by Ken B.
This is the superhero movie that completely makes up for Batman & Robin. Christopher Nolan, who is capable of bringing 110%, puts in about 108% in Batman Begins. This movie does have a couple of flawed points here and there, but nonetheless is a captivatingly entertaining movie – gripping, visual, and crisp.
The origin story of Batman is traced in the first half of the film, and what I found to be the strongest part of it. Bruce Wayne’s (CHRISTIAN BALE) training in an unidentified prison camp in Bhutan is intersped with flashbacks of his childhood, an answer to his fear of bats and witnessing the murder of his parents. He has a vengeance now to fight crime in Gotham City, the place of which he grew up that is now hopelessly corrupted.
The cinematography by Wally Pfister is lovely and sharp, its beauty evident very early with wonderful spreading shots and taking full advantage of the 2.35 frame. As always, Hans Zimmer’s score is nothing short of hauntingly brilliant. The screenplay written by Nolan himself with David S. Goyer is clever and thrilling, with the occasional snap of a one-liner thrown in for good taste.
With Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, and so many more, the acting is convincing and well-thought out on the main cast. Watching talented people work with a talented script is always an enjoyable cinematic experience.
But then the first half ends and Bruce dons his black cape, Batsuit, and discovers the Batmobile. While the movie never becomes exceedingly weak, or never literally weak at all, it seems all the less inspired as it builds towards a climax before becoming grand once again. It sort of works like a fancy, upper class meal: exciting in its start, but then becoming one note and disappointing. In that sense, Batman Begins feels like a bait-and-switch of quality prior to winning back its merit. While Nolan’s vivid imprint is apparent on every scene, you can’t help but feel that some of it is legions better than the rest.
Nevertheless, this is a strong movie all around. Few other movies that are released on thousands of screens during blockbuster season are able to mix their sweeping, epic shots with their personal, intimate shots with the same high level of efficiency, but few other movies that are released on thousands of screens during blockbuster season have Christopher Nolan at their helm.
This movie works on a psychological level in both halves. Fear is a huge motif. It’s a principal part of the villain, Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow (CILLIAN MURPHY), the driving force behind Bruce Wayne’s childhood and the real reason he becomes Batman, and a general fear among the citizens who know just how corrupt their hometown of Gotham City is run. It’s explored on a deep and interesting level, working in very subjective ways.
Batman Begins is Batman for the 21st century, a push to reclaim the superhero movie. A strong winded movie directed, written, acted, shot, scored, and edited to please the viewer. It’s not perfect, though; spotty parts in the second half can keep it from brilliance, but it’s memorable for a fantastic reason and striking in its execution.
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