Friday, June 17, 2005

It Begins...

Babble on.

I've been waiting a long time to see Batman Begins, but the waiting ended last night.

The verdict is: Oh, yeah. Hell, yeah. Don't-let-your-kids-hear-you-saying-it-profanity, yeah!

Flea is similarly impressed, as is The Hack.

First off, Christian Bale is perfect. He's Bruce Wayne, and he's Batman. Finally, we see someone playing the role who can tap into the intensity of the character.

For example, one of the things I think has been overdone in Hollywood is the quiet tough-guy. Quiet is appropriate at times, but it's like everyone has forgotten what it's like to get screamed at by someone you find intensely frightening. It's disorienting, it's surprising, it's intimidating, it raises your heart-rate, and it can be quite terrifying. When appropriate, Batman screams at people, and it works for the character.

He also beats the snot out of criminal types. Not in a "You are the Chosen One, Neo" exquisitely choreographed, slow-motion, hanging on wires way, though - Bale's character just beats on them until they drop. The fight scenes are aggressive and chaotic, not pretty or graceful. And unlike the reviewer for the NYT, I think that's the way it should be. As Liam Neeson's character says to Bruce Wayne while they're fighting near the beginning of the film, "this is not a dance."

There are solid supporting performances from Michael Caine as Alfred (I liked both the humour and sincerity he brought to the role), Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox (have you ever seen a movie where Freeman even came close to delivering a poor performance?), Liam Neeson as...well, we'll just leave it at that, and Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon.

Oh, and the scenes from Bruce Wayne's childhood were very well done. The young actor Gus Lewis was given just enough leeway to make the trauma that starts Bruce on his journey believable. While regular readers (enough to staff a pee-wee soccer tournament these days!) will remember I'm a complete sucker for parent-child on-screen connections, I must confess my heartstrings were not so gently tugged in the aftermath of the deaths of Dr. and Mrs. Wayne. It was essential to set that up properly, because if that event doesn't impose the idea of a boy wounded to the core, the rest of the story isn't credible from a character standpoint.

To borrow The Hack's phrase, "if I had to squint and come up with a fault," I could probably come up with a few small quibbles. First of all, don't make Rutger Hauer say "Didn't you get the memo?" Secondly, cast someone - anyone - other than Katie "I'm a Gotham City District Attorney" Holmes to fill the screen with a female face periodically in an overwhelmingly male movie. Thirdly, show Jim Gordon's tough side. It's not like Oldman isn't capable of playing it. I would have loved to have seen Gordon's corrupt partner try to push him around for being a straight cop, seen Oldman's character kick the living bejeezus out of him with a tire iron or something, and then seen Oldman tell the weasel to get up off the ground and into the car so that they can respond to a call. That would have worked. Batman chooses Gordon as an ally not only because he's honest, but because he's solid, and I would have liked to have seen more evidence of that solidity written into the film. But these are truly nits, and I refuse to pick them any further.

The Dark Knight has returned. And that's all that really matters.

Babble off.

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