BATMAN BEGINS

(2005)
With Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Reviewed by JB

     When I first saw BATMAN BEGINS, I had three main thoughts:

1) Christian Bale is the best combination Batman and Bruce Wayne since Michael Keaton.
2) Gary Oldman could stand there and read the telephone book and be great.
3) Get on with it!

Ray Bolger was forever typecast

     Having now revisited BATMAN BEGINS after seeing the far superior THE DARK KNIGHT, my thoughts haven't changed much.  Christian Bale is still as good, possibly better, than Michael Keaton; Gary Oldman is watchable in any role; but for the love of Chief O'Hara, could you move this movie along please?

     It takes BATMAN BEGINS about forty minutes to get going.  Compare this to THE DARK KNIGHT, which gets us into the story within the first five minutes.  Before BATMAN BEGINS settles down into a pretty decent comic book movie, it feels compelled to tell us exactly how Batman Begins.  So we suffer through 40 minutes of Bruce Wayne undergoing quasi-Jedi training in the Far East, under the tutelage of Qui-Gon Jinn... er... I mean, Henri Ducard, who might as well be Yoda himself, what with all the pseudo philosophy he utters endlessly.  When a forest grows too wild, a purging fire is inevitable and natural. In order to conquer fear, you must be fear.  To continue listening to pseudo psychobabble, press two.  Henri Ducard is played by Lima Neeson, who is carving out a nice, boring career sideline playing wise master parts.

     The rest of the movie is solid, although it has James Bond written all over it.  The main villain wants to vaporize the entire water supply of Gotham City and even utters one of those classic Jame Bonds villain lines: "If you'll excuse me, I have a city to destroy."  The film has lots of action, but too many fight scenes are frenetically edited, making it impossible to fully understand who is punching who and why.  On the plus side, the CGI is above-average and is used properly.

     Aside from Bale as Batman/Bruce and Oldman as Sgt. Gordon (not yet a Commissioner), Michael Caine as Alfred the Butler and Morgan Freeman as Batman's tech guy Lucius Fox make the film worth watching. But as District Attorney and Wayne Love Interest Rachel Dawes, Katie Holmes is a bust.  She delivers her lines with all the conviction of a bored school kid at a Christmas recital.  Cillian Murphy is good as a minor villain, but the part of Dr. Crane/The Scarecrow is underwritten and Murphy can't do much with it.  See him in RED EYE if you want to see him play a really good bad guy.

     On its own, BATMAN BEGINS is an average comic book movie.  The best thing about it, aside from Christian Bale, is that it cleared the way for THE DARK KNIGHT. 3 - JB

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