Justice League Batman Begins
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Christopher Nolan
scr Christopher Nolan, David S Goyer
with Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Ken Watanabe, Rutger Hauer, Linus Roache, Rade Serbedzija
release US/UK 16.Jun.05
05/UK Warners 2h20

Holy madness: Bale and Holmes

bale caine holmes
See also:
The Dark Knight (2008) The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Batman Begins Warner Bros wisely hands the franchise to skilled filmmaker Nolan, who creates one of the most involving, inventive superhero movies yet. We can spot some studio interference at the end, but it's so well-made and sharply acted that we don't mind too much.

Heir to a billion-dollar empire, Bruce Wayne (Bale) is consumed by bitterness over the senseless mugging death of his parents. While roaming the globe, he's recruited by the vigilante League of Shadows and trained in their Himalayan lair by leader Ra's al Ghul (Watanabe) and his sidekick Ducard (Neeson), but parts company when they tell him to abandon all compassion. Back home in Gotham, Bruce adapts his new skills, collecting gadgets, becoming the Batman and embarking on a mission to save the city from an insidious attack.

The film has two halves: first is the origin story, which Nolan tells in his trademark out-of-sequence style (see also Following and Memento), watching Bruce as a boy and man coming to terms with who he is, fine-tuning relationships with the butler (Caine) who raised him, a childhood friend (Holmes), a forgotten Wayne employee (Freeman) and a city cop (Oldman). The interaction between them is terrific, simply because the casting and acting are so perfect.

The second half is more straightforward, as Bruce faces off against a mobster (Wilkinson) and a sinister psychologist (Murphy) who are part of a larger plot to destroy Gotham. These characters are no less intriguing, and the plot seamlessly emerges, building on the earlier themes and characters. All the way, Nolan maintains a dark tone that captures Bruce's troubled mind and the story's vicious brutality without ever being obvious. And this is what sets the film apart: it's driven by actual subtlety and subtext! It also looks much more realistic; Nolan uses real sets and miniatures, keeping computer effects to a minimum. It only occasionally drifts in to iconic imagery and movie-franchise plotting, opting instead for a thoughtful examination of the struggle between justice and revenge.

This is vivid, riveting storytelling that resonates emotionally and delicately balances the drama, humour and terror. Most intriguing is the way it inverts traditional ideas of suspense--because it's the hero who's scaring us. Brilliant.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 3.Jun.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Batman Begins Susan H, Seattle: 5/5 "I thought the movie was incredible. The acting was believable. All are my fave actors anyway. The sets were beautiful. I love the way Bruce Wayne talks Lucius Fox into giving him what he needs to become Batman. I was used to a thinner version of the butler Alfred, but Caine does the part justice. I absolutely love Gary Oldman in everything he does. I hope all the good guys come back for the planned sequels. I can't say enough good things about this movie, the review would be too long." (15.Jun.05)

Zach, California: 2.5/5 "In my opinion, this is an average, frequently dull and infinitely pretentious film. The fact that it has been so well-received is a severe case of the Emperor's New Clothes - after so much hype about it blowing the rest of the series out of the water, audiences and critics were practically wired to shower praise upon it. I give Nolan kudos for trying something different. But at the same time, that was the film's downfall. The film was darker yes, but utterly confusing, never straightforward, shoddily edited, badly acted, poorly written and, above all, dull. Even the action was average. Granted, Cillian Murphy was great, the mask concept was freaky and well-executed, and the tumbler scenes were quite cool. But the fight scenes were filmed way to close up and they were edited far too quickly. Ultimately, this film is well-liked because of near brainwashing marketing. People like to feel like they are connoisseurs of high art, and that is the only reason I can come up with that can explain why anyone liked this movie." (27.Jun.05)

© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall