Preview to my The Dark Knight Rises review: my old Batman Begins review from ’05

The real Batman finally stands up. The latest installment of the Batman series has arrived, and as the title suggests, it tells the story of how Batman became Batman. Christopher Nolan takes over the direction and heals the wounds of watching Joel Schumacher turn the series into a Hollywood love story with Bat-nipples, a disco Gotham city with club-like colors, silver costumes and Seal songs. Remember the “I’ve been kissed by a rose” song? In a Batman movie? Really?

We’re talking about the real Batman here. Nolan shows that he understands the dark atmosphere surrounding Batman’s life story as Tim Burton had when he made the first two Batman films.

Christian Bale is the newest candidate to put on the black suit. Despite his inexperience in the Batman world, he manages to portray the most convincing and realistic Batman we’ve seen. He is better looking than Michael Keaton and not nearly as lost as Val Kilmer or George Clooney. The tremendous dedication he put into returning Batman to respectability also transpires throughout the movie.

Other characters include Katie Holmes as district attorney Rachel Dawes and Bruce’s love interest, Liam Neeson as Ducard (Bruce’s trainer and mentor) and Michael Caine as Alfred. Speaking of Alfred, this is really the first time we see his character take a human dimension aside of preparing Bruce’s meals and cleaning up the Batmobile. Michael Caine’s portrayal of Alfred is admirable and he really is a nice father figure to Bruce. Rachel doubles as Bruce’s conscience as he struggles to give credibility to his identity as Bruce Wayne while fighting crime as Batman.

Nolan brings darkness to the movie by making it revolve around the theme of fear. Ducard’s training is based on mastering one’s fears. Batman is created as Bruce Wayne becomes one with his worst fear and Batman’s mystique is about putting fear inside his enemies. The bad guys’ weapon is some kind of fear spray and Batman eventually attempts to save Gotham City from a chronic fear epidemic.

The early stages of the movie don’t abide by the rules of chronology as Wayne is shown meeting Ducard as an adult and clashing with his worst fear (bats) as a child. However, the pieces slowly but ingeniously come together as we see that Bruce is trying to avenge the death of his parents and that he left his relationship with Rachel on a sour note in the process. We get to realize that while Bruce is training with Ducard.

After the final stage of his training goes horribly wrong, Bruce returns to Gotham in order to get back into his family’s world and working to become the city’s defender; in other words, creating the Batman persona. He comes to realize that the city is more corrupt than ever and that includes his late father’s company, Wayne enterprises.

After he becomes Batman, he starts to deal with the criminals of Gotham and working his way up the chain to find out who is behind a master plan to destroy Gotham City. There is Carmine Falcone, played by the extraordinary Tom Wilkinson. You’ll have trouble believing the guy is an Englishman when you hear that New Jersey-like accent. There is also Cillian Murphy, who plays the twisted psychiatrist Thomas Crane. He arrouses suspicion because of his tendency to have thugs transfered from jail to Arkham asylum. There is also the fact that he might as well be constantly followed by a subtitle reading “I could be nothing other than a creepy bad guy.”

Two other actors who are worthy of mentioning are Morgan Freeman as Bruce Wayne’s ally Lucius Fox and Rutger Hauer as Mr. Earle, the guy who weaseled his way into the job of Wayne Enterprises board director. Freeman is his usual noble person and you’d want to stamp Hauer’s head on a wall. Fox could be called a technology designer. His greatest creation, the Batmobile, looks like a mix between a Lamborghini and a tank.

In the end, Batman Begins is not just the best Batman film ever made or even a fine effort to make us forget about Batman and Robin, it is one of the better films you’ll see this year. It packs everything from the excellent visuals to the deep and interesting storyline to good acting from all the characters that matter. It really is a very complete and excellent film. What I want to know is : When is the next one coming out ?

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