It seems that every time I go to the movies, it ends up being more about the morons who are sitting around me than the film itself. When I went to see Batman Begins, this did not change.
Sitting two chairs beside me was a woman who wheeled in what I thought was a suitcase. But it wasn't luggage, it was an oxygen tank. Ordinarily, this would not be a problem, but it was a defective oxygen tank that kept making a "sssst - sssst - sssst" noise throughout most of the film. I was getting so angry that I was contemplating either beating her over the head with the tank, or strangling her with the surgical tubing. I have no problem with people who need oxygen to breathe, but come on! If you are going to a public venue, be sure you've got a tank that isn't going to annoy the crap out of people.
But tank-woman was nothing compared to the f#@%ing sack-licking dumbshit that sat two rows behind me. It wasn't the fact that the redneck asshat felt the need to constantly talk to his inbred cracker clan... IT WAS THE FACT THAT HE TALKED TO THEM VERY LOUDLY!! He was forever dropping pearls of insight like "THAT FALL WOULD KILL A NORMAL MAN" and HEH, HEH... HE HIT HIM IN THE FACE. IT WAS THE FACE!!!!" and, my personal favorite... HE'S ON FIRE! THAT MAKES HIM THE HUMAN TORCH! HUH! HUH! HUH! HUH!!!" People like this should not be allowed in public... let alone be allowed to breed. He's just propagating an entire generation of movie-talking white trash that should be wiped from the face of the planet. If I had the ability to set things on fire with my mind, he'd be crispy like a burnt marshmallow. And, after I tossed the oxygen tank on him, he'd be like a crispy-dead exploded marshmallow.
Now, on to the movie. I don't really talk spoilers but, just in case you want to stay pure and haven't seen it yet, I'm putting my comments into an extended entry...
Comic geeks can usually be divided into two camps... you're either a Marvel geek (Spider-Man, Hulk, Daredevil, etc.) or a DC geek (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.). I liked both comic companies, but skewed toward DC, because my favorite book was Legion of Super-Heroes. And, being a DC geek, it ultimately ended up that you were sub-divided into either a Batman DC geek or a Superman DC geek. I was firmly in the Batman camp (but love the Superman Movie so much I nearly converted).
Given my Batman-loving-comic-book-geel status, I was really excited to see this film. If, for no other reason, to see if the franchise could redeem itself after Joel Schumchker had flushed it down the toilet with his previous double-turd feature of Batman and Robin and Batman Forever.
Did Christopher Nolan manage to pull it off?
This is certainly the best film rendition of the character, easily trouncing Schumacher's Queer-Eye Batman and Tim Burton's music-video Batman. Nolan skipped all the bullshit and went straight to the core of the character... he remembered what makes Batman actually be Batman...
Batman is always, always a scarier figure than the villains he is fighting.
And that's all you really need to know to make a good Batman film. Batman is bad-ass. Batman strikes from the shadows without mercy. Batman scares the crap out of people. Batman is not a nice guy... he's a criminal's worst nightmare come to life. He doesn't have super-powers, FEAR is his power.
Focusing on this intrinsic nature of Batman for a high-budget film was a risky move. Scary Batman doesn't sell as many toys and Happy Meals as funny Batman. But Nolan didn't stop there... he made a Batman film that didn't actually have much Batman in it! This is a movie that tells how Bruce Wayne became Batman, and the dark night detective doesn't even show up until the last-half of the show. In the end, it doesn't really matter. with or without the mask, Christian Bale has become Batman, and it's a wonderful thing to see. He's dark, flawed, conflicted, violent, and brilliant... just like he should be.
Even better is the supporting cast, which is staggering. Morgan Freeman is amazing as Wayne Enterprises' Lucious Fox. Gary Oldman makes the perfect Jim Gordon. Michael Caine is inspired as Alfred. Liam Neeson is a powerhouse as Ducard. And Cillian Murphy does the impossible, by making Dr. Jonathan Crane scarier without his Scarecrow mask than with it. Even Katie Holmes, who has been getting some nasty reviews, did fine by me (there's also an appearance by Ken Watanabe which was an unexpected surprise).
But where the characters shine, the story is somewhat lacking. A convoluted plot of mafia politics, poisoning the water supply with microwaved toxins, and a bunch of other senseless crap detracts from what could have been a perfect film. There needed to be a more straightforward story so that all the needless distraction from Batman could have been avoided. To make matters worse, all of this nonsense was crammed into the second half, so it was a big mess at the end (which was oddly jarring after the note-perfect first half).
Did I enjoy the film? Oh yes. It's a beautiful picture that captures the spirit of Batman exactly right. Only Superman and Superman II can beat it as far as comic book movies go (though the Spider-Man flicks come close). My only complaints remain the convoluted story, sloppy plot-holes, and re-hash of Joker's master plan from the first Burton film. Before writing a sequel, the entire team needs to watch all the Batman Animated Series DVDs to see how clear storytelling and lack of overblown pretense makes for a better Batman viewing experience. Sophistication and smart writing is good, but this IS a comic book we're talking about, and people keep forgetting that.
Next up: they're attempting to remake Superman, which is one of my all-time favorites. But will it go the Superman II route and give us a brilliant conflict worth watching? Or will it go the Superman III and IV route and suck major ass? My hopes remain high.