Once More, From the Beginning...

Columbus Alive | June 16, 2005
Like the last Star Wars, the new and awkwardly titled Batman Begins has an exceptionally low bar to cross to be considered a success—it just has to not suck as badly as the last two films. And it would be very hard to suck as badly as 1997’s Batman and Robin or 1995’s Batman Forever.

Joel Schumacher killed the promising Bat-franchise when he took it over, turning Tim Burton’s comic book-inspired Gothic fairytales into intentionally cheesy dreck more inspired by the Adam West TV show. Batman Begins doesn’t even try to salvage things; instead of moving the story forward, it moves backwards, hitting the reset button and starting over.

Director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia) and his co-writer David S. Goyer (Dark City, the Blade trilogy) concentrate on Bruce Wayne over Batman (Christian Bale), chronicling his journey through Asia to toughen up and learn ninja tricks from Liam Neeson, his return to Gotham and his baby steps toward Batman-hood, a journey in which he’s aided and abetted by two sly father figures, his butler buddy Alfred (Michael Caine) and weapons designer Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman).

The plot remixes a slew of comic book stories including Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, and infuses a lot of original material. There’s also a tacked-on love story and a bold breaking of the Two Villain Rule (which states the fewer brand-name villains per superhero movie the better). Scraping the bottom of the barrel of Batman’s rogues’ gallery for villains yet to grace the silver screen, Nolan’s left with the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) and Ra’s al Ghul (Ken Watanabe). All in all, it’s a lot of plot for one movie, but it’s all tied together so well that it’s merely overlong, not nonsensical.

A solid cast helps sell it especially well, particularly Caine and Freeman. Bale’s Wayne is excellent, but his Batman is hard to bear. Aside from the BDSM rubber suit that makes anyone wearing it look more perverted than heroic, Bale adopts a different voice when he’s wearing it, one that’s part growl and part whisper, but sounds like drag queen with laryngitis.

Despite such rough edges, Nolan’s Batman Begins manages to tell a complicated tale rather gracefully and, most importantly, it doesn’t suck as bad as the last two films did.

Columbus Alive

Founded in 1983, Alive is the Capital City's oldest and only independent alternative and is known for providing a forum for the area's free thinkers. The paper's spirited and original perspective on music, arts and culture distinguish it from the...
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