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EOL vs Batman Begins

Man oh man – What a time it is to be a fanboy! I can hardly sleep at night knowing that there’s a flood, neh, tsunami, of sci-fi/superhero movies on the approach! Fantastic 4, War of the worlds, The Island, to name three. The biggest question however. is about none of those movies – it’s about the return of the dark knight. It’s about… [dramatic pause]… The Batman!

When last we were visited by the caped crusader – well, lets be honest… it sucked. How can this movie possibly be any good? (hit the read more to check out my review of Batman begins: originally posted at gamespace).

Finally someone in charge of making a batman film has taken the time to, not only understand the core of the character, but to attempt to put it on the screen and surround it in a tangible world.
For the first time in a batman movie we see the greater world, we see exotic locations. We see Bruce Wayne go out into the real world and beyond it. We see him in a Chinese prison as a result of his attempts to get into the mind of the criminal element. And, in a monastery high in the mountains, we see him learning the skills which he will return, armed with, to a believable Gotham City.
This is a Gotham City which exists, not in the fantasy world of the 1989, Tim Burton, batman offering, but in this world. Our world.
Finally someone has ripped the batman from the misconceptions that have weighed the character down since the days of the 60’s TV series. Gone is the overt symbolism of the unduly Gothic architecture that has been used to represent Gotham in previous movies. Gotham City feels like any other modern city. Nothing stands as a better symbol of this new interpretation of the batman than the fact that Gotham itself is finally depicted as occupying space in the real world.

Unlike other primordial super heros, the batman is a twisted soul. He is filled with anger, guilt and the desire for a revenge that he can never reap. Finally someone has managed to put this onto the screen.

When Bruce Wayne’s internal struggle drives him to gain the ability to fight the injustices that have all but swallowed the city of his birth, he does something that very few other ‘super heros’ have done before: He chooses to become the deliverer of justice. The man, Bruce Wayne, ceases to be a man and becomes the means by which the batman can venture into the world, the means by which the batman can gather information, weapons and anything else that he cannot retrieve himself.
There’s a saying about Ninjas that’s somewhat misinterpreted, it says that they have the ability to become invisible. This doesn’t always mean lurking in the shadows or dropping out of some unconsidered air vent. It means that they often infiltrate a situation, not via stealth (albeit a valued tool of the Ninja), but by hiding in plain sight: Taking on the role of someone familiar or above suspicion, a janitor, a grounds keeper or a kitchen hand. Bruce Wayne becomes the persona that the batman uses to ‘hide in plain sight’… And, finally, someone has managed to put this onto the screen.

That someone is Christopher Nolan.

Nolan, who directed and co-wrote Batman Begins (with David S. Goyer) has clearly gained an understanding of the stories and characters behind the veil of the comic book cover (lets call them ‘graphic novels’ from now on, eh!). This film isn’t a representation of the original medium in anyway. Batman Begins tells the story of a man, so overcome with guilt, and anger, and rage, and grief over the murder of his parents that he chooses a dark path. Nolan has chosen to tell us this story as though we’d never heard the names Bruce Wayne. Batman or Gotham City before. The film is shot as any other proficient and artistically commanding, film maker would delineate the story of a man who loses himself forever in the events and emotions that have consumed his past. His previous efforts, Insomnia and Memento, have shown that Nolan is capable of treading a dark line in his films, however his abilities to display the inner-workings of a dark mind are showcased best with this latest title.

Finally, someone has been able to put the batman’s twisted psyche on to the screen. To represent the telling of Bruce Wayne’s surrender to his demons. To humanize the emotional and physical transformation from misdirected angry youth to lost, explosive adult and on to focused, sinister night creature.

That someone is Christian Bale.

His performances in American Psycho and Equilibrium are examples of Bale’s ability to lend himself to a cold, calculating and sociopathic portrayal. His commitment to his roles and his resolve to go to great physical lengths to BE the part and his willingness to turn down roles have earned Bale a reputation as an actor to be admired. With Batman Begins, Bale will be exposed to an audience who may not yet have had the opportunity to see him on screen.

Finally we have an irrefutable answer to the question “Who’s been the best batman?”

The ’89 film set a standard for the franchise that followed, not all good. Visually all of the modern Batman films have had an artistic spirit that has set them apart from other films. However one element has always made proponents of these films cringe.. the suit.

Finally we have a suit that IS the batman. In the plot of the film we learn where it comes from, why it works the way it does and how it is that Bruce Wayne manages to accessorize with all those ‘wonderful toys’. Probably the greatest feature of all is the fact that we barely get a look at the suit. He is shadowed, or moving.. or perfectly still. There are sequences which manage to create the same sense of fear and disorientation last seen in the original Alien movie.

The soundtracks for the previous movies have been held in high regard. They are defining, in a way, you can separate graphic novel adaptations by their soundtracks, those which choose to have epic and timeless accompaniment and those which are foolishly anchored by the popular music of their day (yes, Spiderman, Daredevil – I’m looking at you!). Batman Begins marks a grand paring, for those interested in such things, with Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard collaborating on its soundtrack. Together they produce a score which is the perfect companion to the dark textures of the film. Easily equalling their previous individual works, but also spawning something new.

With the success of previous graphic novel adaptations true ‘fan boys’, such as myself, have finally been able to bare witness to the coming of age of the ‘comic book’ movie. For a long time we’ve been well aware that these stories are dark and deal with very human (albeit extreme) emotions. However it’s taken a long time for that realism to make the translation along with the ‘brand’ of these characters. With the X-men movies there came an understanding of the emotions that drive these extraordinary characters. With the financial success and popularity of the Spiderman films the creators of graphic novel based movies have been given the ability to tell the stories as they have always wanted. Sure there are always going to be adaptations that suck (yes, Punisher, Hulk… Daredevil, I’m looking at you!) but with the every success film makers like Christopher Nolan are given the opportunity to dare to be gritty and real, to dare to cast against type, and to dare to treat these characters as real people.

With Batman Nolan, and all involved, had the additional task of trying to revive a movie franchise which had been left terminally ill. What they’ve managed to do, to continue the medical analogy, is put the disease into remission. Some, myself included, would go so far as to say that it’s a miraculous recovery.

Finally we get the batman movie we’ve always wanted.

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