Rewatched Jul 19, 2012
Josh Keown’s review:
"Men fear most what they cannot see."
-Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson)
As it is currently the Season of the Bat, in preparation for the third and final entry into Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, I have decided to get swept up in the mania and offer you my takes on his first two entries.
So with that, where to begin? Well first and foremost, it’s important to note that prior to Begins, the titular superhero was not in a good state. The Batman franchise appeared to be delivering itself to an early grave, with the post Burton entries from Joel Schumacher being dire excuses for film-making. We were subjected to poor plots, horrendous acting and above all, unbearably bad scripts. All hope appeared to be lost, with one of the greatest superheroes of all time slain by horrendous directing and Mr. Schwarzenegger ‘Ice to see you’ Freeze.
But then a miracle happened. Like our eponymous hero Batman himself, one Christopher Nolan (Director of the magnificent Memento (2000)) swept in to save the day. In Batman Begins, Nolan redefines the Bat. He reinvigorates Gotham, breathing new life into the seedy underbelly and creating a city so richly textured, so atmospheric it could well be a real place. It’s a beautifully and painstakingly realised vision of a city that is at once hauntingly attractive and glamorous, yet sleazy and squalid too. Nolan’s Gotham is animated with a life of its own, it feels real, it feels plausible.
He also manages to weave one of the most compelling narratives of the Bat since the first film in the 60’s. It’s not comical like the previous instalments; it’s dark and miserably realistic. And it’s all the better for it. It’s not all action, and ‘Kapow!’ this and ‘Bam!’ that. What Nolan does instead is create a believable and ultimately very human portrait of a realistic city and characters. It’s a drama that explores fears and doubts. We can associate with these characters and their situations. We feel the pain and turmoil as they do.
That’s not to say however, that the action is lacking in any way. It’s there in all its brutal glory. There are classic Bat-gadgets and excellent fight scenes. It’s this that makes Nolan’s interpretation of the Batman the greatest of them all. It combines a harsh realism with the traditional superhero aesthetic to create one of the most thrilling, tense and authentic visualisations of a comic book hero.
Nolan assembles a truly stellar cast too. Christian Bale is superb as Batman. He encapsulates all that the character is; dark, brooding and mysterious. The character is complex, but Bale plays it to perfection. The epitome of manhood itself, Liam Neeson, shines as the menacing and authoritative Ducard, mentor to the Bat. The supporting cast are all equally spectacular; it’s very rare to see such an ensemble of talent within one film. It also doesn’t feel like big names for big names sake, as each deliver sterling, memorable performances throughout. Michael Cane, Morgan Freeman, Ken Watanabe and Rutger Hauer, are all great. Cillian Murphy shines as the manic Scarecrow whilst Gary Oldman gives another commendable performance as the stalwart Gordon.
In the end, I could sing this films praises for pages and pages. It certainly isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s unconventional and constantly dark and sombre. Nolan’s Gotham is a bleak and cheerless place, with characters tortured by depressing pasts and joyless circumstances. It’s a world away from Batman (1966) where all they had to fight were rubber sharks, not phobias and intensely human fears. It’s faithful to the comics, but ultimately this is Nolan’s tough, unforgiving vision of Gotham and Batman.
VERDICT; Truly brilliant in every way. Compelling story, developed, believable characters, delightfully evil villains, explosive action, an excellent script and a beautiful musical score. The quintessential comic book movie, and the greatest adaptation of Batman to date. I don’t believe a title could ever be more apt. Batman has well and truly begun.
4/5 or 8/10