guy dresses up like a bat clearly has issues..."
Bruce Wayne nodding towards his own insanity
the trailer, when Christian Bale smiles his Patrick (American
Psycho) Bateman smile and asks if the 'Tumbler',
the all terrain, armoured, chunky four by four 'comes in
black', you just knew months ago that the dominant emotion,
colour and all round DNA of Christopher Nolan's reinvention
of the dead franchise was going to be a russet shade of
pale mauve. OK, OK. Black. The darkest and deepest black.
And it is. Deliciously so. It's also an adult blockbuster,
scarier than your average Batman, but it also means it does
not treat the awaiting masses (that's us by the way) like
idiots. I can't tell you how refreshing that is. Actually
I can and will. I can feel that iced water coursing down
Begins gives me faith in the Hollywood Big Mac
Movie. We're almost at summer's peak and so far two of the
offerings have been very good. If Spielberg drops the ball
on War of the Worlds, it will be a crushing
shame. I do find it somewhat amusing that the latest trailer
of the Cruise version (where you see a metallic tentacle
or two) features the now sublimely ubiquitous music cue
'Gothic Power'. You all know the piece, the one with choral
chants and a tremendously rising climax. It was extraordinarily
effective at getting the blood pumping and gave Peter Jackson's Fellowship such a thumpingly great trailer.
But if you had to judge movies by their trailers, Spielberg's
latest is up there. I am urging it to be good. Come back
to us, Steven...
Nolan has already delivered and dared to go back to Bruce
Wayne's origins big time. This is not Adam West (Mr. Camp
TV Batman), nor is it Frank Miller's re-invention (the Dark
Knight). I mean Superman was a character in those tales.
That's pushing reality a little far, like a few light years
towards what once was Krypton. Keaton's turn for Tim Burton
was eminently satisfying and I guess we don't really count
Val Kilmer or poor old bat suit be-nippled George Clooney.
No. Christian Bale, as much as the solid and very nicely
judged script could facilitate him, has made Batman real.
Now let's not go mad. It's still a man, a physically superior,
well trained man who wears a cape (they even rationalise
the utility of the cape), a mask (and at his full introduction,
let's add some rouge lipstick). He goes out into the wee
small hours to hurt bad people. After all, that's what Batmen
are for. To reach that level of reality in a Batman movie
is quite a feat but Bale has proved himself, child and adult
actor as a man utterly devoted to his characters. How he
went from the brittle boned and emaciated Machinist to his former pumped up Reign Of Fire muscleman
is a De Niro-like achievement that just screams total commitment.
is supported by one of the most quietly impressive casts
that have graced a blockbuster in many years. Butler, Alfred
Pennyworth, is brought to endearing life by Michael Caine
and soon to be Lieutenant Gordon (aka Commissioner Gordon)
is played with pity for the downtrodden by an actor more
used to roles in which he does the down treading. Gary Oldman
makes a perfect unmasked foil for Batman and has the air
of a man knowing what it is to be good in an evil world
but completely unable to pass on the secret. Rutger Hauer
is in the mix as the venal CEO of Wayne Enterprises and
tucked away in the weapons R & R is Morgan Freeman,
an actor that would have a great deal of trouble playing
a man you could not trust. Not that I wouldn't like to see
him try… The belle du jour, Katie Holmes, plays Rachel,
a crusading untouchable attorney. She's become more famous
for being the unfortunate object of the afore mentioned
Mr. Cruise's attentions these days. I say unfortunate. Did
you see that Oprah clip?) She is, however
perfectly fine as Bruce's ex-loved one.
Murphy is suitably creepy as the Scarecrow, the secondary
villain with a nice line in hallucinogenic weapons. And
again with the mentoring, Mr. Neeson. Liam N. seems to have
found a niche, playing Irish bodhisattvas. He is ridiculously
convincing as a man on a mission and is one of the principal
reasons that Batman becomes such a real character. Christian
Bale joins Ewan McGregor and Orlando Bloom in the 'characters
trained by the big man' club. A surprise (to me at least)
was seeing Tom Wilkinson playing a mobster chief, Falcone.
Better known for his turn in The Full Monty,
Wilkinson is eerily convincing as a powerful underworld
godfather. The veracity of his American accent is never
in any doubt. The fact that his splayed body on a searchlight
initiates the bat signal is a wonderful logical nod to serendipity.
all important aspect of the Batman mythology on film has
always been the music. Hans Zimmer has taken care of the
brooding darkness with a percussive theme that fits the
movie like a bat-glove and the composer in pole position
to become the next Jerry Goldsmith, James Newton Howard,
seems to have landed the emotional beats. According to ign.com,
the composers, both good friends, have been promising each
other that they would collaborate but schedules didn't allow
that luxury. Batman Begins did. Zimmer
insists that each cue had both composer's inputs but the
strings on the more lyrical cues have got to be Newton Howard's
(but then I'm just a listener, I wasn't there). Whatever
the truth, the score works grandly.
plot hinges on technology that can vaporise water releasing
the Scarecrow's water-poisoned hallucinogenic drug into
the atmosphere rendering the citizens of Gotham city fearful
and homicidal. All credit to writer David S. Goyer for writing
a dark but convincing tale. Batman never performs super-human
feats (well, he does in the sense that you and I would probably
not manage them) and the narrative is never derailed by
stupidity and blockbuster friendly pyrotechnics. If something
explodes in Batman Begins, there's a damn
I had to carp (the essence of criticism after all), Batman's
fight scenes are totally reliant on staccato editing and
the need for faster action has blurred the line so much
so that there were shots in the movie that I couldn't read.
Maybe that's just me but as I edit for a living these days,
perhaps it's a point well made. The car chase (on several
rooftops) was taking things a little too far but someone
had to erase the memory of the vertical building climbing
batmobile of Batman Forever. How do you
stay real in the context of hyper-unreality? Well, Nolan
has pulled it off. There's enough here for the casual viewer
to be immersed and the rabid bat fan to salivate over.
have to admit that my favourite Batman moment was one of
a very different ilk. While I loved Burton's Batman and found a great deal to admire in Nolan's, Batman's finest
moment has to belong to Adam West. With all due respect
to the darker, more adult figure who will now, no doubt,
be summarily sequelised into the ground, it's the camp 1966
TV Batman's only foray into movies that gets my single scene
of greatness award. Bear with me. In the Bat copter (remember
when everything was prefaced by the word 'bat'?), Batman
is being rescued from the ocean. As he is lifted clear of
the surface, an extraordinarily fake rubber shark is seen
attached to his leg. Nine years before Jaws,
the film makers could hardly be accused of tirelessly ripping
off Spielberg's masterpiece. Not only is this moment funny
as a piece of intentional spoofery but what follows simply
defies belief. Robin hands Batman a can of Bat-shark repellent
spray and the offending fish, sprayed in the nose, dutifully
obliges by falling from Batman's thigh leaving no wound.
I remember this scene like I saw it yesterday and how many
movies leave that indelible an impression?
'fill in the blank'. Batman is back, and he is most welcome.