|Worth seeing:||if you want a darker Batman reboot, that's closer to the DC comic than previous big-screen incarnations|
|Featuring:||Christian Bale, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Morgan Freeman, Tom Wilkinson|
|Released:||16th June 2005|
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Young Bruce Wayne falls down a disused well, while playing with his friend Rachel, in the grounds of his billionaire father’s stately home.
He finds himself in a cave, alone, except for hundreds of bats. The image haunts him, and makes him beg his father to leave an opera, about bats. In the alleyway outside the theatre, an opportunist mugger kills Bruce’s parents.
Still struggling to come to terms with the guilt and the anger, years later Bruce (Christian Bale) travels east Asia to find himself – there, he’s found by the leader of a band of vigilantes, who train him to administer their own brand of justice.
Back home, in Gotham City, he sets out to use his cunning – and his fortune – to clean up a crime-ridden city, bursting at the seams with corrupt officials.
The legend of Batman begins…
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
We all know who Batman is and what he does. This film tells us why; what made Bruce Wayne swap his billionaire playboy lifestyle for a life of caped crusading as Gotham City’s feared vigilante.
The early part of the film – Bruce Wayne’s family traumas and the rather illogical and incongruous oriental training that springs from it – is at best wordy and at worst worthy. In keeping with this summer’s prequel theme, Neeson appears to be Obi-wan Kenobi to Bale’s Anakin Skywalker – even to the extent that Bruce Wayne ends up fighting his foes in a black mask, armoured suit and cape.
But stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with a tremendously satisfying piece of big-budget bat-fun, particularly once – to draw a parallel with another film franchise –Freeman’s Lucius Fox starts producing the Wayne Corporation’s conveniently forgotten convenient Bond-style gadgets, à la M.
And while we’re on cinematic parallels, donning the mask appears to make Bruce Wayne’s voice sound like something out of Sin City, a place not dissimilar to Gotham City itself – and a place created by Batman comic artist Frank Miller.
And delving deeper into cinema history, this film about a black-clad hero, using technology to seek revenge on the underworld figures who’ve ruined his life, recalls co-star Neeson’s eponymous outing in Darkman.
From the references, to the style, the film is “Hollywood” all over – down to a script so intricately structured that profound lines from the first half of the film predictably – yet effectively – return, with more impact, later.
The Hollywood connection comes to an end when you consider the film’s dependence on the British Isles – directed by Chris Nolan, starring Britain’s Christian Bale, Sir Michael Caine, Tom Wilkinson, Gary Oldman and Linus Roache and Irishmen Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy.
Christian Bale might pretentiously keep his American accent on for publicity interviews, but he’s so good in the role that he can be forgiven. The whole cast is to be praised – although the casting itself has its failings – Cillian Murphy does his creepy best, but he just seems too young to be one of the world’s baddest city’s baddest criminals.
Nolan’s reliance on old-style special effects over CGI (where he can) is to be admired in this day and age, but so much of the action is shot so close-up that it’s a confusing mess and you can’t see what’s going on – it’s no wonder Batman can apparently appear from nowhere – it’s less to do with his stealth training than the fact that he can stand out of shot until his services are required.
Nolan is so keen to distance himself from the campness of Joel Schumacher’s Batman outings that it goes too far the other way – rather than being a darkly comic, comic-book adaptation, like Tim Burton’s, it’s an almost entirely humourless dark thriller, with little feeling that it derives from a comic. That’s not a criticism – just an observation.
The film is flawed in many ways, yet the overall picture is strangely successful; an entertaining, imaginative blockbuster that satisfies your appetite for action, neatly ties up a few knots, while leaving open enough questions for an inevitable and welcome sequel – a sequel to a prequel…haven’t we been here before?
Fans of Burton’s films won’t be too disappointed. Fans of Schumacher’s will feel they’re in the wrong screen. Fans of the 1960s TV camp fest would probably be best staying at home.