Monday, May 13, 2013

Batman Begins [A Fat Jesus Movie Review]

I love the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy. I wrote reviews for this movie here, Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight, before I saw The Dark Knight Rises last year. Batman is easily one of the most recognizable superheroes to date. But his movies never really got an amazing rap until these Christopher Nolan ones. Batman grew up and got serious. No more is there a movie full of Arnold Schwarzenegger doing Mr. Freeze puns or Jim Carrey laughing TOO maniacally as The Riddler. Now we have a movie where Michael Caine is a bad-ass Alfred and Gary Oldman is the intimidating Lieutenant Gordon.

Batman Begins follows the story of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) as he beings his journey to become Batman, and protect Gotham City from Jonathan Crane aka Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy). We begin with Bruce Wayne and Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), as children, playing together in the back yard of Wayne Manor. Rachel finds an arrowhead and Bruce takes it and runs off. While running away he falls into an abandoned well and a swarm of bats fly past him, causing a phobia to develop. One night as Bruce, his father and mother are at the opera, Bruce gets scared of the bats portrayed on stage and they must leave. Walking though the alleyway outside of the opera house they are confronted by a mugger. Even with full compliance the mugger shoots and kills both of Bruce's parents and runs off. Skipping forward a few years, Bruce is now a young man. There is a parole hearing for the man who killed his parents and it's presumed that he will walk after giving up information about Carmine Falconie. After the hearing, Bruce fully intends to kill the man who killed his parents, but one of Falconie's assassins gets there first. Bruce decides to leave Gotham (for seven years) to learn about the criminal underworld and hopefully learn ways to stop it. He ends up in a Bhutanese prison and is approached by Ducard (Liam Neeson), who offers him training at The League of Shadows led by Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe). Bruce completes his training, learns of The League's true intentions, destroys the headquarters, kills Ra's, saves Ducard and calls Alfred (Michael Caine). On the plane ride back to Gotham, he informs Alfred that he's coming back to save Gotham from the criminal and the corrupt. To become a symbol for the people, the eventual Dark Knight. Batman.

We have to start with the acting. Christian Bale plays Bruce/Batman phenomenally. Just get past him going on a tirade on set over essentially nothing. There is emotion, seriousness, humor (when needed) and a general sense that he wanted this reboot to go well. Where there was hardly any discernible (good) acting in the earlier movies, (aside from Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson) everyone here wanted this to do well. It also helps that this was written WELL. When you give actors gold like this, it's hard for anyone to mess up. Much less greats like Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. Props to Nolan for getting this great ensemble cast. Leading me to the point that this screenplay is awesome. The dialogue is real and the origin story is great. I'm sure everyone knows the tale of Bruce's parents being killed and having to grow up with Alfred. Full of vengeance and confusion. But this adds to it, it adds true emotion and really makes you feel sympathetic towards Bruce as a kid and even growing up. Also we really got to see the transformation of Bruce into Batman (training and suit/gadget assembly-wise) as well which really appealed to me. The music is grandiose. As it should be for a reboot and a story a big as this one. Nothing felt out of place and never detracted any scene.

There is not a lot that I disliked about this movie, so we'll continue with the good here. I loved the fight scenes in this movie. Especially the one at the docs and the one inside of Arkham Asylum. They were done beautifully. I'm started wondering if the people that made Batman Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, drew inspiration from these scenes for some of the combat and level design in the games. The fights looked good and looked brutal. Even still without Batman killing a single thug. The chase scenes are pretty damn cool too. Batman driving essentially a tank anywhere and everywhere in Gotham and even the train scene (complete with fight on board) was awesome. Thank God Michael Bay didn't do these scenes. The inner comic book nerd loved this movie too. Besides the new Batman suit and badassery. The inclusion of criminals like Zasaz and the story-line revolving around Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) and Ra's al Ghul was awesome to me. That you didn't need the big name villains like Penguin, Freeze or Riddler to have a great Batman story. To have such a big pool of villains to choose from, I'm glad Nolan started with a very underrated one, in Scarecrow, and one of my personal favorites. If I had to pick anything "bad" about this is the length. While all the Batman movie in Nolan's trilogy are fairly long. I felt that this had a couple dragging scenes and that a bit could have been cut from here.

All in all this is how a reboot should work. Only a few dragging scenes, to me, a great story, awesome acting, amazing fight scenes and visuals, and an ending leaving the viewer wanting more. Christan Bale completely carries this movie and his supporting cast compliments him great. Batman is a deep character, more so than I think a lot of superheroes. He's much more relate-able to people I think as well. So I'm glad Nolan started this off on a more serious note. I'm also glad that this caught on, and spurred a great modern trilogy. This is the Gotham City and this truly is the beginning of Batman.

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