If there was a general rule of thumb which could be applied to superhero movies of any kind, it would be this: the story about how they became who they are, or what they go through when they aren’t their alter-ego, is always a better story than one about how they kicked some dudes ass. Take Spiderman 1 (and, to a lesser extent, Spiderman 2) for example: great human stories, centred on Peter Parker, as well as great action movies. Take Daredevil: a decent story about how Matt Murdock became Daredevil (in fact, DD was unlucky, in that they got lumped with Ben “I Shouldn’t Be A Lead Actor” Affleck – anyone else plays Daredevil, and a few other tweaks, and you got yourself a movie baby). Take Batman Begins.
Now, I’m not a big fan of Batman – in fact, I’ve never watched the TV show or the cartoons, never read the comic books, and only watched the movies once or twice each. Michael Keaton was awesome in Batman 1 and 2, then things slide downhill fast, like kids riding real estate signs on a wet slope.
Batman Begins begins at the root of everything: Bruce Wayne’s attraction to bat symbolism, and goes from there, dealing with his martial arts training, his compassion for Gotham City, the death of his parents, his relationship with Rachel Dawes, and his metamorphosis into Batman. What makes Batman Begins even better is that it has absolutely no association with the previous four movies. No Jim Carrey in green lycra. No Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze. Best of all, no George Clooney in a tight black suit with nipples.
Actually, my interest in Batman Begins was based on the fact that it had one of the best casts around, especially for a movie of this type: Christian Bale (as the black knight himself, Batman), Michael Caine (as butler Alfred Pennyworth), Morgan Freeman (as inventor Lucius Fox), Liam Neeson (as Ducard), Tom Wilkinson (as gangster Carmine Falcone), Cillian Murphy (as Dr Jonathan Crane, aka The Scarecrow), Rutger Hauer (as Mr Earle, chairman of the board of Wayne Enterprises), Gary Oldman (as Sgt Gordon), Ken Watanabe (as Ras Al Ghul), Katie Holmes (as DA Rachel Dawes) and Linus Roache (as Bruce’s dad, Thomas Wayne) – an absolute murderers row of talent.
The other thing that got me was the ‘raw’ look that it had in the trailers I had seen. Sure enough, Batman Begins didn’t disappoint. The acting was absolutely stellar, from all areas of the cast, and the look and feel of the film was particularly dark and dirty-feeling – you really felt for Bruce Wayne as his parents die, but moreso you really feel for Gotham City as it spirals deeper and deeper into the society where criminals rule the streets.
The look and feel of the film comes into its own during the action scenes, and there are plenty. As Batman takes on the streets of Gotham City you really feel like he’s in a war zone, and that all hope is gone. The other cool thing about the action scenes are just how simple they are – unlike most action movies where the action is now full of special effects, Batman sticks to quite a rough look, and the action scenes benefit from this approach.
And as if that wasn’t enough, did I mention just how kickass the Batmobile is? There’s a massive chase scene in one part, and its awesome seeing just what the Batmobile can do..
Overall, Batman Begins is a huge success – its got enough drama that it holds its own with other great drama movies around, but its got enough action to keep any die-hard action fan satisfied. I give it a 9 out of 10.