Josh Wilding Reviews: BATMAN BEGINS

Ahead of the release of The Dark Knight Rises next week, I will be revisiting both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. So, without further ado, here is my take on Christopher Nolan's FIRST instalment in his epic trilogy.

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By Josh Wilding - 7/12/2012

After 1997's Batman & Robin, just about anything would have been an improvement (unless, you know, Joel Schumacher had returned to helm another instalment). It's a credit then to director Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins that it managed to succeed in bringing the Caped Crusader back to the big screen with an incredible origin story. In fact, Batman doesn't appear until well over an hour into the two hour and twenty minute runtime. Nolan instead spends a lot of time delving into Bruce Wayne as a character, and this really pays off. In this first hour, the character's motivations are firmly established and we see more than enough to be thoroughly convinced that this guy really could suit up as Batman and fight crime on the mean streets of Gotham City. There are a lot of memorable moments in these opening scenes, although some clunky and expositional dialogue (there only to set up events which take place later in the film) stick out like a sore thumb. Perhaps the most pivotal moment in Batman Begins - the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne - is handled extremely poorly. This scene is shot and edited together so rapidly that it loses an awful lot of the intended impact.

It's clear that in this film, Christopher Nolan envisions Batman as an elemental force, and this is perhaps demonstrated best by the way in which the fight scenes are shot. Fast-paced and pieced together so that we see little more than a blur, they're far from satisfying to watch. While this may work from a storytelling perspective, it considerably weakens these scenes in a similar fashion to how the death of Bruce's parents is handled. Batman Begins doesn't exactly begin to go downhill once he suits up, but the story is noticeably weaker. The way that the events in the latter half of the film are connected to Bruce's time with Ra's Al Ghul feel forced and never entirely convincing. Scarecrow meanwhile is a decent enough villain until Ra's returns, but his fear toxin never seems frightening enough to be...well...frightening! However, some stellar action sequences (Batman's escape from Arkham Asylum for example) more than make up for these flaws, as does the fantastic relationship Nolan builds between Bruce and characters like Alfred, Lucius and Gordon. Rachel? Not so much. There's a serious lack of chemistry there. The conclusion of the film is an exciting one, especially as the battle between Batman and Ra's is perhaps the most cohesive in the film. A final scene which sets up The Joker as The Dark Knight's main villain will send a shiver down any comic book fans spine and is easily a better tease than ANY of Marvel's brilliant after-credits scenes.

In terms of performances, Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman) really stands out. The actor adds a real amount of depth to the character, making him a believable and compelling lead. Liam Neeson (Henry Ducard/Ra's Al Ghul) is equally as good, both before and after he takes a villainous turn. When he does finally go full on bad guy, he quickly shows that he is a convincing threat to Batman and the rest of Gotham City. Speaking of which, Cillian Murphy (Dr. Crane/Scarecrow) is fantastically creepy and a treat to watch, although he could have done with being a little more fleshed out. Similar in many ways to Bruce Wayne, when we meet Jim Gordon (played perfectly by Gary Oldman) he's a haunted man burdened by being the only truly honest cop. As the film progresses, it's not heard to see the character develop as hope appears in the form of the Caped Crusader and this is down solely to Oldman's nuanced performance. Michael Caine (Alfred) and Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) are on fine form - the former is lucky enough to have some of THE best lines in the movie - although the same can't be said for Katie Holmes (Rachel Dawes). There's nothing wrong with her perfomance as such; it just feels flat and uninteresting. However, throw in some quality supporting turns from the likes of Tom Wilkinson (Carmine Falcone) and Rutger Hauer (Earle) and this is a solid ensemble.

Ultimately, Batman Begins is a very good movie, but far from perfect. The story and screenplay are far from Nolan's best (its not hard to imagine that this is down more to David S. Goyer than Nolan, especially when you compare their résumés) but as the director's first major blockbuster, this is a solid entry into the genre which deservedly finds itself in many top ten lists. The action doesn't always work, but scenes such as the one in which Batman interrogates crooked cop Flass (Mark Boone Junior) as he dangles him from a rooftop most certainly DO. Of course, the film is much different to the comic books as it puts a far more realistic spin on everything from the Bat-cave to the Batmobile Tumbler. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's understandable why purists many not appreciate this very different interpretation of the characters. However, the only major casualty is Gotham, as the city (apart from the Narrows) lacks any real personality, with the skyline often looking far too clean and contemporary. This arguably results in the brooding silhouette of Batman looking VERY out of place. Hans Zimmer's top-notch score and some cracking special effects (mostly practical, making them all the more impressive) make Batman Begins one hell of a package.

Batman Begins is easily one of the best films featuring the DC superhero, but FAR from perfect, despite telling what may just end up being THE definitive big screen origin story.



