Friday, October 3, 2014

Batman Begins (2005)

Batman BeginsSince his first dramatic appearance in Detective Comics in 1939, Batman has grown to become a pop-culture icon. From movie serials in the 40's, to a classic campy TV show in the 60's, to a solid animated series in the 90's, fans have thrilled to the super heroics of this unique character. However, as a film franchise, he has brought results that were somewhat less than impressive creatively. While the Tim Burton directed films, BATMAN and BATMAN RETURNS were stylish and dark, they also suffered from plot holes you could drive a Batmobile through. Then Joel Schumacher introduced a Day-Glo sensibility to the Dark Knight in BATMAN FOREVER, before drowning the character in ludicrous costumes (a Bat suit with nipples???), pun-filled foes, and whiney sidekicks in the lousy BATMAN & ROBIN. By then, Batman as cinematic property had become a laughingstock. Fortunately, indie film director Christopher Nolan reinvigorates the franchise in glorious form in BATMAN BEGINS, a reboot of the Batman legend that, for the first time, puts the focus squarely on our hero and not on the over-the-top villains of past films. Nolan also bases the film in a strong semblance of reality that allows the audience to not only accept the possibility of the winged vigilante, but embrace it as well.

Most fans already know the story of how wealthy Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) loses his parents when they are slain during an attempted robbery, but the movie also tells how he chose the bat as his symbol, as well as the steps needed to become the avenger of the night that he turns into. Disillusioned and frustrated by Gotham City's corrupt judicial system, the young Wayne goes abroad to study the criminal mind. Later, while locked in an Asian prison, Wayne is recruited by the enigmatic Ducard (Liam Neeson), who offers him a path in which to focus his anger and hone his skills. Wayne eventually joins his new mentor as a recruit in the mysterious League of Shadows, headed by the sinister Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Wantanabe). Eventually, Wayne realizes that he cannot follow the League's extreme methods of dispensing justice and returns to Gotham to forge his own way. It soon turns out that Wayne's return is just in time as Gotham falls prey to a fear epidemic engineered by the twisted Dr. Jonathan Crane AKA "the Scarecrow" (Cillian Murphy) and a familiar figure from Wayne's past.

From the top on down, this film is blessed with a solid cast that adds wonderfully to Nolan's vision. As the title hero, Christian Bale blows all other Batman portrayers out of the water with his intense and scary take of the role. This is a Batman that you not only fear, but can relate to as well. In fact, he turns in the definitive performance. Michael Caine adds warmth and humor as Wayne's trusty butler, Alfred. Liam Neeson does a great variation of his usual mentor roles as Ducard, a man with his own surprising secret. As an assistant DA and Wayne's childhood friend, Katie Holmes does a nice job with what is basically a thankless role. Cillian Murphy makes for a perfectly creepy Scarecrow, while Morgan Freeman is solid as usual as the man who provides Batman's wondrous car and gadgets. Gary Oldman is wonderfully cast against type as Jim Gordon, one of Gotham's few honest cops. The scene in which he drives the tank-like Batmobile is a sheer delight.

The screenplay by Nolan and David Goyer (who wrote the BLADE films) is awash with characterization and motivation...something that you don't see in many comic book films as a rule. In fact, you get so engrossed by the proceedings that you almost forget that you are watching a "superhero" film in the first place. The special effects are used to enhance the story and not overpower it, while the set design pictures a Gotham that is a unique cross of Chicago, New York and Hong Kong. If there is a flaw, it lies in some of the fight sequences. Done in close-ups and quick cuts, they can get frustrating for those who want to see more of Batman's fighting style. However, this is very minor since the story never ceases to grasp your attention.

In the end, Nolan and his superb cast and crew succeed in achieving what was once thought impossible: the resurrection of a film franchise that, if not dead, was at least on life support. As a result, Batman is once again flying high and BATMAN BEGINS is a film that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Christopher Nolan and his co-screenwriter, David Goyer have chosen to postpone the crossover of Bruce Wayne (a soulful Christian Bale) into Batman until half way through the new "Batman Begins."

And this is a crucial and important step that Nolan puts off until Bruce walks the earth in search of his own personal nirvana... in a sort of Christ-like journey to understand himself and his place in the world after his parents are brutally murdered. It is also from this quest that he acquires the knowledge and skills necessary for him to become a warrior, ready and able to combat the ills and rid his town Gotham of all evil-doers.

Nolan's "Batman Begins" is a more macho, masculine film than were the previous movies, which is not to take anything away from Tim Burton's elegiac, gothic and visionary takes on this story. But Burton's world is/was/ and will always be the world of the dreamer: his Batman is more sinned against than sinning. His Batman needs love and understanding while Nolan's wants and needs justice and revenge more than anything else: even the sultry Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes proves to be of little interest to Batman save a chaste kiss at the end of the movie. It's interesting to note that in the previous Batman films we had big beautiful bombshells like Kim Bassinger and Nicole Kidman as the so-called love interests while here, in Nolan's vision we have a more scrubbed clean, working class (Rachel is an assistant D.A.) heroine: a woman who is as interested in righting wrongs as is Batman and not merely someone meant as an adornment to the suave debonair Batman of Val Kilmer, George Clooney or Michael Keaton. It's an important and telling shift from woman as a plush toy to one who is, not only beautiful but also smart and dedicated to a cause other than self-promotion and self-satisfaction.

