Film review by: Witney Seibold
Not so much a prequel to the 1989 Tim Burton blockbuster, but a reimagining of the Batman story (as it takes place in the present, and not pre-1989; cellular telephones, talk of Desert Storm and terrorism betray the time), Batman Begins is arguably the best of the Batman films, as well as an exciting and well-constructed action pic. I’m still drawn to the bleak and tragic noir of Batman Returns (1991), but Begins, with its personal approach to the characters (as opposed to comicbook approach), and almost neo-realistic view of superhero workings, is a mature and epic and familiar fable fully realized.
The acting chops of star Christian Bale, as well as his mentor Liam Neeson, technogeek Morgan Freeman, friend on the force Gary Oldman, and oddly calm villain-to-be Cillian Murphy, and even the snarky practicality of Alfred the Butler in Michael Caine, are all impressive, as they take the content just seriously enough without leaning into the tempting camp that had infected the last two Batman films, and drove the very soul of Adam West in 1966 (which was no bad thing). Eve Katie Holmes, usually hired for her cute little smirk and willingness to wear tight blouses had some meaty things to say, and said them with grace. It was wise to hire director Christopher Nolan, better known for quiet thrillers like Insomnia and Memento, to direct a Batman film, rather than a well-known action schlock jockey like Michael Bay or James Cameron. It made for a more intelligent film. Studio heads, I hope you’re paying attention.
Some of the more snooty out there may bemoan that our epic hero movies are coming less and less from classic literature and history, and more and more are coming from fantasy comicbooks (Troy, Alexander, Kingdom of Heaven, Vanity Fair are all clunky crap that falls by the wayside, while Spider-Man 2, The Lord of the Rings, Hulk, and the upcoming Fantastic 4 are all given lavish attention), but a film is only as good as its central idea, and comics, it must be recognized, are capable of being just as sophisticated as other media. And a Batman film can be pretty darn good.