Finally – now the summer has truly arrived! Went with Matt to see Batman Begins at a special “online” press screening at the Director’s Guild in Hollywood. The film, in a nutshell, rocked. It’s not gonna be a “great film” for anyone, I’m guessing, but it was dark, exciting, and perfectly suited to my needs for what I wanted the film to be.
For those few poor souls who have no idea what this film is about, here’s the story in a nutshell: Billionaire fortunate-son Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is tormented by the murder of his parents. After removing himself from society – to see how the criminal mind works – he ends up being trained in the Himalayan mountains by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), who works under Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe), a powerful spiritual leader who believes that Gotham City is too corrupt and needs to be destroyed. Wayne believes otherwise, and so he returns to Gotham to try to save the city from the corruption and crimelords that now run it.
To do that, he needs to take on a new persona – somone who is a symbol, which cannot be destroyed as a man. That symbol ends up being (obviously) that of a bat – Wayne’s fear of bats (due to a childhood trauma) is something he decides to turn outward to his enemies. So he’s going to try to clean up the city, and meanwhile his former pseudo-love interest Rebecca (Katie Holmes) who is an Assistant DA, is in danger for her own upstanding beliefs and resistance to corruption. There’s another good guy here – Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman), a police officer who also tries to do what is right, when surrounded by police officers on the take.
With a little help from his trusty servant Alfred (Michael Caine) and a former Wayne Enterprises board-member (now running the “dead-end” Applied Sciences department) Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Wayne builds up the Batman persona, and uncovers a sinister plot to destroy Gotham, involving Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) who uses a hallucinagenic drug to make people go insane (giving him the alias “Scarecrow” in the process).
There’s more too it, but overall the film focuses on Wayne and his psychological turmoil, while moving the plot along at a very good pace, and giving us quite a bit of action in the process as well. Memento director Christopher Nolan does an excellent job balancing these elements, and his and David Goyer’s script touches all the right points. I particularly liked how everything about Batman was realistic. His suit is an experimental military armor. The gadgets he uses are practical and would have had other purposes. Things like that.
I also really enjoyed the score in the film. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard collaborated (the first time two A-list composers have collaborated since Alfred Newman and Bernard Herrmann teamed up for The Egyptian!) to write a score that has two major elements: tense action, and dark emotion. You can tell who wrote what, when listening to the score, with Zimmer’s part being a very rhythmic Black Rain type of motif, and JNH’s part being similar in style to his Snow Falling on Cedars score. To top it off, they have a great theme, and a cool use of a percussive effect that almost sounds like bat wings flapping! Definitely a soundtrack to get and crank up.
The visual effects are, for the most part, seamless. During the climax of the film, you’ll barely notice all the effect shots, since they’re tied into the (modified) Chicago skyline so seamlessly. As for the fights themselves, the film suffers a tad from the unfortunate symptom of “close-up confusion”, but it’s still a good action film as well.
I’m sure that this film will do quite well at the box office – at least for 2 weeks before being trounced by War of the Worlds. And I’m sure that it will spawn a few more sequels. One can only hope that they’re as good as this one is!