Christian Bale's Batman is real..i.e. a genuine, fleshed-out, beautifully written movie character: he is conflicted, he makes mistakes, he trusts the wrong people at times and he pays for his mistakes. It is a remarkable casting coup to have Bale in this role particularly since of late he has been playing a spate of radicals...i.e. in "The Machinist," in which he transforms himself into a skeleton...literally. As Bruce Wayne/Batman, Bale dons the mask, assumes the persona, not out of a lust for power but out of a fervent belief that good will always triumph over evil: several times in this film he is brought to task for his trust in the basic goodness of people and one of his mentors ( Liam Neeson as Ducard) even goes so far as to ridicule Bruce as sentimental and weak for it. Though Ducard is his mentor and sensei, this relationship proves to be fraught with ambiguity as the movie progresses to the climax.

What is a Batman film without its villains? But this film is devoid of the cartoon craziness of the Riddler or the Joker. Here we have Cillian Murphy (so good in "28 Days Later") as a scary-as-hell The Scarecrow, alias psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Crane, who spews his psychedelic paranoia and psychosis on an unsuspecting Gotham. His "stuff" is more thrilling and frightening than anything that the aforementioned villains could ever muster.

"Batman Begins" is not only a physically gorgeous film, it is also an emotionally and ideologically complicated one. It wears its heart on its sleeve, yes...but it also has the brains and a profoundly strong back and pumped up physicality to back it up.

Buy Batman Begins (2005) Now

After years of not having a Batman film and mostly due to the franchise hitting bottom thanks to Joel Schumacher's disastrous "Batman forever" and "Batman and Robin", Christopher Nolan present us his version of the character with an impressive all star cast anda story brilliantly written by David S. Goyer.

The film

There were high expectations for this film before its release as if would it be as good as Burton's films, the truth is, there are no points to compare, Nolan and Burton visions are quite different from each other, but both respect the origins and essence of who the character is.

Goyer took some liberties in the storytelling that could be considered as unforgivable by many fans (Bruce's parents are originally killed after seeing "Mark of Zorro" at the movie theater, a fact that marks Bruce's mind with the idea of a masked vigilante) but also hints at stuff that the previous versions let pass unnoticed, the main focus of this film are the origins of Batman and his training to become what he ultimately is. Even though the detective part of Bruce's training is not even mentioned, the twist in which Ra's Al Ghul (Liam Neeson) is the one who trained him in the ninja arts and theatricality just makes their conflict more delightful and interesting. Cameos and appearances of characters from the comic book are also well used, justified and important to the story (Carmine Falcone and killer Zsaz)

The story uses the two villains exactly as they would act in the comic book, Ra's Al Ghul with his constant desire to set thing right his way and Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) working and experimenting with the thing he enjoys the most: fear. Even though the Scarecrow is totally the opposite of the comic book (in the comic Jonathan Crane is an old and ugly doctor who was fired from Gotham University for experimenting on the students with his gas of fear), the character presented keeps the essence and motives that the original character has, unlike the Riddler, Mr Freeze, Two Face or Poison Ivy in Schumacher's awful versions.

A new Gotham city is presented, much more like a NY city style, a new Batmobile (not as fancy as the previous ones but quite impressive) and a whole set of characters we expect to see in future releases, James Gordon (Gary Oldman who amazingly looks exactly as Jim in the comic), Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Jonathan Crane, Carmine Falcone and Ra's Al Ghul.

Masterfully executed by the whole cast and brilliantly directed by Nolan, there are many of us looking forward for a sequel to this film.

The extras

Disc one contains Mtv's "Tankman Begins", a spoof we could have lived without but without any doubt a collector's piece for all Mtv fans.

Disc two contains a set of documentaries related to all aspects of production and shooting of the film, from the early beginnings in Nolan's washing room until the shooting of some of the most difficult sequences of the film. The disc 2 is organized in a comic book-like format which makes it a little difficult to follow as many things are like hidden, but if you go until the end of the short and pointless story, you will find a list with all documentaries available. One of the documentaries called "Genesis of the bat" presents comic book artist related to Batman talking about the character and film, from Dennis O'Neil to Jim Lee. I am sure this will be a piece fans of the comic book will enjoy. All extras are worthy of watching and I strongly recommend the 2 disc set, it is a 5 o 6 dollar difference that will compensate with all the facts and items found in the bonus materials.

