6 June 2005 | motta80-2
Everything I could have hoped for
I had fearful reservations about this one. I loved Tim Burton's Batman - 12 years old when it came out I was the perfect age for it and I also enjoyed Batman Returns. The franchise went so wrong under Joel Schumacher that I wasn't sure I wanted it resurrected. Not least because Batman was one of the few comics I read and enjoyed as a kid and was always my favourite superhero. I grew up reading the comics, watching reruns of the Adam West TV show and then getting Burton's celluloid vision. I was spoilt for choice as a kid but as an adult now I was concerned revisiting the franchise, especially given Warner's record over the last decade of screwing up summer blockbusters with potential all over the place (dare I bring up the Matrix sequels?)
However, I am pleased to report I could not have been more wrong about how great Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins is. This is better than Burton. Sacrilege, you say?! Well Burton was still cartoony in many elements, he wasn't churning out the bilge of Schumacher but Burton's Batman was still over the top. As a kid this was ideal but Nolan's Batman is real. Everything in this world seems plausible and it is therefore a world that draws you in. Characters' vulnerability is that much more present. Every bruise, every scare, every concern, every emotion seems real.
Part of this is that Nolan has assembled an exemplary cast. Again, this concerned me prior to seeing the film. I wasn't sure a cast of big name legends like Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman and well known names like Liam Neeson and Katie Holmes wouldn't detract and distract from Batman. I was always sure Christian Bale could be the great moody Batman he's been waiting his career to be but the others I wasn't so sure about.
That said Bale is not just good, he's superb. I never thought I'd really be able to envision anyone other than Michael Keaton as the definitive Batman for me but since seeing Batman Begins a couple of days ago Bale has cemented himself in the position. Perhaps Keaton will now be able to escape the spectre of Batman he hasn't truly shaken off for 13 years.
The rest of the cast is also pitch perfect. Cillian Murphy is creepy as hell, Liam Neeson is authoritative and imposing, Katie Holmes is strong and sexy (I particularly thought she'd be insipid, she should jettison Tom Cruise and let her talent - which she does have naysayers just watch Pieces Of April - speak for itself) and Michael Caine is an Alfred you've never seen but in fact far more likely as a butler than the aristocratic pomp with which he is usually portrayed. Gary Oldman is also superb in a rare wholly decent character for him as Lieutenant Jim Gordon who gets far more to so here than Gordon has ever had to do before. Only Tom Wilkinson is a little off with a slightly comedic wise-guy American accent that never really convinces.
The emotional bond between Bruce Wayne and Alfred is actually a wonderful human heart to the film than Nolan and Goyer have written perfectly.
Don't let that make you think the action is not front and centre though. From Wayne's training through the early stages of the film to his early missions as Batman at about the half way point to a thrillingly choreographed chase sequence and an edge of your seat finale this film delivers the cool quotient in bucket loads.
Great villains (especially Murphy), great story, great cast, great action... put simply, great film. Probably the best comic-book movie ever made (that's excluding the genius Sin City which I consider a moving comic-book rather than a comic-book movie, that will never be bettered but Batman is a different beast and the best of its kind).