Today was Fathers' Day, a day to cut Dad a break and do what he wants to do for a change. Bernie has always been an exemplary Dad, so I embraced his idea of going to the movies to see Batman Begins instead of say, sitting in a chair on the patio and watching the leaves swish on the trees. Never having been all that much of a Batman comic fan, and having gagged and nearly died of boredom at the television and movie Batmen (Batmans?) -- well, except for Keaton, of course -- I was not looking forward to a new movie with hokey villains and a rubber suit with fake pectoral muscles. But I was willing to make the sacrifice and accompany Bernie to see the film. I could, I reasoned, fall asleep if necessary.
Director Christopher Nolan did something with this film that few directors seem to do these days: he took the time to set the scene for Batman's origins. Without hurrying, he introduced the elements of Bruce Wayne's inspiration by bats, the reason for his deep-seated anger and drive to fight evildoers, and the source of his fighting skills. When I was a kid and glanced at the Batman comics in the drugstore, I was disbelieving. "Yeah, right," I thought. "This guy dresses up like a bat, drives a flashy car, and has no super powers. And he's fighting evil with ... what??" Well, my dears, now I know how he does it, and it all makes sense.
Christian Bale is not my idea of eye candy, and I had my lip curled in disdain when I saw his wispy beard in the beginning of the movie. "This is going to be a bad beard movie," I thought when I first saw Liam Neeson appear in a lame moustache. However, I will take my hat off and bow low to Bale -- by the end of the first hour, he had impressed me so much that I can't imagine anyone else as Batman. Not even Michael Keaton. Not only as Batman, however. Bale is a charming and delightful Bruce Wayne, who sleeps off his heroics until three in the afternoon and occasionally dates bimbos and insults his guests. Who wouldn't want to hang around a billionaire with a secret cave?
Michael Caine as Alfred the Butler was outstanding, portraying a loving, loyal, supportive, sly, conspiratorial, resourceful character. This Batman could not have succeeded without this Alfred. How did any other Batman succeed without this Alfred? Caine must have reined himself in severely to keep from stealing the scenes; it was dang close. I've loathed Mr. Caine since I was a child, but I can no longer remember why, as each performance he turns in is impressive. I think he's turned the tide with this character.
Okay, in spite of what I saw in previews, it wasn't a rubber suit to simulate muscles, which is just dumb. In this movie, the suit is of a super-Kevlar, which makes all kind of sense. The gadgetry is less silly than James Bond's doodads, but Lucius Fox's treasure trove of unused inventions is full of gigglesome prospects. Including a very desirable Batmobile. (Which no one calls by such a name, thank goodness.)
The villains were horrid and creepy. Neeson and Cillian Murphy made me itch to be Batman and take them out. Can you tell that I was drawn into the story and riding on Bruce Wayne's shoulder, telling him what he should do next?
Although Batman Begins is a long movie (two hours, twenty minutes), I didn't feel restless, and by the end, I was hoping there would be a good sequel. I went into this film with a heavily biased attitude. I was sure it would stink like gone-over superheroes on a hot summer day. I was absolutely wrong. This is a fantastic movie, and I'd go back and see it again. I know I'll own it on DVD.
P.S. The only glitchy thing I noted was that the Bat Cave had no guano on the floor. But perhaps that was in keeping with Gotham City, whose seamy underlife did not use grossly foul language, either. Bats with conscientious hygiene and a movie that doesn't rely on obscenities ... who knew films could be so good?
Bob Kane and David Goyer, the writers behind Batman Begins, must have been big Batman fans. These guys must have been the kids in the neighborhood that had all the collectables and participated in the Batman fan clubs. They probably watched the TV series and all the movies. And all the while, they kept thinking, "Someday I'm gonna grow up, and then I'll tell the real story of how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman."
For Father's Day, Sand took me to the movies. I chose Batman Begins because it was new, and it looked to be the special-effects-laden schlock that I find irresistible. I've seen almost everything made that had space ships on strings, all of Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion epics (Can we ever forget One Million Years B.C.? I mean I memorized all of the dialogue from that classic), and of course I have simply wallowed in all the CGI since George Lucas turned film making upside down with Star Wars. So off we went to see things blow up real good.
Well, what a surprise! Batman Begins is a good story; in fact I would even go so far as to say it was a great story. Fast paced and engaging, it is also the most complex and sophisticated story of any of the "comic book" movies that have come out over the past several years. It also sports an excellent cast. Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Michael Caine (Alfred) and Liam Neeson (Ducard) all turn in wonderful performances that allow you to like or loathe the character as appropriate.
And Christian Bale ... There ought to be a trailer with C.B. sipping a drink and saying "The name's Man. Bat Man." And the letters shooting up on the screen to affirm that "Christian Bale is Bat Man!" Mr. Bale did such a great job that I looked up what else he had done and was stunned to find out that he was one of the leads in The Swing Kids (1993), and starred in Spielberg's 1987 classic The Empire of the Sun, a movie that I still consider to be the finest movie ever made. I will be eagerly awaiting Christian's next film. (He may even be able to make me forget Raquel Welch's performance in One Million Years B.C ... hopefully.)
Good movie. Very good movie.