A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 182 – Batman Begins

Batman Begins – August 29th, 2010

A few words about Batman movies, before I go launching into my love for Michael Caine. First, we’re watching the Christopher Nolan movies before the older ones. This is because we don’t own the older ones. Any of them. We don’t have the Adam West cheesefest and we don’t have anything featuring a batsuit with nipples on. This and The Dark Knight are it. Kind of odd, since I do have a fondness for the Adam West movie and the 1989 movie with Michael Keaton. But we don’t own them. When we talked about watching this today we couldn’t recall if we owned any of the others and decided it didn’t matter. We’d treat the Nolan movies as a separate set from the others if we did own any of them. So. Yeah. Maybe some day we’ll buy one or two of the others and I’ll discuss them. For now, we’ll stick with these. And I’ll squee over Michael Caine.

You see, I love Alfred. Adore him. He’s really my favorite character. He saves Batman’s ass and delivers some excellent wake-up call lines throughout the movie. He helps set up the batcave, organizes the ordering for the pieces of the suit, etc. He holds on to Bruce’s wealth while Bruce is off learning how to be a bad ass in the mountains of Asia. He keeps the kitchen tidy. Alfred Pennyworth is more awesome than awesome. And in this movie he’s played by Michael Caine, who is doubly awesome. Also awesome? Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, a multi-faceted genius who can lecture about body armor and memory fabric and then synthesize an antidote to a previously unknown hallucinogen overnight. Add in Gary Oldman as Gordon, who really saves the day at the end while Bruce is engaging in fisticuffs with Ducard, and you’ve got a fantastic trio of older men who kick ass. I love that about this movie. But of them all, I love Alfred the most.

Of course Bruce Wayne/Batman is the hero. He’s the one in the title. He’s the iconic figure everyone knows. He’s the superhero. And as superheroes go, Batman’s always been on the edgier side. In this movie, that holds quite true. Christian Bale as Batman is rough and tough and not pulling his punches. It’s made clear through the movie and then explicitly stated in the end that Bruce Wayne is more an act than Batman is. This is intentional here. One of the things I like about Batman as a character is that he is so very flawed. No normal everyday person could do what he does, and I’m not just talking about the feats of strength or expenditures of money. I’m talking about the determination and single-mindedness.

A goodly portion of this movie is an origin story for Batman, showing how a seemingly normal-but-privileged child grew up into a man not only trained to fight crime but determined to do so through drastic means. The deaths of Bruce Wayne’s parents are always cited as a reason for his focus, but this movie goes several brutal steps further, truly driving home the workings of Bruce’s mind. When he confronts the mob boss who pulls so many of the criminal strings in Gotham, and gets his naivete thrown right in his face? That right there is motivation. And when Bruce trains in the mountains with Henri Ducard and is told his father’s inaction was his own downfall? That’s more. It makes Batman and Bruce Wayne into a well built dual character. The theme of fear only serves to underscore everything else happening in the movie. Bruce’s fear of ignorance, uselessness, powerlessness, the inability to do what needs doing. That is motivation. And his focus on that is both his strength and his weakness. Just as it should be.

I almost feel like I don’t need to bother with much plot recap. This is a Batman movie, people. This is about Batman’s origins, which we’ve covered, and then a villain or team of villains threatening the good people (and bad people and in-between people) of Gotham, and Batman has to save the day. Isn’t that how it always works? What makes each story different is which villain or villains Batman needs to fight and what the plan is. The origin story here makes for some good plot fodder too, since a prominent figure in Bruce’s training comes back later. There’s lots of talk about justice and right and wrong and morality, which is interesting in the context of Batman essentially being a vigilante himself. There’s Scarecrow, played by Cillian Murphy, and he’s in league with the big name villain, and Falcone, the local mob boss (played by Tom Wilkinson), who’s gotten himself in a little over his head by the end. And there’s a big plot to take down all of Gotham because it’s a festering cesspool of immorality and corruption. No argument there. But I don’t want to poke the specific means to that end too hard. There’s one really huge obvious hole in the plot already and this movie’s too good in so many other ways and I don’t want to make more holes.

They did a good job, really, building up the whole Bruce/Batman thing and making this movie largely character driven in a way. And they set up the corrupt city and Falcone and Scarecrow and the shady stuff they’re both up to. Gordon is introduced well, and the tension feels good. Even the blatant use of flashbacks works nicely when we get multiple stages in Bruce’s development and life. And then there’s fancy tech holding up the villainous plot to take down Gotham. Sure, on the surface that works fine. After all, Batman isn’t a hero because he’s got super powers like Wolverine or Superman. He’s got gadgets and the money (and Lucius Fox and Alfred Pennyworth) to buy and develop them. So having his opponent use not super powers but a gadget of his own should work. Except the whole thing hinges on vaporizing all the water in Gotham. All of it. On the streets, in the pipes, everywhere. Except, apparently, in human bodies. They never address that, even. Not even a throwaway line like it only working on large bodies of water or something. Nothing.

But why am I looking for logic behind comic book tech? Like Batman’s gadgets really work anyhow. The Mythbusters did a whole episode on that. I just think it best if I don’t go poking the specifics any more than I have. Next thing you know I’ll be on about how Gotham needs to add billionaire vigilante insurance to its villain and meta-human insurance policies. And that’s not really what I take away from this movie (even though they totally do need that insurance, pronto). What I take away from it is the amazing job the movie does setting the stage that is Gotham and introducing its hero. A flawed and dangerous hero for a flawed and dangerous city. And that’s how it always has been and how it always should be. The movie gives us an excellent Batman and his amazing support network and lets him and them loose on a flawed and dangerous villain. It’s well done and well presented and captures everything I love about Batman except for the Joker. Whom we’ll see plenty of tomorrow.

August 29, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. I have a sort of filmic crush on Nolan. And who doesn’t crush on Batman? 🙂

    Comment by Trisha | August 29, 2010 | Reply

    • I know, right? You know he’s not the sort of guy you’d want to settle down with, but you can’t help it!

      Comment by ajmovies | August 29, 2010 | Reply


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