Batman Begins

Yesterday afternoon, on a whim, I skipped lunch to catch a matinee of Batman Begins. Let me tell you, the movie rocked my socks off, it was so good.

There are so many reasons why this film works, both as a comic book adaptation and as a genuine character drama: strong performances by an A-list cast, engrossing plotlines pulled from the comic itself, and a sense of realism that rivals any superhero film to date. Put simply, this is not Joel Schumacher’s Batman, which is praise enough, but rather a Dark Knight for a post-idealistic world.


Rather than rehash the details of the plot, which are already being dissected by critics and fans alike in various online forums, I would like to draw more attention to the details of the filmmaking process and the individuals responsible for turning this re-envisioning of the Batman mythos into an unequivocal success. While credit is most notably due to director Christopher Nolan, whose unconventional appointment by Warner Bros. has certainly paid off, it would be too easy to sing his praises without recognizing some of the real muscle helping bring his shrewd independent-film instincts to play on a big-budget scale. Breathing life into the Batman franchise was simply too large a job for any one man, no matter how talented, and Nolan appears to have made a point of surrounding himself with the best cast and crew the industry has to offer.

In penning this script with Nolan, David S. Goyer has redeemed himself from the uncomfortable dialogue and mediocrity of the Blade saga — the quality moments in Batman Begins are many and memorable. The pacing, structure, and tone of the film has been carefully balanced, with wonderful attention given to the final climactic confrontation and its inevitable loose ends. Additionally, the level at which the script ties into the comic-book canon without sacrificing its sense of realism is incredible: elements are respectfully pulled from the Year One, Legacy, and Contagion plotlines and helps cement some of the more widely accepted aspects of Gotham City’s contradictory history. This is a film that takes Batman seriously and without apology.

Of course, a good script demands good actors, and we’re given one of the most respectable ensembles for a superhero movie ever. Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Tom Wilkinson, and Liam Neeson deliver wonderfully nuanced performances that bring even more depth and interest to their characters, and newcomer Cillian Murphy held his own amidst their expertise. However, without Christian Bale’s solid portrayal of the conflicting duality within Bruce Wayne/Batman, this film would have still failed as a whole, and his casting was providential. And while it may merely be a case of personal bias, I adore Katie Holmes and consider her role integral to the movie as a whole.

When you put a good script together with a stellar cast, there is little a director can do to really derail the rest of production. Some critics have lambasted the fight choreography, while others eschew the decision to retell the Dark Knight’s origins (which have already been summarized in at least three of the previous films). Nonethless, there is no doubt that Christopher Nolan has successfuly breathed new life into the Batman franchise and taken it in a direction that, in my mind, surpasses that of either Spider-Man or X-Men.

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