Batman Begins

Batman Begins cover

KC wants to go see The Dark Knight soon, before we hear too much about it. I’m not really interested — I can’t see clips without thinking how tragic it was to lose Heath Ledger — but everyone expects me to see it, and I want to keep him company. (We’ll see Mamma Mia! first, though.)

I mention this only to explain why I finally watched Batman Begins — it was necessary homework.

It was pretty much what I expected. Fight scenes and attempts to make this pulp story meaningful with men training in Tibet and facing their fears in macho ways, all structured with fast cutting and smoke. I like many of the actors, but they seem overwhelmed by the massive sets and the inevitability of the requirements of their roles. And it’s a shame Katie Holmes’ acting career peaked when she was 15.

I was fascinated by how long it took for the movie to introduce either the Bruce Wayne playboy character or Batman. Almost an hour went by without establishing the basics. Maybe it’s a fair assumption on the moviemakers’ part that absolutely everyone who saw this already knew why we were watching the kid flashbacks and the near-ninja ice-pond swordfight and the Year One panel recreations.

Batman Begins cover

Since the story’s so familiar, the question becomes how well it’s done. This is certainly a big-budget movie, and it shows. There’s a lot to watch on the screen, but for me, I was rarely emotionally involved. The only part I really liked was the underground “conveniently useful prototype technology lab” and the way Morgan Freeman ran it. And Wayne’s excuses, too. “Now I’m going spelunking.”

I was really glad I saw Iron Man before this, because it made for interesting comparisons. Both are about too-rich men building supersuits to fill a void in their lives. Instead of being fun to watch and someone you’d want to know, though, Christian Bale’s Batman strikes me as vaguely slimy, menacing, someone to sidle away from without alarming him, as demonstrated in the party scene. (Oh, and the car is dumb. Especially how he parks it.)

Batman got me back into comics the second time (the third was what stuck), back around the time of Batman Returns. I think now, though, that he’s not a character I have much resonance with. People say they like him because he’s someone anyone could be, a human who made himself better, but at this point, he’s a superhuman who pretends to be achievable. You may like to envision yourself as him, but you’re really going to be one of the faceless crowd made mad.

Between the effects and the forced exposition and the sad attempts at catchphrases and the mechanical portrayals of elements we already know, the story is all brain and brawn. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a *bad* movie… It’s very faithful to the comics (the good ones). It just doesn’t have much heart. It’s great for the fans, not so much for a general audience. If you don’t know the comics, the character types can seem pretty two-dimensional. And I don’t think it’s very re-watchable. But what do I know … it took me three years to get around to it!


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