Friday, July 18, 2008

Repeat Bidness: Batman Begins

Stargazers: Just a reminder the Repeat Bidness feature is a reprint of my pre-blog reviews. Since you may find yourself showing up to more than one sold-out screening of The Dark Knight this movie should help tide you over.

Batman Begins

Release: 06.15.2005

DVD Release: 10.15.2008

Rated PG-13

2 hours, 21 minutes

Full Price ($$$$)

It’ll make you get up and ‘Batusi’!

Writer-director Christopher Nolan (Insomnia) and writer David S. Goyer (Blade) unite to revive the Batman movie franchise after its near decimation eight years ago at the hands of Joel Schumacher. This origin story depicts the evolution of Bruce Wayne into the legendary Batman as he encounters the first of many of the corrupt individuals who will plague the streets of Gotham while defining his own morality and mortality.

The cast is a laundry list of Grade A talent. Christian Bale (Equilibrium) steps into the role he was born to play, the young Bruce Wayne, a.k.a fledgling Dark Knight. At Bruce’s side is his loyal and flippant butler, Alfred, portrayed by Michael Caine (Cider House Rules) whose British accent, superb acting and paternal delivery effortlessly elicit emotion from the viewer. Liam Neeson (Darkman) plays Bruce’s mentor/trainer Ducard. Ducard and the League of Shadows follow the warped visions of the madman Ra’s Al Ghul, played by Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai). Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later), with his penetrating yet distant eyes, embodies the brash, deranged Dr. Jonathan Crane who conspires to shroud Gothamites in their deepest fears. The man holding Gotham in the palm of his hand is mob boss Carmine Falcone, portrayed by Tom Wilkinson (Rush Hour), whose partnership with the unhinged Crane spells disaster. Trying to fight the good fight against the city’s villainous men are district attorney Rachel Dawes, played by Katie Holmes (Wonder Boys), Sgt. Jim Gordon portrayed by Gary Oldman (Dracula), and Wayne Enterprises exec Lucious Fox, well-delivered by the always entertaining Morgan Freeman (Se7en).

Given such an abundance of stellar talent, there was no doubt that this film would be a welcome return to the cape folds. The plotting and subplots of the story are woven together elegantly through the simple adage of fear. Fear sets the tone of the film as very dark, with only brief moments of levity to relieve the gloom. Pacing is quick enough to keep audiences from being bogged down in melodrama but does not leave any crucial elements hanging. Begins takes a technique from the Spider-Man movies by introducing characters and themes from the mythos that will take on more pivotal roles in the inevitable sequels. The events and characters are altered but faithful adaptations of their comic counterparts to gel the story for film audiences. My only problem is the inclusion of the semi-romantic relationship with Rachel, which could have been easily excluded for the purposes of the prequel. Batman truly does begin again, erasing missteps of the past and paving the way for promising viewing experiences to come.

Dirty Undies

Many of the stunts in the film are simply put, astounding. I was a bit disappointed by the stylized violence in lieu of good old fist-to-face contact but we all know my beef with the PG-13 puss-out. The fights were plentiful, even if not clearly discernible at times, making for a worthy shout out for violence and destruction. Cutie Katie Holmes is in the film to keep it from being total sausage party. She does add a desperately needed dose of femininity, though the forced inclusion of her character does little else to enhance the story. Christian Bale regained his healthy physique after wasting away for last year’s The Machinist. Many of you will be pleased to see some brief moments where he flexes his well-honed guns and tightens his uncovered pecks. This doesn’t really pertain to this film, but Bale remarked that he hoped the next Batman film would be released in both PG-13 and R rated versions so the character can be broadened to show a more sexual, darker side. A man after my own heart he is. Let’s hope his idea gets consideration, both for top-notch fight choreography and to give Katie a reason to return.

The Money Shot
So if you can’t get into Batman Begins remember that the talented Bale also lends his voice to Howl’s Moving Castle, which opens this week. I’m sure you’d rather spend your money on the caped crusader but Hayao Miyazaki anime can also be a winner. Now that my Batman appetite is sated, maybe I can report back to you on that film next week. To quote Adam West of Batman TV series fame “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late” so get in line now. To the batcave!

Join me in a little Batusi?

Is THAT what I am to become?!

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