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Batman Begins (Full Screen Edition)
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After training with his mentor, Batman begins his fight to free crime-ridden Gotham City from the corruption that Scarecrow and the League of Shadows have cast upon it.
Batman Begins discards the previous four films in the series and recasts the Caped Crusader as a fearsome avenging angel. That's good news, because the series, which had gotten off to a rousing start under Tim Burton, had gradually dissolved into self-parody by 1997's Batman & Robin. As the title implies, Batman Begins tells the story anew, when Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) flees Western civilization following the murder of his parents. He is taken in by a mysterious instructor named Ducard (Liam Neeson in another mentor role) and urged to become a ninja in the League of Shadows, but he instead returns to his native Gotham City resolved to end the mob rule that is strangling it. But are there forces even more sinister at hand?
Co-written by the team of David S. Goyer (a veteran comic book writer) and director Christopher Nolan (Memento), Batman Begins is a welcome return to the grim and gritty version of the Dark Knight, owing a great debt to the graphic novels that preceded it. It doesn't have the razzle dazzle, or the mass appeal, of Spider-Man 2 (though the Batmobile is cool), and retelling the origin means it starts slowly, like most "first" superhero movies. But it's certainly the best Bat-film since Burton's original, and one of the best superhero movies of its time. Bale cuts a good figure as Batman, intense and dangerous but with some of the lightheartedness Michael Keaton brought to the character. Michael Caine provides much of the film's humor as the family butler, Alfred, and as the love interest, Katie Holmes (Dawson's Creek) is surprisingly believable in her first adult role. Also featuring Gary Oldman as the young police officer Jim Gordon, Morgan Freeman as a Q-like gadgets expert, and Cillian Murphy as the vile Jonathan Crane. --David Horiuchi
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Batman Begins, quite literally, spends its time showing the audience just how Bruce Wayne developed his alter-ego and then put that other side of him into effect so that he might make Gotham City a better place. After his father died the city fell into the hands of greedy, biased, and lucrative men who allowed all of the hard work Bruce's father put into the city to fall to the wayside. Constantly filled with anger and hate for the iconic thug that killed his parents and the city's inability to hold itself up, Bruce flees. He searches for something to help him and he finds it in the idea, in the concept, in the teachings of Ra's al Ghul. However, unable to completely follow the definition of "justice" presented to him, Bruce returns to Gotham City with specialty training under his belt and a new definition of what he needs to be. What follows is a heart-stopping, action-packed thrill ride that speaks to any fan of the Batman tradition.
The main villain here is Scarecrow. Just like Ra's al Ghul, he is not a well-known villain, but he definitely was part and parcel of the comics and deserves his place in the spotlight. More importantly, however, the villain in this movie is based on fear. Fear can control, can infiltrate hate, can skew logic, and can make people weak with the inability to act. Bruce suffered from fear for most of his life which turned into hate and loathing. The people of Gotham City live in fear and distress, unable to lift themselves out of the mire because of that fear. Ra's al Ghul and Scarecrow both use fear to further their means while Batman, Bruce, also taps into the fear well to be used for the better. It is the process of overcoming the psychosis of fear that makes this film so fascinating. It, like the comic books, is something we can relate to and allows us to empathize with the characters. Through this the true story of finding one's identity and fighting fear arises.
A great film for the layman and for the comic book connoisseur alike.
The film grapples with the theme of fear, sometimes effectively and other times clumsily. Of particular curiosity is that Batman wants to be both a symbol of hope, but also a symbol that strikes fear into the hearts of criminals. Batman also consistently seems to believe that criminals are somehow fundamentally different than law-abiding citizens, though he stumbles through some explanation about how stealing to prevent starving gave him some sympathy... without going as far as to say he identified with people who might do so. He fails to note that vigilantism is a crime, and therefore, technically speaking, Batman himself IS a criminal. He also fails to consider that among the lower income citizenship of Gotham, a family might have a son or uncle or mother or father who resorts to crime. Should Batman strike fear into that family member's heart, he will not inspire hope in the hearts of the remainder of the family. Batman seems to have a very black and white view of the world -- which is fine for Batman, but the film fails to present a different voice. This is the largest failing of the film.
Since the movie attempts to position the Batman story in a more realistic context, it should position Batman himself -- a morose, disturbed, costume-donning vigilante billionaire -- in the same context, as a complex, unbalanced, individual, rather than simple "the protagonist." The movie seems to share Batman's moral compass, which, given how unstable the guy is, seems dubious at best.
Another point, far too much is made of Thomas Wayne, Bruce Wayne's father. Multiple flashback sequences present the guy as a saint, a perfect, magnanimous caring, giving, charitable billionaire. At the same time, Martha Wayne, Bruce's mother is a non-entity. She has perhaps a single line, which has no lasting meaning. Perhaps Bruce Wayne had a cold and distant mother, but since this doesn't seem to be an important part of Batman's profile, why present her as only window dressing to Thomas Wayne. I know why, because this movie is essentially a sausage party. While Rachel Dawes serves as an important grounding force for Bruce Wayne, she also serves as damsel in distress, with one of the more noteworthy action set-pieces being designed entirely around saving her. So.
