SNEAK PREVIEW: The straight Bat-Poop on Batman Begins
Soju After Movie's Imperial Mantooth, fresh from the press screening, gives you the low down on the best movie this summer to feature Rutger Hauer.
BAM! POW! ZIP! BLEEP-O! BLEEP-O! IT'S BATMAN, BITCH! Don't break the law! Batman will swing down and hit you in the ear! If you jaywalk in Gotham City, Batman will roll up in the Batmobile and poke you in the eye with a Bat-A-Rang! BATMAN! BATMAN! BATMAN!
I'm a pretty cheap date. B. Alan knows this and that's why he asked me to go with him to a screening of the new super action blockbuster Batman Begins rather than one of his high class protty-toots. Stuff a $5 Vietnamese steak sammich down my mouth and plop me down in front of the Caped Crusader and I'm a happy pappy. And how happy a pappy was I, you may ask?
Let's just say Warner Bros. should have called this movie "BATMAN PIMP SLAPS ALL THE PLAYA HATERS" because, in my opinion, that's exactly what this movie does. It fires a Bat-Grapple right up the constipated butt of this entire franchise, cleans out the Bat poo poo and starts all over by serving up a juicy Bat-Steak of goodness that you don't even need to put A-1 steak sauce on. Yup...it's that f**king good! BLEEP-O! WHIZZ! BLAM! BLAM!
As this is a sneak preview, I won't be SPOILING anything for ya although I'll confess I was surprised by the choice of having Adam West play Gotham District Attorney Harvey Dent. BATHAHAHAHAHAHA! I'm just Bat-Joking, old chums! The real bottom line here is that there really isn't that much to spoil anyway. This isn't "Batman 5", it's a reset of the entire franchise which is sign, sealed and delivered with a small but immensely meaningful bit of future villain foreshadowing at the end of the film. This is the long awaited creation story which was hinted at, but never explored, in Tim Burton's 1989 iteration. Four Bat-Films later, Director Christopher Nolan (who also helped script) and writer David S. Goyer seemed to have learned from the failings of, not only their predecessors, but also of the super hero film genre in general.
Yes. This is the best live action Batman film ever, a title previously held by Burton's Batman Returns. "Returns" was a beautifully mounted, noble but ultimately flawed effort that, while visually true to The Bat's legacy, sliced and diced (along with the original Batman) the mythology to almost unacceptable levels. The Joker killed Bruce Wayne's parents? The Penguin goes from thieving criminal mastermind to warped, deformed midget? Marlon Wayans (in footage mercifully cut from "Returns") as Robin? Perhaps the most grievous error was Michelle Pfeiffer's "Selena Kyle" falling from the upper stories of a sky scraper and suddenly developing feminist angst and...get this...CAT POWERS! This concept was extrapolated into an even more perverted concept in last summer's Catwoman.
Another problem I, personally, had was the choice to kill off the Dark Knight's cadre of foes at the end of every installment. A trend which continued into Joel "Kiss of Death" Schumacher's two films which, coincidentally, had some dudes in bat suits. I generally consider Batman Forever and Batman and Robin much as I do JAWS II and JAWS III, which is to say, I don't. I prefer not to acknowledge their existence. Then there was Sam Hamm's scripts for Batman and (with the help of Daniel Waters) Batman Returns. Even Burton's visual acuity couldn't cover Bat Cave sized plot holes in both films.
Nolan and Goyer certainly take freedoms with the mythology particularly during the "creation" story which is, essentially, the entire first half of the 2 hour and 15 minute movie. However, Batman's "time in the desert"; the period where he leaves Gotham city and transforms from mere mortal to justice in a cape; is murky and inconsistent even in the DC Comics' cannon. Thus, I feel the changes will probably be palatable to you purists out there especially considering the fact that the driving inspiration for the plot would appear to be Frank Miller's seminal run of "Batman: Year One." The biggest departure, and I'm not really telling tales out of Bat-School here as this is all established within the first ten minutes of the film, is that the film's main baddie "Ra's Al Ghul" (Ken Watanabe) is inextricably linked to both Bruce Wayne's physical training and martial arts prowess as well as his evolution into Batman himself.
