Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2005 at 09:00 PM
By: S. Tran
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Running Time: 141 Minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 for intense action violence, disturbing images and some thematic elements
Ever since Tim Burton's hatchet job on the first Batman movie with Michael Keaton, I have been waiting patiently for a great Batman film. Let me begin by saying I'm still waiting. Batman Begins is far better than the prior films but it's still not the Batman film that fans have been waiting for.
Let's start with the bad news; the film lacks a competent hand in delivering the action sequences. The action scenes are generic at best and unwatchable at their worst. It is clear that Nolan doesn't have much experience or imagination in this area. Of particular note is the fight scene at the end of the movie with the four assassins which devolves into a blurry mass of unintelligible images.
More bad news: Katie Holmes as a district attorney and Bruce Wayne's girlfriend. I am not sure why the people behind Batman feel that there has to be a love interest for our pointy eared friend, or why she had to take the form of Katie Holmes. She gives by far the worst performance in the movie and looks like a teenager playing a grown up. There is no chemistry between her and Christian Bale and the scenes between them reminded me of the Jar Jar Binks' scenes in Star Wars Episode I; you just wished they would end. Ken Watanabe is also wasted in a small role as Ras Al Ghul
The plot of the film after we see Bruce Wayne's training to become Batman is rather weak as well. It may have been a better film if we could have simply spent more time watching Bale become Batman. Once he dons his mask the story becomes decidedly less interesting. I expected something a little more creative than the usual "poison the water supply" scenario.
The good news: Nolan does an extremely good job in losing the "campiness" of the prior films. His Gotham looks more like a real city than the carnival set pieces in earlier movies. This is a Batman set in reality and the movie provides plausible explanations for how Batman came to be. Nolan also manages to evoke some chills in some of the shots of Batman overlooking the city recreating some of the classic images from the comic books. This is a gritty, darker Batman and that alone should appeal to fans.
Bale is probably the most believable Batman yet. He is able to deliver as the menacing caped crusader and as the wry, ironic billionaire, something the prior actors under the mask could not accomplish (please raise your hand if Michael Keaton or George Clooney ever scared you). Bale is also physically believable in the part after putting on 30 pounds for the role. At times his "hero" voice is a bit too much.
Liam Neeson is nothing special as Ducard, Bruce Wayne's vigilante mentor. Morgan Freeman is better as the sly inventor Lucius Fox. The best supporting character however is Michael Caine as Alfred. Caine gives a surprisingly good performance as the loyal butler and gives the film an unexpected heart. Caine manages to go beyond the butler caricature and his affection for Bale seems genuine and hopefully we can see more of him in future Batman films.
This is a good start for the revived Batman franchise. If the film can get on track with better action scenes and a better story it could be even surpass the Spiderman movies and finally give Batman fans what they have been waiting for. It will of course also have to lose Katie Holmes. Until that time comes though it will only rank as a good summer film and nothing more.
3 out of 5 stars.