None the less, the film is still a thrilling adventure that makes you believe a depressed angry billionaire orphan could become a bat. And it's realized so effectively that even as you squirm at the muddled socio-political implications, you can't help but enjoy the ride. So, four stars, in spite of myself.
Top international reviews
This steelbook case is an attractive item, depicting Batman in fine detail. It is, unfortunately, a rather costly version of the film (as I review, it's priced at £29.99) so I don't recommend it ... the ordinary Blu-ray is a good buy. The picture and audio quality are superb, and there are lots of bonus features.
The film ... this movie re-boots the Batman franchise. Directed by Christopher Nolan, and starring Christian Bale, this film effectively defined the live-action Batman character for a decade. This is an origin story, exploring the genesis of Batman. We get to see Bruce Wayne suffer the loss of his parents, and his gradual distancing from normality, slowing becoming more than a man ... becoming Batman! The villains of the film are, for the most part, criminal gangsters - although two 'super-villains' from the rogue's gallery are included: the Scarecrow and Ra's al Ghul.
This movie, and the legacy it established, sought to place Batman in a recognisable world - depicting a sense of realism, as omitted from the earlier films. And so, for example, Batman's gadgets and his vehicle are given explanations and backstory (rather than simply just being there). Of course, having a near-immoral enemy - in Ra's al Ghul - does detract from this realism!
When the film was released, it was great to see the origin of Batman thoroughly explored - as it had only been seen in momentary flashbacks in earlier movies. Here, we understand how he's able to engage in martial arts, etc., as we see him train. All the major pieces and elements that are involved in Batman as a character - from Alfred to Wayne Enterprises, from Lucius Fox to the Batmobile - are included here. The film draws on the long history of DC comics, and seeks to create a movie that genuinely reflects how Batman is conceived in the original source materials. Of course, there are deviations - as the director has taken creative licence. Nonetheless, at its core this film does adhere to the comic books.
While I thoroughly enjoyed this movie - and have seen it several times since it's cinematic release - I still feel that it wasn't quite as good as it ought to have been. It lacked that special quality which makes movies truly great. And, in this case, I think that what was lacking was a singular sense of magnificent villainy ... yet what was absent here, in the first of Nolan's Batman film's, was more than made-up for in the sequel - with the arrival of the Joker. The sense of dread created by the Joker, in "The Dark Knight", is simply not apparent in "Batman Begins".
Still, this is a really good film. I thoroughly recommend it. It's suitable for children and adults alike, and serves as family entertainment (although there is quite a lot of violence).
This movie is an important instalment in the Batman saga ... and things go from being 'good' to 'great'. Well worth watching.
Unsurprisingly, Begins is superior to previous depictions in that it sticks closely to some of the best of Batman lore. As with many comic adaptations, it is the use of high quality source material that makes for such a gripping story. The origins of Batman is in the death of Bruce Wayne's parents. Going back to the source, those parents are killed by a no-mark called Joe Chill. It is the casual and utterly avoidable nature of their deaths that makes it so interesting. Unlike previous screen versions where the meaning is entirely lost by changing the killer, Joe Chill is a perfect character to set Bruce Wayne off on his long journey. Chill is just a meaningless hood yet he guns down the wealthiest and most important citizen in Gotham. That juxtaposition entirely makes sense for the Batman character's motivation, the anguish of knowing his parents died for pretty much nothing.
A decade later as a somewhat tortured teen Bruce Wayne clearly has not overcome the grief and nearly makes a massive mistake. His subsequent journey to what appears to be the Himalayas is an outstanding sequence, probably the strongest part of a terrific film. Finding Ra's al Ghul as a mentor, Bruce Wayne's entire life view is questioned. Coming of age and finding out who you are is an all too common motif but Batman Begins gets it so very right. Wayne is trained physically but more importantly he is trained philosophically. Ra's offers an incredibly plausible case for turning to the dark side. This is fascinating as so often the case is made for turning to the light but Ra's offers argument about being prepared to defend values that really resonates. It is Wayne's eventual rejection of the Ra's philosophy that ultimately leads him to be Batman.
The physical action during the training sequences is amazing. The place really feels cold. The real-life location of Iceland is a decent stand-in with the sequences on the frozen lake being particularly breath-taking. Probably the most impressive physical action takes place when Bruce faces his final challenge. The combat within a maze of ninjas is beautiful choreography.
While the eastern sequences are particularly impressive, the visuals in the return to Gotham are also very nice. Gotham is dark, it is broken, it feels oppressive. In some ways the Gotham of Batman Begins shares the feel of Sin City. While it might not be quite as harsh as Sin City, anything that compares even closely to Sin's brilliance is itself impressive.