Most other liberties taken with the Bat mythos are relatively minor given its' predecessors. Jonathan Crane a.k.a The Scarecrow is head shrink at Arkham Asylum rather than a college professor. Sergeant (eventually Commissioner) Gordon (Gary Oldman) is too young at the outset of his relationship with Batman, even by the standards set down in YEAR ONE. I'm sure there are others. Write me here at Movieweb if you spot them. Maybe I'll have B. Alan send you a pair of his soiled undergarments.
Nolan, wisely I think, chose not to utilize villains featured in the previous films. We do get the standard double threat in the form of the aforementioned Ra's Al Ghul and Cillian Murphy's brilliantly rendered creepy/slimy "Scarecrow". Admittedly, neither one exists for much reason than to give Bats something to do during the second half of the film after all of Bruce Wayne's angst and self-torment is worked through and we get down to some good, old-fashioned Bat Butt Kicking. But it works because it gives the Bruce Wayne/Batman character room to move and develop as the character should without getting overshadowed by the bad guys which, to my knowledge, has happened in every single Batman film up until this one.
We get good insight into young Bruce's relationship with his parents (Linus Roache and Sara Stewart) prior to their seemingly pointless murder. This area especially has been virtually ignored by all onscreen representations of The Bat save for the excellent Batman: The Animated Series. These characters are taken out of iconic stature and placed firmly in the realm of the real. We see the love between young Bruce (a not-too-annoying Gus Lewis), his father and mother. There is an especially poignant scene between Alfred (Michael Caine) and young Bruce, shortly after his parent's murder that really makes you feel the guilt and rage the boy must be feeling.
The supporting cast is uniformly solid although Katie Holmes looks about ten years too young to be an assistant district attorney. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman do their Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman bits as stalwart supporters Alfred the Butler and gadget king Lucius Fox. I'd watch either of these two guys read the dictionary for a couple hours so you know I enjoyed them. Tom Wilkinson chews the scenery and is very nasty as gang boss Carmine Falcone. And let me just say that it always pleases me when I see Rutger Blind Fury Hauer working. Gary Oldman plays Sgt. Gordon as kind of a little bitch which I had some problems with. Let's hope he butches up some once he gets promoted to Commissioner in the inevitable next film.
The movie looks great and, despite what you may have heard, has action o' plenty...even during the Batman-less first half. My jury is still out, however, on whether Nolan was going for cinematic device during the hand to hand combat scenes or if he simply doesn't know how to shoot fights. If the latter is the case, you better wake up and smell the Bat-latex, Chris! Some of the fight choreography/editing will have you reaching for your Dramamine.
And Christian "Empire of the Newsies" Bale, you may ask? He's a great actor and he turns in a very solid, believable performance although he seems more assured as Bruce Wayne than in the cape & cowl. There are some great comic moments when Bale, as Wayne, begins to perfect his persona of "cad, billionaire playboy". I can tell you already that some folks will have a problem with Bale deliberately affecting a Batman "voice" while in costume. Personally, I thought it was kind of cool especially when contrasted with his breezy Bruce Wayne voice. As Batman, he's still not Michael Keaton (or Kevin Conroy for that matter) but I imagine that will probably change in the next movie when he can concentrate more on that aspect of the character. As Bruce Wayne, however, he is pure Bat-gold.
So...there you go. This truly is a "sneak preview" as I'd like you to go into this experience as untainted as you can. This will be THE movie of the summer, I can promise you that. Batman Begins makes Revenge of the Sith look like a little kiddie play pool that the Bat-Mite came along and took a dump in. All but the most die-hard of nitpickers should enjoy this film which, really, delivers the goods better than any other Batman feature before it. It's also better than both Spiderman movies (sorry, Sam) and I'd give odds that it's going to make July's The Fantastic Four look like the original Golan-Globus The Fantastic Four that no one's ever seen.
BING! BANG! BLAM-PAP-POW! BATMAN IS BACK, JERK, AND HE AIN'T HAPPY WITH YOU! CLEAN UP YOUR ACT BEFORE HE BAT SMACKS YOU DOWN!
MANTOOTH is co-host of Soju After Movie. In his spare time, he likes to dress up like Batman and sneak into other people's bedrooms. He's in yours right now!