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AsianVersionOfET - 7/12/2012, 12:14 PM
I'd give it 4.5/5, but that's just me.
LiquidSmoke - 7/12/2012, 12:17 PM
I love batman begin prolly gonna have to hit a double dip of both movies before i hit up this private screening og TDKR on wenesday.
halik - 7/12/2012, 12:17 PM
I don't agree with this review. This is one of Nolan's best films and FAR from perfect? Not really, it's better than The Dark Knight. If you take away The Joker TDK suffers from many more issues than BB but both are still the best of their genre.
PaulRom - 7/12/2012, 12:19 PM
Good review. It's a 4.5/5 for me. Only major flaws were the way the fighting scenes, poor CGI for Gotham and Katie Holmes' occasionally mediocre acting. Otherwise it's fantastic.
NOLANITE - 7/12/2012, 12:24 PM
4.5/5 from me.

And that's coming from a NOLANITE.

The acting was good, but the fight scenes lacked a bit of zest.
halik - 7/12/2012, 12:24 PM
@setgecko It's focused microwave radiation. FOCUSED. So it's implied they were aiming it, and their not going to show people exploding in a Batman movie.
Insomnium - 7/12/2012, 12:24 PM
the best cbm ever!!
THEDARKKNIGHT1939 - 7/12/2012, 12:24 PM
This film is awesome. Far from perfect my a**
SHHH - 7/12/2012, 12:25 PM
Great Review
AtomicChipmunk - 7/12/2012, 12:25 PM
I would give it between 2.5/5 and 3/5.

The cons.

Christian Bale
Action sequences
The training sequence
Batman trained by Ra's Al Ghul, with ninjas
Bruce Wayne thinking and bringing a gun to kill Joe Chill
The useless childhood friend (Rachel?)
The batmobile

These scenes taken from Batman: the Brave and the Bold convey way more emotions than the whole BB movie.







zachshivey - 7/12/2012, 12:25 PM
I JUST put this in my PS3 to watch on bluray....gearing up door Thursday, midnite!
Moakynubs - 7/12/2012, 12:25 PM
I'm so excited that this movie is finally coming out! I hope it does well so we can get a sequel! WE WANT TO SEE JOKER!
kaijunexus - 7/12/2012, 12:27 PM
Perfect? No.

Far from perfect? Hell no. I'd say this film about as close to perfect as we've seen any Batman film come.
superotherside - 7/12/2012, 12:30 PM
Great review. I liked this movie better than TDK in someways, mainly because it focused on Bruce more. I'd give it probably the same rating.
catman - 7/12/2012, 12:30 PM
Does anyone care what Josh thinks?? I mean it would be different if we all had not seen the movie yet but honestly who cares?? Talk about ego...
Laird4Life - 7/12/2012, 12:32 PM
I hated this movie when it first came out. I didn't like how Gotham looked. I didn't like how real it was. Now that's exactly what I love about it. It's still not as strong as Dark Knight, but I do love it.
LoudNoises - 7/12/2012, 12:36 PM
I think this review is more than fair. I love Batman Begins and over time many of the moments that originally seemed less that perfect to me eventually grew on me and became for lack of a better word acceptable. But even today the moment that stands out to me the most as needing vast improvement was the death of Bruce's parents. This moment sets the ground work for everything that shapes Bruce's life and it lacked the emotional punch which should have left a mild lump in our throats. The editing in this moment should have slowed down to set a serious emotional contrast to the rest of the film which is quickly paced throughout and give us a moment to absorb what has just happened to this poor kid. that's my biggest criticism of this movie. However it gets so many other things right that I am able to accept it without too much opposition.
Super12 - 7/12/2012, 12:37 PM
Id have to agree with most here, I think BB > TDK. BB is just such a tremendous and needed origin story. I enjoy it just barely over TDK
GingerBird - 7/12/2012, 12:43 PM
Same score as Amazing Spiderman?
Wow that's BS.
RorMachine - 7/12/2012, 12:43 PM
Great review, can't actually argue with any of the negative points, but they didn't affect my enjoyment too much really. It's a 4.5 for me, TDK a solid 5.
thewonderer - 7/12/2012, 12:44 PM
I think batman begins and TDK are by far the best superhero movies of all time (with avengers and iron man being fairly close but not very)

Then comes likes of 2nd tier such as spiderman 1 and 2, all the marvel studios films, task, all x men's besides wolverine and 4

Then third tier is all the shit
ManOfKrypton - 7/12/2012, 12:47 PM
5/5 for me... Same as TDK.

