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Flesh and Machinery,
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Christopher Nolan and his co-screenwriter, David Goyer have chosen to postpone the crossover of Bruce Wayne (a soulful Christian Bale) into Batman until half way through the new "Batman Begins."
And this is a crucial and important step that Nolan puts off until Bruce walks the earth in search of his own personal nirvana... in a sort of Christ-like journey to understand himself and his place in the world after his parents are brutally murdered. It is also from this quest that he acquires the knowledge and skills necessary for him to become a warrior, ready and able to combat the ills and rid his town Gotham of all evil-doers.
Nolan's "Batman Begins" is a more macho, masculine film than were the previous movies, which is not to take anything away from Tim Burton's elegiac, gothic and visionary takes on this story. But Burton's world is/was/ and will always be the world of the dreamer: his Batman is more sinned against than sinning. His Batman needs love and understanding while Nolan's wants and needs justice and revenge more than anything else: even the sultry Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes proves to be of little interest to Batman save a chaste kiss at the end of the movie. It's interesting to note that in the previous Batman films we had big beautiful bombshells like Kim Bassinger and Nicole Kidman as the so-called love interests while here, in Nolan's vision we have a more scrubbed clean, working class (Rachel is an assistant D.A.) heroine: a woman who is as interested in righting wrongs as is Batman and not merely someone meant as an adornment to the suave debonair Batman of Val Kilmer, George Clooney or Michael Keaton. It's an important and telling shift from woman as a plush toy to one who is, not only beautiful but also smart and dedicated to a cause other than self-promotion and self-satisfaction.
Christian Bale's Batman is real..i.e. a genuine, fleshed-out, beautifully written movie character: he is conflicted, he makes mistakes, he trusts the wrong people at times and he pays for his mistakes. It is a remarkable casting coup to have Bale in this role particularly since of late he has been playing a spate of radicals...i.e. in "The Machinist," in which he transforms himself into a skeleton...literally. As Bruce Wayne/Batman, Bale dons the mask, assumes the persona, not out of a lust for power but out of a fervent belief that good will always triumph over evil: several times in this film he is brought to task for his trust in the basic goodness of people and one of his mentors ( Liam Neeson as Ducard) even goes so far as to ridicule Bruce as sentimental and weak for it. Though Ducard is his mentor and sensei, this relationship proves to be fraught with ambiguity as the movie progresses to the climax.
What is a Batman film without its villains? But this film is devoid of the cartoon craziness of the Riddler or the Joker. Here we have Cillian Murphy (so good in "28 Days Later") as a scary-as-hell The Scarecrow, alias psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Crane, who spews his psychedelic paranoia and psychosis on an unsuspecting Gotham. His "stuff" is more thrilling and frightening than anything that the aforementioned villains could ever muster.
"Batman Begins" is not only a physically gorgeous film, it is also an emotionally and ideologically complicated one. It wears its heart on its sleeve, yes...but it also has the brains and a profoundly strong back and pumped up physicality to back it up.
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Initial post: May 19, 2008 8:44:36 AM PDT
Excellent review. I too loved the film and look forward to the next one. Your comments were well thought out about the love interests of Bruce Wayne and the villains. However, I slightly disagree about the lack of interest in Rachel. I think Bruce wanted more, but Rachel realized that his battle against evil would always take first place in his life.
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