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Batman Begins... Finally, Batman done right on the big screen. Tim 
Posted by: Tim at 4:56 PM EST on 6/22/2005
File Under: Movies -> Cinema -> Review

Ever since the days of Batman: The Animated Series, I've been a Batman fan. I've always found the dark, brooding character appealing. Batman's not a mutant, he's not an alien, and he's not some radioactive accident. No, he's not a normal superhero. He's just a really rich guy with some major psychological issues. Batman is flawed, and that's what makes his story so fascinating.

Through Batman's many incarnations on TV and in film, the animated series is the only one that I felt properly captured the essence of the character, story, and villains. Each episode was a 30 minute movie with intricate plots and excellent character development. Everyone had real, human motivations. Batman was imperfect, and the villains weren't just maniacs -- they were maniacs for a reason.

Finally, we have a movie that can stand up to the animated series. Batman Begins lays a fantastic foundation for what could prove to be the definitive Batman franchise (outside the comics, of course). Christopher Nolan (director) and David Goyer (writer) have abandoned the camp and over-the-top presentation of previous Batman movies, and the cast does a wonderful job of bringing this vision to life.

This time around, the story is rooted in reality. Everything happens for a reason, and every character has true motivations. Even Ra's Al Ghul, a man intent on destroying Gotham City, has a good reason for doing so. The city has become a cesspool of crime and corruption under the control of criminal kingpin Carmine Falcone, and Al Ghul believes that erasing it from the map is the only way to keep it in check and ensure the world's purity. One of the film's few shortcomings, however, was in the development of Scarecrow's character. Though not the most intricate of the Batman villains (I'd give that award to Two-Face or Mr. Freeze), the story of the psychologist-turned-bad is still worth a little more screen time. Perhaps that's being saved for the second movie?

I'd rather not delve too much into the plot. For one, I hate spoilers, but also, it's Batman... I don't think it takes a plot summary for anyone to know what it's all about. That said, I'll just make a few individual comments instead.

First of all, Katie Holmes. She was not a good choice to play Rachel Dawes. Though she makes for excellent eye candy, she's not believable as an assistant DA. She comes across as too young, too cutesy, and not serious enough to be a hard-nosed attorney in a city like Gotham. (If we really need a DA in the story, how about Harvey Dent?) Also, the romantic subplot between her and Bruce Wayne is horribly under developed. A brief romantic scene was tacked onto the end of the movie, and I was just left wondering where the hell it came from. Besides, Bruce Wayne just isn't the type of guy to have a real romantic interest. He'll hook up with the occasional model, actress, or Catwoman, but he's far too absorbed into his life as Batman to take on the emotional burden of a relationship.

Also, Christian Bale does an excellent job of falling into the role of the growling, menacing Batman, but comes up a little short as the suave, billionaire Bruce Wayne. But perhaps that is only a matter of character development, and we'll see more of the playboy side come out as he gains confidence from his Batman persona, and also as the head of Wayne Enterprises.

And one gripe about the direction -- it's way too hard to tell what's going on in the fight scenes. Nolan needs to zoom out a little, and the editing needs to be much less jumpy. Batman is a martial arts expert -- let's see it!

Finally, the new Batmobile (aka, the Tumbler). I had my reservations about this, but not any longer. Quite frankly, it's badass. It also makes more sense for Bruce to salvage a military prototype developed by Wayne Enterprises than to go out and have a custom vehicle built right away. Still, I wouldn't mind seeing a real Batmobile make an appearance in later movies. Maybe it will be included as part of the development of the Batcave?

Though Batman Begins has its few shortcomings, the positives far outweight the negatives. The story's universe has been given the perfect atmosphere and the groundwork has been laid for an excellent series. It's obvious that the movie was a labor of love by people who genuinely want to see Batman taken in the right direction on the big screen. I can't wait for the sequels.
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