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Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Wasn't originally planning to go for a movie today since my very last exam paper is tomorrow, but ended up going. So here's my thoughts about 'Batman Begins'.

I've never been much of a Batman fan, my favourite comic superhero being Spider-man (Spider-man 2 remains my all-time favourite superhero movie, not the really overrated original Batman film by Tim Burton). Back in my comic-collecting days (something I stopped doing, alas, due to the increasingly ridiculous prices of American comics. Which is usually more than RM10, twice the price of a manga despite being half its length), I prefer collecting X-Men comics more than Batman ones.

However, the last graphic novels I bought were Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns miniseries, which are so wondrously awesome that it reinforces the fact that Batman IS the coolest DC hero, not Superman. When it was announced that a new Batman film is to be made to 'relaunch' the Batman series (which was murdered by the horrendous Batman & Robin), I was hoping to see them do an adaptation of Dark Knight Returns instead.

Wouldn't it be cooler if we get to see a bitter middle-aged Batman taking matters in his own hands and beating the crap out of Superman when the latter tries to get in his way? Wouldn't it be cooler to see a middle-aged Batman declaring WAR on the baddies while recruiting members of the Justice League to aid him?

Alas, the new Batman film turned out to be an 'origins' story which is in the vein of Spider-man 1, but minus the child-like wonder and exuberance. Even so, I do think it is pretty necessary to do thus. In the last four Batman films, it is common knowledge that the villains are quite in fact the main stars of the films while Batman was usually bland and boring compared to his opponents. It was almost difficult to relate to Batman since he's always almost indestructible and invincible.

'Batman Begins' is different as it allows us to know the person behind the mask a bit more. What sort of person is Bruce Wayne? How much was he affected by the murders of his parents? Why did he become Batman? Why is he fighting the bad guys? Who is he protecting? I never really knew Batman's motivations in the previous movies, all I knew was that he seemed intent in beating the villains because, well, because they were villains.

In 'Batman Begins', we get to see a man trying to maintain multiple different personalities during circumstances. He's Batman who fights crime, but without the mask, he's Bruce Wayne the billionaire playboy. Even so, the latter is just a 'mask' too to prevent people from ever figuring out that he was Batman. The spotlight was fixed upon Bruce Wayne and Batman in this film, not the villains, and we are reminded that Bruce Wayne/Batman is pretty much a PERSON with motivations behind his actions.

That are various subplots going on in the film, Wayne Enterprise being ran by greedy corporate bastards, Gotham City being controlled by evil mafia bastards, mentally imbalanced thugs being experimented upon by crazy bastard doctors, the Gotham police force being overran by corrupted police bastards. Basically, there are TONS of bastards crawling around in Gotham City (and Gotham City is beautiful city in this film, both realistic and noirish at the same time, very unlike the dark fantasy-ish city you see in the predecessors) and that is why Batman is given much to deal with in this film, not just some flamboyant ultimate bad guy who wants to destroy the city for no apparent reason at all.

Now, don't get me wrong, 'Batman Begins' is far from perfect, the quick cuts used in the action scenes are pretty jarring, even though they are rather explosive and exciting. The car chase scene felt much longer than necessary. The weirdest thing is, I long to see more of Bruce Wayne scenes than Batman scenes, something I never felt before in previous Batman films. I guess this has to do with Christian Bale's fine acting.

He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast though. Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy (as Scarecrow) and Morgan Freeman are most memorable for me. But Tom Wilkinson, Gary Oldman and Liam Neeson are solid too. Katie Holmes got dissed a lot in this film, but given her limited role, I doubt even the finest A-list actress could do much with it.

In the end, this is the most realistic and believable Batman film I've ever seen and I won't mind if it has a sequel. Hope that the sequel is based on Knight Fall though. Knight Fall is about Batman getting crippled in a fight against a masked big guy called Bane (who appeared in Batman and Robin as Poison Ivy's dumb minion... what a travesty) and having to make another person take over as Batman, turned out that his chosen successor is blood-crazed and insane, so Bruce Wayne, after recovering, had to confront the new Batman and fight him. Dramatic stuff.