Monday, 6 February 2017

Batman Begins (2005)

"What chance does Gotham have when the good people do nothing?"

Yes, it's odd to see Ra's al-Ghul used in this way, conflated with Henri Ducard from the Blind Justice arc back in '89 and bearing absolutely no relation to the character we know and love to the point that he doesn't even seem to be an Arab; Ken Watanabe's decoy character seems to hail from much farther east. Still, there are hints as to the Lazarus Pit, perhaps. And, more to the point, this is a brilliant film tacking Batman's origins and a triumph for both the fan and the general audience.

Essentially this is because of both David Goyer's perfectly judged script and the always impressive direction of Christopher Nolan; Christian Bale is a perfectly good Batman, although no more than that, and the film is very well cast indeed, with Michael Caine being a particular master stroke. Still, were I an American I'd probably raise an eyebrow at the suspiciously high number of Brits in this film based on an iconic American character and directed by a Brit; I'm surprised this isn't more often commented on. It would be a reasonable objection in my British eyes. Still, Gary Oldman is the perfect Jim Gordon.

I can't fault the film though. Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow is chilling and brilliant, with that mask and some splendidly trippy direction making a hugely effective villain. And the time and thought given to Batman's origins is clear; it is both faithful and innovative, with a focus on Bruce's relationship with his philanthropist father and his childhood sweetheart Rachel Dawes, a new character. This, as well as the more jovially sarcastic edge to Alfred, works very well indeed. The theme of fear is developed throughout, with the figures of Ra's, the Scarecrow and Batman reflecting different uses of it, for good or ill. And I like the way Batman's moral scruples against killing are contrasted against the gang 'em flog 'em stupidity of Ra's and his gang, the Daily Express of terrorist organisations.

Yes, there's also a fair bit from Batman: Year One, but that's no bad thing; it's nice to see Colin McFarlane as Commissioner Loeb. And, on the subject of actors, we even get an appearance by the great Shane Rimmer! This is a long film, yes, but a dense one, with a lot going on from the evolving relationship between Bruce and Rachel to Bruce's takeover of Wayne Enterprises. It's one of the finest superhero film ever and almost (but not quite) makes me rethink my opinion that superhero films should eschew origin stories.

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