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June 23, 2005

Batman Begins

Chistopher Nolan - 2005
35mm movie

Having Christopher Nolan as director and co-writer got me back into my neighborhood multiplex. I would have seen anything done by him. It just turned out that like Bryan Singer and Ang Lee, he's joined the league of indie directors who've made films based on comic book characters. I never bothered to see the last Batman film figuring that Joel Schumaker did enough damage after Batman Forever. But I did like Nolan's version of Insomnia, having actually fallen asleep watching the original.

Because Nolan had an obvious hand in the screenplay, his Batman shares some characteristics with his previous films as being partially about memory and the intentional and unintended effects of one's actions. Unlike Momento or his debut feature, Following, Batman Begins is more linear in its narrative. Unlike Momento, with its protagonist who can not remember and takes no responsibility for his actions, Nolan's Bruce Wayne can not forget witnessing the death of his parents, the death he feels he caused, or the fear he had encountering bats as a youth.

My main problem with Batman Begins is that it is murky. Dark knight indeed! Nolan reportedly showed Blade Runner to the cast and crew to show how he wanted the film to look. He even included Rutger Hauer in the cast. The visual pallette is often blacks and dark browns that it is sometimes difficult to tell who is doing what to whom during some of the scenes of mayhem. Nolan's Batman is so staightfaced and sober that I felt nostalgic for the playfulness of Tim Burton, especially with Batman Returns. Seeing the origins of Batman was interesting, but I'm still more likely to re-watch Michelle Pfieffer as Catwoman.

Christian Bale isn't bad as much as he's not particularly memorable. Perhaps it is not entirely Bale's fault as he shares scenes with certified scene stealers like Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Tom Wilkinson. Caine is such a warm and comforting presence that his Alfred has a gravitas not seen in previous incarnations.

Perhaps based on Nolan's previous work, my expectations were unrealistic. I was hoping that Nolan would provide the kind of crackle that Doug Liman has shown he can do in his transition from independent films to big budget enterprises. If you haven't seen Following yet, make a point of doing so. Batman Begins is pretty good as Batman films go, but it's Following and Momento that have the real thrills and chills.

Posted by peter at June 23, 2005 04:06 PM