Christopher Nolan revitalizes and restarts the Batman films with Batman Begins. A zeroing of the cinematic odometer was desperately needed with the Batman films. The last bunch of them were laughably bad… I don’t think that I’ve actually watched all of any of the ones not directed by Tim Burton who struck a good balance between the humorous and the frightening. Batman Begins is built around fear and how we deal with it. It could even be a slightly transposed response to terrorism as this Batman first must struggle with his own demons (and the bats in his head) before he can fight crime. It’s a clever and dark film that shows the process that Bruce Wayne followed to get into the costume. What was interesting in the film is the way that it doesn’t completely sever the ties with the Tim Burton Batman and it has a neat ending that ties into the first film.
The cast of the new film is great and Christian Bale internalizes the darkness into his Bruce Wayne before Batman. There are also a surprising number of larger stars in supporting roles. I particularly enjoyed Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. They bring some wit and weight to the film, which could have been bogged down by seriousness and solemnity. Cillian Murphy is also great as the Scarecrow and Gary Oldman has a great interpretation as the cop who eventually will become Commissioner Gordon.
Most people have absorbed parts of the Batman story through the various incarnations over the years, and it’s fun to watch how Nolan introduces various parts and adds his own spin to them. With the action he wisely chooses to keep things more suggestive than cartoony, which makes it more believable as well as establishing a level of plausibility. Filled with memorable images and production design, it shows us a few new things along a well-worn path. An entertaining summer movie with a bit more thought than the average summer blockbuster.
Another neat thing about seeing the film was watching it at the Valley Drive-in. It was great to see it on a big screen outside and once or twice I think that I saw a real bat flying around.