This is no way on the same level as The Amazing Spider-Man!
comiccow6 - 7/12/2012, 12:47 PM
I agree with everything but the Joker card being better than any Marvel post-credits scene. I believe that learning the Avengers was actually going to happen, or that the Infinity Gauntlet storyline could be on film, is better than learning the Joker will get another interpretation. We had no idea how good Ledger's performance was going to be.
LoudNoises - 7/12/2012, 12:47 PM
@IM53

Best exchange in the whole film right there as far as I'm concerned. I have that whole scene's dialog memorized, lol. I also like the exchange between Bruce and Ras right before he burns down his house. Great stuff!
marvel72 - 7/12/2012, 12:47 PM
after veiwing the trailers of the dark knight rises,i believe its gonna be the worse of the nolan trilogy,so i've decided to alter my score rating for batman begins & the dark knight.

batman begins 4/5

the dark knight 4/5
Rothwilder - 7/12/2012, 12:49 PM
Pretty awesome that so many thought this was better than TDK. I feel the same for a lot of the above stated reasons.

Bale is the best Bruce Wayne (which is what BB focuses on thankfully)
Keaton is the best Batman.
Jolt17 - 7/12/2012, 12:51 PM
It stil tops The Dark Knight for me...and The Dark Knight was great. I just see this as the better (and perhaps, best) Batman film. I'm expecting The Dark Knight Rises to change that.
ElDuce74 - 7/12/2012, 12:51 PM
I think the review is pretty accurate. I really need to put them in and watch both again.

On a side note. I think it would be a HUGE disservice to the "bringing things full circle" and to the Dark Knight film itself if they don't at least clear up what happened to the Joker. I know he was left alive because he was probably going to be the villain for Rises but I hope they at least discuss what happened to him after Dark Knight. I know they don't want to show the Joker because of Heath Ledger being dead but, that's no reason to cut short the following film. And it is integral to Rises because the Joker left a huge impact on Gotham, Batman, and Dent's "legacy".
LoudNoises - 7/12/2012, 12:55 PM
@ElDuce74

It's almost fitting if you think about it though. We know nothing about Joker's past and we know nothing about his future, lol :p
Jolt17 - 7/12/2012, 12:57 PM
IM53: Thanks for posting that. One of the best bits of the movie. Falcone's "Like a dog," line is still resounding in my head until today.
jaewest215 - 7/12/2012, 1:01 PM
@Rothwilder - I agree 100%.

I would've made a superhero horror action movie.

Whedon said it the best "They need to focus more on Batman." This is true. This was the best origin story ever because other films after this started doing origin stories but there are holes in it.

I needed to see Bruce Wayne go CRAZY after his parents died. Kind of like how Gibson's character was in Lethal Weapon after the death of a loved one. Also focus on Wayne cracking emotionally.

In my opinion Frank Miller in All Star Batman and Robin did a great job showing us how crazy Batman was. What man in there right mind would put on a cape and say Imma take down criminals?

I'm just sayin...
Fogs - 7/12/2012, 1:10 PM
BB is a great movie. TDK is very, very good because of the Joker, but since I go to the theater expecting a BATMAN movie, I also prefer BB.

Actually when I think about it, a simple way of knowing which one I prefer is to remember that if I see BB on TV I'll watch it again and again. TDK, not so much.
6of13 - 7/12/2012, 1:10 PM
One of the best cbms ever. Good story with characters you care about. Think I am going to go and watch it now.
Fogs - 7/12/2012, 1:12 PM
@IM53 - SO TRUE.

That scene is boss. There's no way you wouldn't agree Bruce is just a spoiled kid watching that one. Very well remembered, bro.
halik - 7/12/2012, 1:21 PM
All you who are giving The Dark Knight Rises a score need to just be patient and wait for the damn movie. I'm so sick of fans judging a 2hr45min film based on 5 mins TOPS of footage.
Clundgren - 7/12/2012, 1:21 PM
I'd give it a 4/5. Good film, but I'm not crazy about Bale's Batman, even though I love his Bruce Wayne. Holms is adequate. The mood is great and the three main supporting roles are very well cast, as are the villains. It's not a classic, but it's a very good movie. TDK is superior on just about every level, though.
Clundgren - 7/12/2012, 1:23 PM
I'm intrigued to see what Nolan does with Catwoman. In my opinion, he doesn't do nearly as well with female characters as male, but then he's never really had one in this prominent a role. I'm nervous because Anne Hathaway annoys the hell out of me, but I'm hoping for the best.
Jordanstine - 7/12/2012, 1:25 PM
Just personally, but I enjoyed Batman Begins way more than I did The Joker... I mean The Dark Knight.
third3ye - 7/12/2012, 1:29 PM
Best CBM origin movie ever, followed by Iron Man. 4/5 is fair, the movie has some flaws - narrative and theming isn't as strong as TDK, plus we have to watch Holmes' acting (ugh). But Wayne's character development and training is so fleshed out, the cast's acting top-notch minus Holmes, it's hard not to give props to Nolan & Co for reviving the franchise Schumacher killed.
SkateandDestroy88 - 7/12/2012, 1:30 PM
Probably most viewed film of all time for me. Watched that film on repeat for so long before the dark knight dropped. Layers of brilliance compose this film. Top three CBM for me.

The flower that makes him Haullicinate. "Men fear most what they can not see."

The ninja training. So epic.
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