Posted by: Brian Hibbs on June 8, 2005
Just got back from a preview screening of BATMAN BEGINS. (and how cool is this? I went with my Dad.) Let’s get some initial thoughts down while everything is fairly fresh in me head. I’m going to try to be as spoiler-free as I can, because, y’know, the thing don’t come out for 10 days or whatever, but this is a review, and I might let something slip. You have been warned.
It’s a very good movie, but it’s not like the second coming of superhero films, or anything like that. Several reviewers are way overselling it, man.
It’s got a brilliant first act, it has a very solid second act — the third act though, eh, didn’t work too well for me.
Part of the problem is how the action is staged — virtually every fight is cut so fast from angles where you really can’t tell what the fuck is going on. Since the third act depends so much in the Set Piece Big Fight, that isn’t how I would have staged it.
A good example might be the first fight Batman gets in — Batman is treated nearly like the alien in, well, ALIEN — you hardly catch a glimpse of him, people start dropping, someone hits… don’t know, Batman? their partner? I can’t tell, there’s shooting, but it is at shadow, and it’s all too damn fast. It’s like watching it from the POV of the thugs being taken down. That’s how THEY see Batman. Which is great, but I want to see what he’s doing… that’s the fun of Batman, isn’t it?
But, of course, you can’t really show Batman doing all that stuff, because it’d look like shit. You’d never be able to believe that costume, in motion, could possibly move that much, that fast. Thankfully you almost never see the full Batman costume, because it looks pretty silly. In the few shots where it was just shoulders up, talking, it looked like Bale would topple over from the top-heaviness of the suit.
They generally do an excellent job of covering their limitations in most places — Batman haul-ass runs more than once, but the angle and cape effects cover for it great; and there’s plenty of excellent “Batman as gargoyle shots”
Another part of the problem is that the movie is BIG, I don’t mean in a “Hollywood Blockbuster” kind of way (though it is that, too), but in that a whole whole WHOLE lot of subplots happens, and there’s tons upon tons of characters, so everyone has to be able to get to DO something in the third act, which leads to more than a few awkward moments I thought (I’d single out one of the Batmobile’s drivers, he said, trying desperately to remain spoiler free).
The performances are pretty uniformly excellent. They’d almost have to be with the cast assembled here — I thought Katie Holmes was probably the weakest, but then her character wasn’t much of a character (though a thousand times more of a character than any *other* Obligatory Female in a Batman film) — she exists as childhood friend, crusading DA, and moral center, but those are plot roles rather than personal character. Not Katie Holmes’ fault though.
I generally liked the changes to the Batman mythos itself. While I always resent “Nemesis comes from origin” as a storytelling crutch (cf: Joker in the first Burton film), the bits of that they do here usually fundamentally work, because they’re actually *about* something. They have psychological weight, if nothing else.
On the other hand, I thinking changing Ra’s motivation in the way that they did probably weakens the character. I mean with comic book Ra’s I might even be with him pretty much everywhere up to “so, then we kill 90% of the population!” This one I was definitely less down with.
There’s something else I’m not mentioning because it would totally be a spoiler, but I thought it was very very cool. You’ll know it when you see it.
Gary Oldman did a whole damn lot with very very little. Morgan Freeman was Morgan Freeman, which rocks. And Michael Caine… well I liked him, but a “lower class” Alfred is so strange. It’s like “Whot’s tha’, guv’ner? Batman? Roight! I’m game!”
Bale, himself, I thought was the best screen portayal of Batman so far.
So, yes, I enjoyed it — it had depth, it was thoughtful, it built its themes, and it all comes down to explosions and punches, as such things do. Without the need to give pretty much every character some sort of role in the climax, I think it might have been more satisfying.
I can’t explain what I thought much better without spoiling the hell out of it.
You do want to see this in the theatre, and you actually DO want to see this in a theatre with a bunch of people and not wait for a DVD or something, it will be more fun with the oohs and the ahs and the laughs. So, yeah: VERY GOOD.
Oh, and the new DC logo at the top of the film? It doesn’t move or spin, as I thought it would. And the comics flashes (What DID flash up there? anyone know?) weren’t connected at all TO the logo. Foo!