has when dealing with his own anger and drive for revenge. And even the compassionate mercy of Batman has its limits, the ending would seem to suggest.
The movie seems sharply divided in its social and political implications; at times denouncing what it calls "escalation" in the law enforcement armaments and endorsing idealistic social reform, yet recognizing the futility of Thomas Wayne's efforts without the courage to take the steps needed to end the city's crime problems. The scene of the parents murder, in fact, seems almost a pathetic indictment of the kinds of "passive resistance" techniques anti-gun theorists advocate when confronted with a dangerous situation, and the film only reinforces the need for strong prison sentences and harsh punishments for violent offenders and those who seek to do harm.
"Batman Begins" is a return to roots, restarting a series that had become increasingly cartoonish and irrelevant in an age where innocence has been shattered by falling towers and crashing planes. Overall, it was an enjoyable one.


[Edit: comments are always welcome, on both the film, and the nature of justice... two and a half hours of Batman can hardly be the defining say on such a topic]

i cant believe u didnt wait for me.
*stomps off in a huff
j/k man
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