Posted by Rande Iaboni on July 14, 2012 at 11:25 am
With the upcoming release of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (the most anticipated film of many peoples’ summers) less than a week away, I decided to take a look back at Christopher Nolan’s previous two films in the franchise and see how they have held up over the years. I tend to do this a lot with movie franchises as the experience is always more fun when watching the latest entry. Plus, with a world as complex as Nolan’s, I want to make sure I remember everything! First up is ‘Batman Begins,’ the first entry in Nolan’s trilogy. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons in this origin story.
The Cast: Christopher Nolan has an amazing ability to scrounge up the best ensemble for his films. Christian Bale was the absolute perfect choice for Bruce Wayne/Batman. While he wasn’t exactly A-list at the time, anyone who had seen ‘American Psycho’ knew that Bale could tackle a man with an internal struggle. Michael Caine was perfection as Alfred, bringing solid comic relief and providing comfort not just to Bruce Wayne but to audiences. Cillian Murphy and Liam Neeson were powerful in their respective villainous roles and Gary Oldman was absolutely charming in his role as the only good cop in Gotham, Jim Gordon. While I’m not the biggest fan of Katie Holmes (and was pleased with her replacement in The Dark Knight), she did a fine job with the character of Rachel Dawes, but more on her later.
The Setting: While DC Comics technically invented Gotham City as Batman’s stomping grounds, Nolan created a magnificent city for audiences to get lost in. The city was menacing and the sets were extravagant allowing audiences to become completely immersed in Gotham. For me, Gotham City is it’s own character in this film.
The Costume: Unlike the previous attempts at Batman films there were no visible nipples on Nolan’s costume. What I loved about this film was that it took the time to show us how Bruce Wayne (with the help of Alfred and Lucious Fox) created the outfit. Not like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man origin story where Peter Parker is suddenly just wearing the costume, Nolan allowed us to come along for the journey.
The Real Factor: Differing from many other Superhero films to come out in the past, ‘Batman Begins’ thrives on its realism. Nothing comes off as cartoony, a very big feat considering you’re dealing with a billionaire playboy who fights crime in a bat costume. But shockingly it works and not once did it even feel like a comic book movie. Christopher Nolan’s Batman films are crime films.
The Heroine: Rachel Dawes is probably my favorite non-superhuman female character in any comic book film. Unlike Mary Jane Watson and Lois Lane, Rachel Dawes doesn’t just get kidnapped because she is romantically involved with our hero. No, she gets herself in trouble all on her own! This Assistant District Attorney isn’t afraid to take on the bad guys by herself, and sure she does find herself in a heap of trouble requiring Batman to rescue her, but I never see her as a damsel in distress because she’s more than just a waitress/actress (Mary-Jane). I find her character to be very similar to Batman himself just without the utility belt and muscle, she is passionately fighting for the good of Gotham City.
The Origin: While I previously stated I loved the scenes showing us the creation of the Batman costume, I don’t entirely love origin stories. I find them to be boring and kind of anti-climactic because we all know he will eventually become the hero. While I am fine with this being the start of Bruce Wayne becoming Batman, I just wish it happened a little quicker. It isn’t until over an hour into the film that he actually wears the full costume, mask included. The first 30 minutes of the film spends a lot of time jumping back and forth between his childhood (scenes that I really loved) and his training in Asia (scenes I loathed). Either way, once that first 30-45 minutes is up the film had my full attention the entire way through and never let go!
The Fight Scenes: While the score for this film is impeccable during the fight scenes, I would’ve actually liked to SEE the fight scenes! The quick cuts were extremely annoying and disappointing. When Batman is standing in between 6 different thugs I would like to watch him take them all down not just hear it and then see them all unconscious. Thankfully this improved with ‘The Dark Knight’ and from early test screenings of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ I hear the fight scenes are beautiful to watch.
The Villains: This is sort of unfair because obviously all I can do is compare the villains in this one to the Joker from part II. But to be honest, even if I had never seen ‘The Dark Knight’ I would still be semi-disappointed with the “bad guys” in this. Sure we get a total of 3 evil-doers – Falconey, Ra’s Al Ghul, and Dr. Crane (The Scarecrow). Out of the bunch the Scarecrow is my favorite because I fondly remember him from the comics as a child, but he is terribly under-used in this film (and even moreso in The Dark Knight). I understand that the majority of the movie is about Bruce Wayne becoming Batman, and the threat on Gotham in the climax is not to be taken lightly, but I found all three villains to be kind of a let down. This has nothing to do with any of the actors who all did a fine job, just lack of development on them.
That about wraps it up on the pros and cons of ‘Batman Begins.’ Overall, the film is great and until ‘The Dark Knight’ was the best Batman screen adaptation to date. If this were a first-time review I would absolutely give it a SEE IT and maybe even recommend a second viewing because when I first saw it in theaters there was a lot I missed and by the second time it was even better!
Stay tuned for the upcoming article, The Dark Knight: A Look Back
What did you think of ‘Batman Begins’ Banters?