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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: July 18: Batman Begins- 200th Review


July 18: Batman Begins- 200th Review

"Bruce Wayne loses his philanthropic parents to a senseless crime, and years later becomes the Batman to save the crime-ridden Gotham City on the verge of destruction by an ancient order."
Directed by: Christopher Nolan, Rated: PG-13, 140 minutes

How fitting it is that my 200th review is the first film in an epic franchise that concludes this Friday with The Dark Knight Rises. Where do I start when discussing Batman Begins? It's the film that re-introduces one of the world's greatest superheroes and turns him into a legend of epic proportions. The film made Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale both house-hold names and set the precedent for not only superhero movies, but film as a whole. It combines both excellent story-telling and great spectacle, and shows that a blockbuster movie doesn't need to be all about the visuals. Batman Begins is a film that never loses itself in its scale, and knows that it's human emotion at the heart of the story. Batman is more than just a man in a suit and Nolan paints a tragic, yet beautiful portrait of the soul in the cowl- Bruce Wayne (Bale). 

He's also our rippest Batman, yet. 

With most superhero movies lately, the biggest flaw is the re-telling of the origin story, or how so-and-so became the hero. With Batman Begins, the origin story is turned on it's side, as it delves into the actual process Bruce goes through to become The Dark Knight. He's a man-made hero and we witness him training and learning how to not only fight with his fists, but with his mind and ideas. Unlike most origin stories, however; scenes of his training are intertwined with those of his homecoming to Gotham and even flashbacks to his childhood. It's all broken up very well and not one story gets too tedious. It's a unique way to build Bruce's character and we see how flawed a character the man really is. He's not perfect, but he's determined, and it's in that determination that a hero emerges. He's not from a distant planet, he's not bitten by a radioactive spider, and he's not in some accident involving toxic waste or a failed experiment. We literally see his creation every step of the way, from his suit and utility belt, to his own version of the Batmobile. His power is his muscle and his mind, all of which he pushes to the limits. It's in this humanity and realism of Batman Begins that the movie flourishes. Gotham is a city destroyed by crime, not by supernatural forces or super-powered villains, but simply by bad men with bad intentions. 

Ras al Ghul is the leader (also Bruce's mentor) of the League of Shadows, a secret organization that claims to be involved in the rise and fall of countless civilizations. In the eyes of Ras al Ghul, Gotham is a city on the verge of destroying itself and must be destroyed to not only save itself, but prevent the spread of it's evil. When Bruce gets wind of this news, he escapes his training grounds in Asia and returns home. He sees that the city is indeed not what he remembers it to be, and knows that something must be done. Bruce designs a symbol, inspired by his own fears, to take to the streets of Gotham. He knows that if he can create a persona, or even an idea, that's strong enough to evoke fear into the hearts of Gotham's criminals, things will get better. Thus, Batman, his symbol, is born. As Batman fights the criminal and the corrupt, he discovers that the man behind it all is Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson), who owns half the city through payoffs and fear. If Batman can take down Falcone, he knows he can take down the mob. However, even the mob has it's tricks and Falcone has Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), a psychologist who has a rather unusual way of "treating" his patients. Using a neurological toxin, Crane has the power to expose the hidden fears in everyone, and as the League of Shadows takes claim to Gotham, Crane relishes in the chaos and panic. Batman must face a great challenge before he can even make a dent in Gotham's crime. Of course, a hero is only as strong as his allies, and Batman has not only the loyal and wise Alfred (Michael Caine), but the courageous and honest Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), the beautiful Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), and the inventive Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). 

There's so many good things about Batman Begins, it's hard to pinpoint any specific moment that elevates it to greatness. The realism is its biggest strength, and understanding that a man has the power and determination to become a hero makes it so much better. It also helps that the movie has a pitch-perfect cast, with each actor filling their respective role brilliantly. Bale not only becomes the suave, playboy Bruce, but the heroic, badass Batman. Michael Caine lends his natural sophistication and knowledge to Alfred. Gary Oldman, usually a chameleon in his roles, stands his ground as Gordon and makes you want to give every honest cop you know a hug. Morgan Freeman owns the role of Lucius Fox, a character that was all too unfamiliar before the film. Liam Neeson is the perfect mentor and teacher and, even if his cause seems immoral, you can't help but wonder if he's right. Cillian Murphy borders the thin line between genius and psychotic brilliantly. It's the sum of its parts that makes Batman Begins a masterpiece, and without any of these men in their roles, it would not be the same. Even the smallest characters add a lot to the film and I have got to give recognition to Linus Roache who gives a small, but incredibly effective performance as Bruce's dad, Thomas. 

He has less than five minutes of screen time but is so damn good in his role. He has an intangible characteristic that makes him shine, and every time I watch the movie I can't help but wish he was in it even more. 

Batman Begins is a quiet little masterpiece. In retrospect, it's a little difficult watching the film without realizing its importance as a precursor to The Dark Knight. However, even then, it's a strong film on its own and a beautifully dark introduction to the world's favorite hero. Christopher Nolan is a great director, and while Batman Begins is nowhere near the scale as its sequels, its self-contained, emotionally driven story turns it into something much bigger. I can't recommend this movie enough and I cannot wait for the trilogy's epic conclusion this weekend. 

The Good:
Christian Bale is Batman, I don't care what anyone says
The Better:
a realistic approach at one of the world's most recognized and loved superheros, giving Batman the dark, gritty tone he deserves 
The Best:
along with Bale, a phenomenal cast that rises to each and every occasion, owning his/her respective roles without any doubt

Overall: 9.4/10


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At July 19, 2012 at 2:05 AM , Anonymous Ryan said...

Congrats on your bicentennial, man! Nice choice; a lot of people seem to have almost forgotten this in the wake of The Dark Knight.

At July 19, 2012 at 12:57 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Thank you! And yes, I couldn't have planned this any better, unless TDKR were to be the 200th review lol.

At July 20, 2012 at 11:20 AM , Blogger MT said...

Rippest indeed.

At July 20, 2012 at 5:45 PM , Blogger Nick said...

I feel incredibly out of shape watching Bruce Wayne.

At July 27, 2012 at 11:13 AM , Blogger MT said...

You can basically cut the TV on, and any random sighting of another male will make you feel out of shape. I'm in the same boat.


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