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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Batman Begins -- My wife and I took our kids to see Batman Begins last night, after trying a new Chinese/Japanese/Hibachi restaurant that opened in Lake George.

I think it was telling that at the end of the evening, my wife mentioned that her favourite part of the night was the restaurant -- we sat at a Hibachi table and watched our scallops, shrimp and filet mignon being prepared in front of us by a witty, talented chef. And the food was extraordinarily good. How could the show at the movie theater hope to compare?

But, we did go. My biggest comlaint about the movie had nothing to do with the movie -- it was just too goddamned loud. Every sabre clash, every spray of automatic weapons fire against a metal surface, Jesus, the assault on my ears was unbelievable. So, my enjoyment of the movie was diminished by that.

I don't know, Roger Ebert gave the movie four stars and Mark Millar says it's perfect -- I hate to be the voice of dissent, especially because I was really prepared to love this movie. And I did like some parts of it, but I can't really say I loved it.

Visually, it looked great -- the shots of Gotham City, Wayne Manor, the Batmobile rooftop chase, all pretty spectacular. The only visual letdown, to me, was the Batman costume. Perhaps they were trying to capture the look of the earliest iteration of the outfit, but, the closeups of Batman had me longing for the costumers from Batman: Dead End. On the other hand, the nightmare visions of The Scarecrow occasionally ventured into Hannibal Lecter-level creepy, and that's an accomplishment for a sooperhero movie.

Michael Caine was terrific as Alfred, and Gary Oldman was note-perfect as the Miller/Mazzucchelli Gordon from Year One, except they didn't give him enough of an internal life to really bring him to life as James Gordon. I had hoped that the presence of Flass and the whole corrupt police force subplot would allow that Gordon to emerge -- the flawed idealist who doscovers his own -- and Batman's -- inner reserves in his darkest hours. But with so little material to work with, Oldman just became a pale echo of the powerful presence -- the main character, in some ways -- from Year One.

And clearly Batman: Year One is the comic this movie most wanted to be. Unfortunately, having the guy behind the Blade movies onboard for the script insured that the subtlety and grace of Year One would be supplanted by testosterone-fueled battles and, yes, sabre-clashing. Not to say that that isn't a valid way to tell a Batman story -- but with so much resonance with Year One, perhaps a more nuanced approach would have had me raving much more about a movie, ultimately, that I am not that excited about.

Oh, and Katie Holmes? Substantial as a fart. I'm sure she's a nice person and was charming when she wasn't grating on Dawson's Creek, but she had no place in this story. Having a weird way of curling up your lip -- as disturbing in its way as that weird thing with Shannon Doherty's eye -- is no substitute for being a woman of substance and integrity who is worthy of Bruce Wayne. For the first time we see an actor convincingly portray Bruce as heterosexual, but he is (mis-) matched with an actress who was pushing the very limits of her acting skills by portraying the emotional dilemma of choosing between Dawson and Pacey.

I don't mean to be all down on Batman Begins. If the sound had been at a human level, I might have been more immersed in its charms. Certainly it was more entertaining and involving than Daredevil or The Punisher. But when all is said and done, I don't think it was better than Tim Burton's 1989 Batman. It might, in a way, have been about equally as good, although for different reasons. But Batman Begins was pretty severely wounded by the presence of Katie Holmes and a script lacking in complexity and subtlety. If this were a review, I'd probably give it a 3.5 out of 5.



Blogger Koala Mentala said...

Offhand, I can't think of a single superhero movie of the last decade that I'd give more than 3.5 out of 5. So that seems like a quite good grade.

19 June, 2005 14:01  
Blogger Matthew said...

Pity about the sound at your showing. NOw that you mention sound; this Batman movie lacked something that nearly all Bat-productions have had in common, great music. The sweeping Bat-theme from the movie and the animated series are nowhere to be found- what a waste!

19 June, 2005 21:19  
Blogger Frank said...

Yeah, the music from Batman Begins left no impression on me at all; the music in Tim Burton's Batman was arguably a bit TOO intrusive, but for the most part, it enhanced the film, even the shoe-horned Prince songs. And Kim Bassinger was similarly superfluous and talent-impaired in that film as Katie Holmes, but a bit more fun to watch. (WHY does there have to be a love interest for Batman, the one character in comicsdom who's never (since the Silver Age, anyway) had anything more than ambiguous and/or tortured relationships with some of his more comely enemies?)

Anyway, which version of Batman do you think you're more likely to watch again? TB's Batman was darker than Batman Begins, but also managed to be more fun. TB's Batman had an over-the-top Joker, BB, the lamest Batman foe of all in the Scarecrow. Ras al Gul is a fascinating character, and well-played by Liam Neeson, but I don't know if they really put that character across to folks that don't read the books. Christian Bale was a good young Bruce Wayne, though-- nbut as Batman, I thought they did him a disservice with that growly voice, and the stupid one-liners.

Oh yeah, and the Bat Tank was lame.

20 June, 2005 15:18  
Blogger Frank said...

Here's my full review, FWIW.

20 June, 2005 23:10  
Blogger Michileen Martin said...

Overall, I liked it, but I did have some problems with it and I think the costume had a lot to do with it. I think the director spent a lot of time trying to sell us on how Batman could exist in the real world (the origin story in Tibet or wherever that was supposed to take place, the brief scene with Alfred and Bruce explaining how they were going to acquire parts in secret, etc.). I even read one review where the reviewer's chief complaint was that there weren't enough characters with secret identities and costumes. The result was that when Bale did finally show up in the costume, he couldn't help but look kind of ridiculous. It was the first major cartoony element in the story and it contrasted harshly against everything else, whereas in Burton's version we get Batman before we even get Wayne, so we're initiated into the comic book world right away and are able to more easily accept the psychotic clowns women in cat-suits.

And I agree, with all the similarities to Year One, I was hoping for a lot more of Gordon, and the whole thing with him at the end driving the Batmobile and blowing up stuff was a little over the top for me.

23 June, 2005 13:21  

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