Sunday, October 19, 2008

Batman Begins

I haven't been posting lately, mostly because I've been rewatching some old movies. No reason I can't talk about them, though.

Somewhere in between its release in 2005 and seeing The Dark Knight, I forgot that the first Christopher Nolan-directed Batman movie was as good as it was. I still think Knight's better, but Begins is damn solid in its own right. What's impressive is how he manages to make films that capture the coolness of Batman and comic books in general without having particularly good action scenes. They're a big part of what makes the Spider-Man movies (at least the first two) great, which is the only super hero movie franchise I've enjoyed on the same level as the revived Batman, and usually what carries action movies in general, but they really aren't what makes Batman good. Sure, the fights are there, but they're pretty poorly filmed; lit too dimly, shot too close, and cut too fast. This is partly a stylistic choice to make Batman more secretive and menacing, but it doesn't make for particularly entertaining sequences. Both movies have had decent car chases, but it's really the characters that drive the show, and that's what makes them so much better than the other riffraff.

When Begins came out, origin stories were all the rage, and they still are to some extent, it's just that more properties are already established. A good origin story can be very compelling, the problem is they end up being similar and you can only see a guy accidentally gain powers and adapt to it over the course of an hour so many times before it gets boring. But that's what makes Begins interesting; not only is it a story we haven't heard before, it's one about a character's motives, not the magic MacGuffin that turns him into a freak. (Note: I intentionally misused the movie term "MacGuffin" here, because the next several films I'll be talking about are directed by a man who has no idea what it actually means. Guess who it is!) Showing Bruce Wayne's slow transition into Batman, one he makes because he comes to feel a true need to help people and not because he's strong enough to throw trucks now, is a truly interesting one, and then we get to the second half, which is a pretty darn good crime story besides the somewhat ludicrous doomsday device. The cast is obscenely good, with nearly every significant part played by a well-known talent, and despite the hate she got I think even Katie Holms was competent. Liam Neeson plays a good mentor, but he shows here that he can do other things as well. Besides the fights, the film's only failing in my eyes are the attempts at humor later on, which seem somehow more frequent as the drama builds and usually fall flat. Gordon's racing to get into place with the new Batmobile and stop the bad guys from destroying the whole city, do we really need a cutaway to a random bum telling him he likes his car? In any case, it's not perfect, but it's exactly the reboot Batman needed to fit into this era of a more serious super hero.

1 comment:

sluggwood said...

Awesome review, Great Job.