What movie was that...?

15 November 2009

Batman Begins

directed by Christopher Nolan

Jaws clenched and nervous hands wrung to the max, I sat down to scope out Christopher Nolan’s origin film, Batman Begins, bracing myself for the bad news. Historically, Batman had fallen on hard times. Tim Burton left after his second genius addition to the canon of the best comic hero ever, then the films had deteriorated to black lighted pap unfit for even the most easily satisfied moviegoer. And Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mister Freeze? What the hell were you thinking, Joel Schumacher? Needless to say that I was worried about seeing a reimagining of my favorite hero, brought to the big screen by some British psychological mystery man. I apologize for doubting you, Mr. N. I apologize for ever doubting that in your genius embrace, my childhood hero would finally get the comeuppance he deserved. In your face, Spiderman! Sit on it, Superman! You ain’t got nothing on my man the Dark Knight. Christian Bale is the new gold standard in his depiction of the wounded millionaire Bruce Wayne, who goes to the ends of the earth to learn what it means to be badass. In a foreign prison he meets a man named Ducard who teaches him the ways of the ninja, but not before asking Wayne to help boss man Ra’s Al Ghul destroy Gotham City. Wayne refuses to be an executioner, and so begins his battle to reclaim his city from the clutches of crime, poverty, and fear. Donning a crazy get up and swooping through the night, Wayne learns how to be Batman on the fly, literally. Each mistake or sticky situation brings him back to the old drawing board to make it so that it will not happen again. This is calculated and obsessive psychosis at its best, for who asked the great Bruce Wayne to save an entire city? Who asked Wayne to take up the mantle of justice? Isn’t that what we have police for? The strange complexity of Batman is his sheer will to do what he believes is right. Superman came here from another planet and has powers because of our yellow sun. Peter Parker developed powers after being bitten by a mutant spider, powers that make him different from other people. Bruce Banner got hit with gamma rays, making him an unwilling hulk. Batman has no powers, no scientific calamity to contend with. He simply believes in what he must do, and wills his crime fighting personae into existence. It would take some serious therapy to unwrap all those layers, but Bale finds a crazed balance in his performance and breathes new life into a classic character. Michael Caine is excellent as combat medic and Wayne family butler, Alfred, and Gary Oldman rocks a glorious push broom mustache to play Jim Gordon, who befriends the caped crusader. Drawing heavily on Frank Miller’s groundbreaking graphic novel, Batman: Year One, Nolan creates a gritty reality in which to place the hero, and a promise to up the ante for the next film. I could hardly wait to feast my eyes upon the next installment, and when the trailers finally came out, I was hooked. Just pretend that Schumacher’s disasters never happened and jump from the Burton classics to Nolan’s twin visions. All will be right with the world.

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