Sometimes, a movie comes along and blows away your expectations. Sometimes, a movie comes along and redefines a genre. Sometimes, a movie comes along and gets nearly everything right. In the world of comic book-to-movie translations, I doubted it could get much better than Spiderman 2. Spiderman had great acting from Tobey Maguire and Alfred Molina. It had great visuals. It delved into the emotions and motivations of a superhero. But there was that pesky, awkward romance, ruined by Kirsten Dunst's I'm-always-embarrassed look.
Batman Begins take everything that went right about Spiderman 2 and replaces all the wrongs with tastiness. It's the creamy goodness inside Spiderman 2's empty Twinkie shell.
In the past decade, the Batman saga has been, to use a terrible pun, rather two-faced. There have been a few great performances in the movies, but they have, overall, failed miserably. Possibly the crowning failure was director Joel Schumacher's decision to put nipples on the batsuit.
Thankfully, those nipples are now gone. The painful dialogue, the laughable plots, the poor acting -- it's all gone in this iteration.
With Christopher Nolan (Memento) taking over, the franchise was bound for some redemption. Nolan's personal philosophy results in his potential to be the anti-Lucas. Where the Star Wars creator relies excessively on special effects, Nolan avoids them when at all possible. Among the few computer-generated graphics found in the film are -- well, nothing, really, aside from some swarms of bats.
Something about this film works perfectly. Likely, it's Bale's convincing performance as Batman. Where others have tried and failed to make Batman something more than a black suit and mask -- and it's no discredit to them, seeing as how the suit and the mask are his defining features -- Christian Bale turns the character into something more. There's a human element the superhero. He is constantly wrestling with his emotions; his parents died in front of him when he was a child, and he had his only chance of revenge -- at peace of mind -- stripped from him.
Or, maybe, the point at which this film separates itself is refusal to turn itself into a joke. While the X-Men movies and Spiderman movies are fantastic in their own right, they tend to have a certain dark sarcasm about them, an intentional foray into classic action humor. Batman Begins does not. There may be three or four laughs in the film, but they don't take over the film. Even without the laughs, the film is enjoyable.
Or, quite a bit more likely, it's the raw emotion in the film. It's the passion, the anger, the guilt, the sorrow. I felt as though the film was tossing me around like a kitten would a ball of yarn.
The supporting acting, too, is fantastic. But, honestly, how could one expect any less from the likes of Michael Caine (Alfred), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), and Liam Neeson (Ducard)? Sprinkle other spot-on performances (Ken Watanabe -- The Last Samauri -- and Katie Holmes play their parts perfectly), and this version of Batman can't fail where others did. It can't fail where Spiderman 2 did.
Everything is subtle, not overblown like one may expect to find in a summer blockbuster. Not completely flawless, no -- but close enough to have raised the bar for comic book movies far beyond its previous resting place. If the Fantastic Four trailer is any indication, I doubt we'll see another superhero film like this in a long time.
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