Perhaps the two highlights of the return to Gotham are Bruce Wayne's development of a double life and the villains he faces. The angst of the Batman character lives alongside the arrogance of another character. Bruce Wayne himself disappears. All that remains is the grim and unrelenting Batman and the vacuous Bruce Wayne. Neither is the real person. Other double life super heroes have only one alter ego, Batman Begins presents two in the same person - fascinating. The pinnacle of the Bruce Wayne alter ego is his incredibly insulting speech at a party in his honour. It is just dripping with egoistic venom. It serves a particular plot purpose but really pushes character boundaries in a way that other films have not dared.
As with any great character, it is the relations with others that mark Batman out. Love interest Rachel Dawes played by Katie Holmes is the perfect romantic foil. She is sweet but highly intelligent. She sets a standard for Wayne that he cannot possibly meet. This is just so excellent - the romantic love interest should be easily obtainable. Katie Holmes is not a stunner and she's playing a girl next door. Even so she turns the exceedingly rich, handsome, and altruistic Wayne even when she knows all he does. This denial plays so well into Batman's heart-hardened character.
His relationship is far closer with Michael Caine's Albert the butler. Caine works very well in this role. His trademark accent seems to fit which is unusual for a film from this century. Albert is the helping hand Bruce needs but he's also the source of some of the film's underlying meaning.
The corporate angle of Bruce Wayne's life is one of the few areas that doesn't quite work. The antipathy with Rutger Hauer's Earle interacts with Morgan Freeman's Lucius Fox doesn't flow well. Earle is one of the few cliches in the film and his line about getting memos is horrendously dated and out of place in such a modern and dark film. Lucius Fox is not much better. Why he is buried down in the basement with all the most interesting gadgets is unclear as after all those are the very pieces of equipment that a corporation would want to avoid falling into the hands of others yet the enemy of the acting CEO seems to be given free run with all the corporation's technology.
Still, the weaker spots are more than made up for with the interaction between Batman and the various villains. Scarecrow and Ra's are both outstanding. Scarecrow is wonderfully played by Cillian Murphy. He is incredibly menacing especially without the mask. The way he inflicts fear upon the vulnerable is truly evil and makes for a great opponent. Ra's is much more of a subtle combatant for Batman and it is right that there seems to be some respect between the pair. Liam Neeson's height, age, and gravitas fit so well.
All of the greatness of Batman Begins would not be possible without Christian Bale. Bale is himself quite a dark and intense person. In the same way that Robert Downey Jr was ideal for Iron Man, Christian Bale is ideal for Batman. He is less believable as the young adult Bruce Wayne in Gotham but he is pitch perfect on the trail towards the Himalayas and fits both the gritty, noble, and self sacrificing Batman and the spiteful and anti-social persona of Bruce Wayne.
The acting is supported by good action sequences. Good use of the utility belt and other traditional Batman effects helps. The batmobile looks great. The chase sequence it is involved in is perfectly fine but not especially interesting given the over-abundance of chase sequences in cinema. Batman's fighting style is interesting. It does not looks like boring wire work but it seems hard hitting and impactful.
As a piece of cinema, Batman Begins is coherent, interesting, and entertaining. Some of the characters are superb, especially Batman and the two main villains. The setting works so well and taking Batman back to the darkness the original exists in makes for a far more thought-provoking plotline than anything television or cinema has produced so far. Christopher Nolan's reboot of this franchise is a cut above many other reboots and everyone involved deserves credit.
The DVD Extras on the two-disc edition are solid. The talking head work is really good, exploring the most interesting aspects of the film. The technical exposition of the costume and the batmobile are both engaging. The miniatures special effects section is a little un-inspiring but the introduction to the fighting style is fascinating even if some of the elbow crunch strikes seem a bit odd. The Extras are a good complement to an outstanding film.
I accidentally watched it on the television one day, where I was immediately swept up in the mythology, the grittiness, the humour and most importantly, the realism, that Christopher Nolan brings this film. This isn't a Batman movie, this is about Bruce Wayne. The film delves deep into Bruce Wayne's psyche, what drives him to dress up as a bat and fight crime, what lies beneath the masks he wears. In these trio of roles, Cristian Bale plays it perfectly, making the viewer empathise with Bruce Wayne and fear the anger that lies within. His supporting cast is also fantastic with Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman, bringing a mix of believability and at times, humour to their respective roles. The film is also helped by the stirring and epic score composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard which takes the movie to a whole new level.
After watching this movie, I found a fascination with Batman and his story which led me to watch The Dark Knight and now wait excitedly for The Dark Knight Rises. But, for me, this will always be the movie that showed me that superhero movies didn't have to be all about special effects and fight scenes, but also about people, emotions and stories.
Seen it a few times, but gave it four stars, because it did go a bit over the top,
with all the action and stunts, and Batman's voice makes him sound like the incredible Hulk.
Part from that a brilliantly made film. with a unique feel to it.