Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Batman Begins

Wednesday, June 15th, 2005

Having just finished seeing the movie, all I can say is “Wow!”

Well, that’s not all I can say, otherwise I wouldn’t bother posting at 3:25 in the morning.

This was the Batman movie I’ve been waiting to see. Where Tim Burton looked at the Batman mythos and saw a stylized, dark and gritty universe that could be improved by stretching this bit to absurdity here and tugging this bit beyond the point of no return and casting Jack Nicholson as the Joker, Christopher Nolan saw a heroic struggle by one man to overcome his grief at his parent’s death by defeating his greatest fears and leaping into action.

This film is essentially a Batman: Year One for Hollywood. The screenwriters did borrow quite a bit from Frank Miller’s classic, but not completely of course. That being the case, the Caped Crusader wasn’t quite the world’s greatest detective yet. There were more than a few tweaks to the mythos, certainly, but from a character standpoint, everything made sense and worked in its own context.

The plot was tight and even served up a twist or three. The best asset of the story and screenplay is that Batman was treated as if he were real. There wasn’t a trace of camp and any humour was naturally occurring based on circumstance and/or character. There weren’t any forced jokes, and the filmmakers never tipped their hand by overbroadcasting “Hey there’s a joke here, laugh.” The first half of the movie takes loving care to develop Bruce Wayne as a character that you can identify with, understand and root for. You don’t even see Batman for the first hour or so (this is done well, much like the original Superman, and contrary to that shameless Incredible Hulk movie). By the time Bruce becomes Batman, you feel that you too may have donned the cape and cowl.

As for the characters, every actor in this movie, EVERY ACTOR, gave their best talent in service to this film. There are some very big names in supporting roles: Liam Neeson (in a very pivotal role), Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman (fantastic as always), Tom Wilkinson, a surprise appearance by Rutger Hauer, JoeyKatie Holmes, and Ken Watanabe. Every one of them created full three-dimensional characters with clear motivations and unique characters. My only real problem is with Holmes, who I generally do not care for as an actress anyway. She plays Rachel Dawes, a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne’s and Gotham City Assistant D.A. It’s shown that Bruce turns 30 in the timeline of the movie, and she was roughly the same age. However, in every role she plays, Holmes oozes with obvious sincerity. I don’t really fault her for this because I think she is genuinely sincere when she plays a character, but she has all the emotional range of a puppy-dog, complete with expressive eyes. She doesn’t bring the gravitas to the role that you would expect for a single, powerful 30 year old woman. Especially the persistent public prosecutor that Dawes is. If she were really going up against mob boss Carmine Falcone (masterfully portrayed by Tom Wilkinson), he would pet her on the head, giver her a piece of candy and shoo her out the door with plenty of advice about kids not speaking when the grown-ups are trying to conduct business. If he didn’t shoot her for her audacity, natch. That was the failing I can blame Holmes for.

The sweetest surprise though was the quality of treatment Bruce Wayne received. He isn’t some secondary shell to Batman as in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Nor was he the dominant personality as in Batman and Batman Returns. Instead, Bats and Bruce each leverage their unique positions and capabilities to best serve the goal of eradicating crime.

The forced dialogue and stinted interaction with Bruce Wayne, however, was entirely the fault of the screenwriters who seemed to believe a love interest was a necessary element to a Batman story, a compulsion I have never understood. Batman has been marginally romantically involved with Selena Kyle (Catwoman – Patience Price be damned!) and Talia Ghul (the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul). Period. Bruce Wayne is a playboy who dallies with empty heads and dumps them away. Batman doesn’t have time for love.

Continuing the two villains theme from the later three movie, the scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul were so real, frightening and honest that it was quite refreshing. Granted they are not the only two villains in the movie, as Gotham’s underbelly is explored, but they are the two that comic fans will recognize. The characters were well served by their respective actors and treated with all the respect they deserve. Cillian Murphy will never let you look at courtroom psychologists in the same light again.

Another bonus for me personally was seeing the lovely city of Chicago all dolled up as Gotham City. We got to take helicopter shots down Upper Wacker Drive, drive at breakneck speed through lower Wacker Drive (and even cause a few Blues Brothers-esque moments while there) and see our varied and wondrous architectural marvels in all their glory. I actually was downtown while they were filming “The Intimidation Game” as they were hiding behind. We watched the helicopter with attached camera fly back and forth over the river and city streets filming the aerials. I couldn’t find myself on-screen though. I guess I will need to see it again. (By the way, to see some of the Chicago locations used in Gotham City, look here at Glass, Steel and Stone.

In the end, I would give the film 3 and a half out of 4 stars. I deduct a half a star for not having a more seasoned actress in the lead female role.

To quote Peter David’s review “Overall a terrific relaunch of the Bat franchise.”

Crossposted on DomainofSlack.com

Memo to Martin Short:

Wednesday, May 4th, 2005

Um… I’m really getting sick of seeing you all over my television. I last found you funny in Captain Ron, and I credit Kurt Russell with most of that (although you did make me laugh on Conan O’Brien, but again, I mostly credit Conan). I couldn’t care less that you have a movie coming out with a completely unfunny and rude character so kindly leave my TV alone and go back to vacationing on the moon, or wherever you are when you aren’t doing Father of the Bride movies.