An Introduction to the tainted legacy of the Batman franchise and slow production of Batman Begins.
After the travesty of Joel Schumacher’s Las Vegas-inspired Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, many comic book fans were not eagerly awaiting another Hollywood rendition of one of comic’s darkest heroes. In all honesty, fans have been waiting 16 years for something to even come close to Tim Burton’s re-imagining of the Dark Knight. Casting Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker raised eyebrows at cons across the world, but Burton made it work. In fact, he made it work so well that 3 more attempts by 2 other Directors, including Burton himself, and 2 other Batmans couldn’t match the magic set forth in 1989.
Then came the leaks. A new Batman movie has been in the works for years, probably since Batman & Robin somehow didn’t tank in 1997. But, in 2000, the water boiled over as the next Batman flick, tentatively titled Batman: Year One based on the Frank Miller comics of the same name, was greenlit and Requiem For a Dream Director Darren Aronofsky was officially attached. Then, the back and forth, on again off again, continued until Aronofsky dropped out in 2003 and Memento Director Christopher Nolan immediately signed on and threw out the Batman: Year One concept in exchange for his own Batman: The Frightening script. Finally, things would be (almost) smooth sailing from there. After a few name changes, Warner Bros. settled on the re-titled Batman Begins and the cast was set with Christian Bale, Katie Holmes, Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Ken Watanabe, Gary Oldman and Tom Wilkinson.
A GLORIOUS NEW BEGINNING
Batman finally comes of age
The stage has been set for what could be one of the greatest movies of the year or a continuing disappointment for a crowd that can’t stand much more. Batman Begins is finally here on June 15 and, to me, this is my Star Wars. This is the movie I have been waiting for for 16 years since I first saw the maze through the Batman logo that opens Tim Burton’s classic. Will Christopher Nolan be able to match Burton’s masterpiece? Will it at least be better than Batman & Robin? OK, anything would be better than Batman & Robin but these are just a few of the questions that have been rattling through fans’ minds over the tumultuous 8 years since the last train wreck took place.
Batman Begins not only lives up to the hype, it exceeds it. By far, Nolan’s adaptation has the best story out of all the Batmans. I can’t bring myself to say that it is better than Batman since Burton introduced moviegoers to the new darker caped crusader and we are all eternally grateful for that, but it's close. Gone from this movie are the fancy neon lights, the flashy Batmobile and, best of all, there is no sign of Robin, Batgirl nor those pesky glass-cutting Batnipples. This is a gritty, violent revenge film with a hint of elegant noir. Christian Bale brings his best performance to date as the arrogant and sometimes cocky Bruce Wayne. The anger over his parent’s death is ever-present as he dons the black outfit and homemade utility belt. This is a superhero movie but not one like you have ever seen before. This is also a coming of age movie about a man attempting to cope with everyday fear and the pain of having no one who understands him. Wayne travels the world in search of a way to release himself of his burdens only to find that his place was back home in the once great but now crumbling society of Gotham City.
Despite Bale’s startling performance as Wayne/Batman, he was ironically not the best cast character in the flick. Cillian Murphy (who few will remember from 28 Days Later) steals the show as the charismatic but psychotic Scarecrow. Although having a disapprovingly low amount of screen time, Murphy was able to shine as the best villain since Jack Nicholson’s Joker, if not ever. Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman are who they always are, wise older men teaching life's lessons and gaining the respect of would-be apprentices. Michael Caine blew away Michael Gough’s 4-film stint as the sensible Alfred by adding a comedic cockiness that was long missing from the role. Ken Watanabe’s 5 lines did not justify the use of such a great actor and Gary Oldman brought new life to Commissioner Gordon’s (Lieutenant in this movie) character. The rest of the supporting cast was great aside from the depth-lessness of Katie Holmes’ Rachel Doss.
>>SOME SPOILERS START HERE
Fans will be happy that the Batmobile (called the Tumbler in this movie) is not as ridiculous as it appeared in the first pictures; it actually comes across as a pretty kick-ass piece of machinery. Batman’s fear of bats is what leads him to pull on the rodent’s attire to “make his enemies fear what he fears.” The gadgets are sometimes archaic, but that’s not a bad thing. The jaggedness of the homemade bat-shaped throwing stars (throwing bats?) adds to the feeling of superhero ignorance in the movie. The test trials make you believe that Bruce Wayne truly is coming into Batman slowly and, unlike past Batman flicks, nothing in this movie is truly out of the realm of possibility. Fans will also be happy to know that Batman doesn't let up. Unlike Keaton's Batman attempting to save Jack Napier from falling into the vat of acid and, in turn, allowing him to become a much more formidable foe, Batman makes no attempt to save the villain in peril in Batman Begins simply stating, in the best line in the movie, that "I'm not going to kill you, but I don't have to save you."
There are a few discrepancies with the decision not to make Jack Napier (future Joker) the one to kill Bruce’s parents and a few other unmentionable inconsistencies with Rachel Doss’ character. If these two contradictions don’t seem like enough to not see this movie, it’s because they are not. This movie is truly the best action movie in years and easily the best movie of its calaber so far this year (sorry Revenge of the Sith). I am, admittedly, nitpicking and grasping at anything to try to escape the fact that a batflick actually lived up to my very high expectations. After all, if I don’t have Batman movies to bitch about, what else am I going to do? Superman, here I come!