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Batman Begins


batman_begins.pngSay so long to the Batman franchise which started out so dark and brilliantly under Tim Burton and Michael Keaton, only to fizzle out like a 1974 Tab cola under Joel Schumacher and George Clooney. Those guys are so last millenium.

The real title for writer/director Christopher Nolan’s latest incarnation of the Dark Knight should simply be called “Batman Moves On.”

The new film bares little resemblance to the movies of the last decade, save for a few coincidences. Just like in the 1989 film, when the winged avenger makes his first appearance, he stoically whispers to the bad guy when asked about his identity, “I’m Batman.”

Well, yeah. What else is he supposed to say?

Actually, it may have well been made 800 years after those other movies, not 8, because in terms of what this movie says about the character of Batman, it’s light years ahead. Like Bruce Wayne’s love interest, Rachel, confides to him, “It’s not what you hide on the inside that counts, it’s the actions you take.” And that’s part of the real reason I think this movie may connect as such a powerful statement for our times. In an early scene, Bruce Wayne is confronted with the decision to behead a criminal in order to join ranks with the, uh, “shadowy” ninjas known as the “League of Shadows.” Eerily reminiscent of debates over war and torture going on in our country today, it sparks an ongoing, inspirational, and underlying theme—strive to be better than your enemies, not below or equal to them.

To that end, Bruce Wayne’s motivations are always clear, if not uncomfortably close, and psychology plays a big part in all of the characters. Fear, as usual, is the main ingredient in the Gotham City stew. And all those who dwell there get a taste.

In the script, Nolan covers new ground nicely by using methodical pragmatism whenever possible. We’re not just introduced to the bat cave. We understand how it came to be and why. This is a vastly different approach from the pure gut instinct of, say, I don’t know… some guy that comic book geeks call Frank Miller. But it’s surprisingly appealing. The sophistication he takes in making Batman plausible may even match the level of Burton’s artistic vision, thereby equalling the two.

Although for some reason the veterans of the cast (Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman) get all the best lines, the acting in Batman Begins exceeds any other version to date. Christian Bale brings a presence that shows depth as Bruce Wayne, a confilicted and wounded persona that’s capable of manipulating and being manipulated.

Given the amount of interpretation over the years, from comic book, to campy television show, to graphic novel, to stylized cartoons, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the Batman mythos lives on so vibrantly and so soon after another successful vision.

But for his sake, and for the sake of confronting our own fear of doing the right thing, I’m glad it does.


Ross M Karchner
23 June 2005 @ 1am

You might find the Planetary/Batman crossover interesting, it touches on idea of so many different versions of Batman that have been unleashed– in the story, the Planetary characters are chasing a criminal through different iterations of Gotham City, each with it’s own version of Batman.

23 June 2005 @ 7am

I’ll have to check it out. The new Comix Connection is right down the street from me.