Super Hero...... Super Movie
After the last run of "Batman" movies, which went from initially being pretty good to absolute dire, I approached this latest incarnation with much hesitation. Too say that I was pleasantly surprised by "Batman Begins" is an understatement. Gone are the comical characters and outrageous plots, and replacing them is some very deep characters and a brilliant plot. The whole movie feels more real, although still with that little bit of fantasy which makes it exciting. What is particularly good is the way that it fills in the gaps between the deaths of Bruce's parents and when he becomes the caped crusader. It also shows how he learnt to be such a formidable fighter, and the special bond between him and his butler Alfred. "Batman Begins" is a much darker movie than its recent predecessors and thankfully dispenses with the outrageous characters (Mr. Freeze for example) but it works and impresses.
Several years after the murder of his parents, the young Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale - The Machinist) disappears from Gotham on a soul searching journey. As he travels around the world he gains the skills, both physical and mental, which will help in his attempt to get revenge. When he returns to Gotham, to the shock of many who thought he was dead, he sets about creating his alter ego, Batman. With the assistance of this trusted butler, Alfred (Michael Caine - Miss Congeniality), and his newly found ally, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman - Unleashed), the caped crusader is born. A man who uses his strength, brains and a whole host of high-tech gadgets to strike fear into the hearts of the criminals of Gotham.
The main star of "Batman Begins" is Christian Bale s Bruce Wayne/ Batman. In reality he is actually playing 3 characters in the movie. Firstly, there is Bruce Wayne, the disillusioned traveller in search of himself and the knowledge and skills to gain revenge, in desperate need of guidance. Next we have Bruce Wayne when he returns from his travels and is thrown back into the empire and life he inherited. None of it interests him and it becomes a burden as he has to put up the façade of actually enjoying it. Finally we have Christian Bale as Batman, the vigilante in search of vengeance. This is the most tactile Batman I have seen, as he has more of an animal instinct about him and a very sinister, dark side to his character. All in all Bale has done a remarkable job of creating a new Bruce Wayne and Batman which is more serious than those portrayed by George Clooney, Michael Keaton and Val Kilmer.
In a supporting role is Michael Caine as the loyal butler Alfred. Too be honest the character of Alfred is more of a substitute father figure than a servant, who disperses little pearls of wisdom. Caine was a surprising choice for the role of Alfred, but carries it off with remarkable ease. Through the performances of Bale and Caine you can really see the special bond between the two characters, and I would imagine this carried on off of the set as well.
A new character in "Batman Begins" is Lucius Fox played by Morgan Freeman. Fox was on the board of Wayne Corporation when Bruce's father was in charge, but was demoted to the depths of the corporation when it came under new management. In his new position he is in charge of a wealth of high-tech gizmo's which would make James Bond jealous. Freeman brings his trademark charisma to the role and provides another wise head to assist and guide the young Bruce Wayne.
The rest of the supporting is absolutely magnificent and I could have expanded this review to detail all of them. But with the likes of Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Linus Roache and Cillian Murphy you will not be disappointed by any of them.
"Batman Begins" is directed by Christopher Nolan, who had previously directed Insomnia. My hat goes off to Nolan for resurrecting Batman from the dire previous outings. It is down to his brilliant direction and the writing of David S. Goyer that has made this film so good. The film is really on an epic scale, with scenes of Wayne travelling through what looks like Thailand, to his martial arts training in a monastery high up in the mountains, back to the modern Gotham city and the stately Wayne mansion/ bat cave. Each location is steeped in detail and provides a beautiful backdrop for the film. He has also explained through the story how the bat cave was created. I always wondered how the secret location came about. I cannot emphasise enough what a great job Nolan has done in creating a pacey movie, with plenty of action and drama without loosing focus on the story.
A special mention should go to the set creators, as they have done a brilliant job of creating a realistic Gotham City which could easily be mistake for New York. For me it is even more amazing as they created Gotham City just up from me at some huge airship hangers. Of course there has been a lot of CGI used in the film but it all looks very convincing and you really cannot tell the difference between real life and CGI.
What this all boils down to is that "Batman Begins" is a great re-imagining of Batman and a huge improvement on the previous efforts. In "Batman Begins" we get a great story, decent characters with depth, brilliant performances, stunning locations, plenty of action, brilliant CGI and brilliant special effects, what more can you ask for. Fans of super hero movies will love this, but it will also appeal to a much wider audience as it is a very good action thriller in its own right.