***BluRay review***

I had already written a review for this film when the two-disc special edition was released on DVD, so I will not get into any details about how great the movie is.

The treatment they gave to this release is incredible, image looks great and colors are stunning, the high definition definitely makes a difference and 'Batman Begins' looks better than ever (simply check out the ice sequence between Bruce and Ducard)

I have seen threads with questions as to what exactly does the limited edition set contains versus the regular single disc, so here are what I think are the most important ones:

The Disc

The disc included here is the same disc they released separately:

* All the extras from the 2-disc DVD are included, the documentaries and the awful 'Tankman Begins'

* The prologue to 'The Dark Knight' in high definition (are we in for a treat when released on Bluray!) This is basically the bank robbery scene that opens the sequel.

The Extras

The USB with 18 the stills from 'The Dark Knight' included in the DVD version of the gift set IS NOT INCLUDED in the Bluray gift set; don't know what the reason is but it would have made sense to include it in both versions.

The postcards included are selections from the art created to promote 'Batman Begins', in my opinion some of the images look simple and overall they are not that great.

The two comic books included are a joke! One is a comic book adaptation of the same 6 minutes prologue included in this edition (the bank robbery), the other one is the script with pictures of the same 6 minute prologue! I am a collector and big fan of Batman and even I find this ridiculous and overpriced.

The $7.50 coupon to see 'The Dark Knight' in theaters.

Bottom-line, I would give 3 stars to the BluRay release, not to the movie itself (which is great and looks superb in HD) but to the release. I am having buyer's remorse, don't be fooled by what the product description says, it may sound interesting but had I known the extras would be as they are, I would have gone for the cheaper single disc edition.

Read Best Reviews of Batman Begins (2005) Here

When i first heard they were making a new Batman movie, i thought, it won't be better than the old ones. That was before i went and watched the old ones again, as I hadn't seen them in years. The first one in 89 was good, but after that, they all completely blowed. I mean, they just sucked. The acting was horrible, it was so stupid, it seemed like a comedy.

Then I saw the trailer for Batman Begins, and it was amazing. I have seen the movie 3 times so far, not to mention once in IMAX, and am going to see it again. It was just awesome. At first, i didn't like the different look of batman or the batmobile, but you grow to like it, and now i absolutely love it. The acting was great, and Liam Neeson was a great actor for Ra's. I liked the new,tougher, almost criminal, Bale as Batman. He was a great actor as well.

As the other review mentioned, the music for a movie can destroy it, or make it incredible. The old batman movies had freakin circus music and Prince, what the heck. Hans Zimmer is amazing with this movie. Already creating incredible soundtracks for Gladiator and King Arthur, for example, he was perfect for Batman. The music makes the exciting action scenes 20 times better. I honestly got chills when i watched this movie, it was so good. For example, the final scene of the train, the music made the scene so much more action packed. And the "scary" parts, or more disturbing parts with the toxin being inhaled by batman and other people, made THOSE scenes perfect as well.

The new batmobile is simply amazing. When i first saw it, before i saw the movie, i was like "o no, not a dang tank!" But i later loved it, more than the old crappy ones with the flimsy "wings" on it. It is just more tough and has better gadgets, like the spike strips, or more spike balls, for that matter.

Batman's outfit is much better in these movies. It doesn't look like crappy rubber or stuff like that, cuz its not. And the guy who said earlier that he can barely move his head, well, he moves it plenty. Compared to the old movies, he looks like he isn't even wearing the cowl. In the old ones, there wasn't any head movement at all, he had to move his whole body. Then there is his cape. This is the best cape ever made. Batman doesn't have to hold sticks out to make it look like his cape is up. He can actually glide on it. Its just so much better.

Anyways, that finishes my review. This movie was the best movie i've seen in a long time. It makes me happy to know that it wasn't really associated with the old ones, and it isn't part of that franchise. I wouldn't want to be known for those pitiful attempts. I can't wait till the deluxe edition comes out. I also can't wait till the next movie comes out, with the Joker and all.

Want Batman Begins (2005) Discount?

I won't go on for six paragraphs about how good this movie is. In all reality, I would need twenty or more. This is THE definitive comic book movie of all time. It stays true to the source material, and as true to reality as possible. Be warned though, this Batman is not for the faint of heart. Clooney and Kilmer were laughable in their batsuits. Michael Keaton looked cool enough. But Christian Bale as Batman is downright scary. If you think Keaton pulling a thug close to his face and whispering just who he is was scary back in 1989, you've got another thing coming when Bale growls and hisses and hangs criminals upside down over the sides of buildings as they more than likely soil themselves. All of that, plus the villain (Scarecrow) makes Nicholson's Joker, a clown. THis is not only the greatest comic book film of all time, but it deserves a place within the top 100 films of all time for it's cinematography, script, direction, and performances.

Bottom line:

Absolute paradise for Batman fans---and still a damn enjoyable movie for people that would say, "Bat-who?"

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