The original "Batman" was released in 1989, under the direction of then-newcomer, Tim Burton. It was one of the first comic book movies to give itself a dark tone. It made for a pretty entertaining, albeit flawed, superhero movie, though this was mostly due to a fantastic performance from Jack Nicholson as The Joker. Burton's second Batman movie, "Batman Returns", was too dark and too stupid, so for the third movie, Burton handed the reigns of this franchise to Joel Schumacher. This is where things took a turn for the worst.
Schumacher's first attempt at the Batman franchise resulted in "Batman Forever". This one was definitely more kid-friendly and manipulative, and even though it wasn't as well received as the first two movies, it was a huge hit at the box office. Because of this, Schumacher was brought on to direct the fourth, and final, Batman movie called "Batman & Robin", which is considered to be one of the worst movies of all time.
1 out of 4 just isn't good enough, unfortunately, so Warner Bros. shut down the idea for a fifth movie and left this franchise. However, in 2005, Christopher Nolan, who was riding the success of the critically acclaimed "Memento" and "Insomnia", rebooted this franchise. And, from both a Batman fan boy standpoint, as well as an avid movie goer standpoint, I couldn't have been more surprised.
Christopher Nolan has taken the character of Batman to a whole new heights with this movie. He takes more of a realistic and prudent approach to the lore of Batman. Because Batman, like all the other superheroes out there, can be phenomenally goof sometimes. Here, Nolan makes you believe that a vigilante could dress up like a bat and fight crime, which, let's face it, could not have been an easy task.
From a casting standpoint, everyone brings their A game. Christian Bale brings more duality to the characters of Bruce Wayne and Batman. As Bruce Wayne, he acts the part of the drunken billionaire without a care in the world. As Batman, he it more intimidating and stealthy. He preys on criminal's fear, and the best part of the movie is seeing him develop this strategy.
Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, and Morgan Freeman are all some of my favorite actors, and, naturally, they all give great performance. Because of the direction and tone of the movie, they act not like they're in a comic book movie, but more like they're in an Oscar nominated film. They each flesh out their characters brilliantly and effectively.
The movie is shot very nicely. Nolan is a master of scenery here; there are just so many moments where he lets you soak up the atmosphere, allowing you to take in the sheer scope of everything that is Batman.
Final verdict: This really is a smartly handled movie. This is the Batman movie that I wanted to see, but never thought I would. It's superior to the Burton/Schumacher era, but the next one takes it to an entirely new level of greatness. But, that's another review for another time.
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