- Christopher Nolan
- Reviewed by
- Jorge Castillo a.k.a. Mithrandir
- Review date
- Sunday, July 24, 2005
There are several factors that make this movie excellent, one of them, and quite possibly the greatest, being the new man in the director’s chair: Christopher Nolan. Though I quite do not share the same love for such movies as Memento (2000) and Insomnia with other critics, I can still acknowledge their greatness and part of the reason they are great, and there is simply no denying that, is Mr. Nolan. The first glimpse that I had from this movie was the Batmobile. It wasn’t the final version of it, and the “does it come in black?” question had not yet been answered, as it was still in camouflage. Needless to say, my first line of thoughts wasn’t very encouraging. Then I saw the trailer, and things changed… they really changed.
The movie acts as neither a sequel nor a prequel: it is merely a new movie based on a very old character, and therefore, it assumes that the viewer does not know much about the background of Bruce Wayne, or the reasons why he became the Batman. Thus it is very appropriate that the film begins with Bruce Wayne as a child (Gus Lewis).
The first glimpses we have of the character are of him playing around in the garden with Rachael Dawes (Emma Lockhart). When throwing around stones, one of them goes too far, and when Bruce goes to capture it, he falls down a hole in the ground. Upon reaching the floor, bats begin storming out of the cave and Bruce is instantly terrified by them; the character is then born right there and at that moment: the boy who is terrified of bats will eventually become that which he is most scared of, hence, the Batman. As we continue with the film, we witness the slaying of Bruce’s parents after coming out of an opera, his subsequent trauma as he blames himself for what happened (they had left early because he had had a panic attack when watching bat-like men on stage), and his need for revenge, a revenge that is taken away from him by fate. Now a full grown man, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) disappears out of Gotham, and finds a man (Liam Neeson) who promises to free him of his fear. He goes with him, and eventually comes to Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) who, along with Ducard (Neeson), helps him train and become who he was destined to be. Sadly, part of his destiny includes destroying Gotham City, something to which Bruce has big objections.
As the story progresses, Bruce returns to Gotham, mainly to see it overrun with organized crime everywhere, people playing dirty politics, and very dangerous men calling the shots on who gets to live and who doesn’t. Meanwhile, he is slowly being cheated out of Wayne Industries, the company he inherited from his father. After discovering a cave below his mansion, he slowly builds himself up with weapons, suits, a very special car and a brand new persona to go along with his newly found identity. He becomes Batman. When asked by his butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), why the figure of a bat, he replies that “bats frighten me. It's time my enemies share my dread”. With this new secret life, and with the help of Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), a police officer who helped him when he was a child, he sets out to bring to justice a mafia leader, Don Falcone, as well as a doctor, Jonathan 'The Scarecrow' Crane (Cillian Murphy), who had fun experimenting on his patients. Towards the end, we learn of a third party Bruce needs to overcome, and this one won’t be very easy.
One of the many reasons this film has received such a wide critical acclaim is the fact that it manages to stay true to the original story, at the same time that it doesn’t hold back on how dark or dangerous the story could possibly get. It’s truly impossible to compare this film with the original Tim Burton’s because they are so different, from storytelling to basic plot devices. I’ve heard several people ask each other if they now dislike the original Batman (1989) after watching this new version of the movie. I was surprised when some of them answered that they did. I wasn’t surprised that this was happening, just that other people were feeling the same way I was. I’ve liked several movies from Burton, but he’s definitely not on my list of favorite directors, and some of his more acclaimed films (Big Fish (2003), for example) aren’t necessarily cut out for my taste for some reason (if it matters at all, I am very much looking forward to Corpse Bride); when you compare the two films, though, the original leaves a lot to be desired. There are many things that don’t work in the original that are too abundant in the new one. Add to that the fact that I severely dislike Michael Keaton, and you’ve got yourself a million and one reason as to why I consider this film a lot better.
There are so many things done right in this movie, it’s hard to begin to enumerate them. The special effects are very well done. Moreover, the many things that Batman does that could be considered somewhat supernatural or non human are explained in detail throughout the movie. His ability to fly, for example, has to do with the texture of his cape, as well as its aerodynamic shape. It’s explained, it’s not just thrown upon the viewer that he has a cape and ergo he must be able to fly. For that matter, the things that are achieved via special effects don’t seem as such. They are just seen as things that he can do because of the material available to him. The movie attempts to create a sensation of real life, real people, and real events, and although the story as a whole is fiction, the viewer can believe that this is all happening, mainly because there is no reason why it wouldn’t.
The cast is stellar. Christian Bale has impressed me ever since he was child. Empire of the Sun ranks as one of my favorite films of all time, and his performance in that movie carries it from beginning to end. This film isn’t any different. He is, so far, the best Batman ever cast for the role. Michael Caine shines as the butler, with his quirky remarks and British ways. Gary Oldman is great as usual, though for future reference, more lines to his character, as well as more screen time, would be superb. Liam Neeson has been surprising me for quite some time now, especially since Kinsey (2004). This much darker role truly shines because of his performance. Morgan Freeman as the technology supplier is also great. And then there’s Katie Holmes, who I am happy to inform has already been dropped from the sequel.
The film is already in my “Best Movies of the Year” list, and I plan for it to stay that way.
“If someone stands in the way of true justice, you simply walk up behind them and stab them in the heart.”
It’s good to be back…
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