Review: Batman Begins

Review: Batman Begins.

Before I even begin to tell you about this movie, I have to disclose some information. Information beyond the fact that the film’s distributor, Village Roadshow, is the majority shareholder in the company I work for. (The hand that signs the cheque has never influenced my opinion on a movie, however – if you had heard my review of Catwoman, last year, you would know exactly what I mean).

No, I need to tell you that I am a nerd. That’s right, Adam Richard: huge, comic-book loving, Batman-purist nerd. Self-confessed fageek. Does that mean I will be more or less harsh on a Batman movie? It didn’t stop me from hating Catwoman. Or Daredevil. It does mean I will lose my tiny mind over X-Men or Spiderman when they’re done right. (I gave Spiderman 2 a rating of 6 out of 5 – possibly due to the fact that the screenplay was by Alvin Sargent*)

The last four Batman films, I don’t really want to discuss. Tim Burton was great and made Batman in his own twisted image, Joel Schumacher was not. Although, in Schumacher’s defence, I am starting to love Batman and Robin more and more these days. It is fast becoming one of my Helluloid Classics – right up there with Showgirls and Glitter.

The first remarkable thing about Batman Begins is the cast. The big names go on and on and on. They’re not just famous either, they are some of the finest, and much awarded, names on the planet. Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson. There were even a few surprises, like Linus Roache, Rutger Hauer and the always superb Tom Wilkinson. Cillian Murphy is chilling as The Scarecrow, and poor Katie Holmes ends up the weak link in the chain – which would not have been the case were she surrounded by other Dawson’s refugees.

The performances are uniformly excellent, even Gary Oldman – a man with the ability to chew scenery from the wings, turns in a restrained and sedate performance as the man who is to become Commissioner Gordon. The direction, by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia) is controlled and grounded in reality – like a gritty crime drama from the seventies. After all the CGI malarkey that is infesting our screens of late, it is nice to see a movie that could be The French Connection with capes.

This is Batman for grown-ups, for the now-adult fans of the grim Frank Miller noir-style comic books of the late eighties. It is believable and exciting and everything a comic nerd could hope for. As good as Sam Raimi’s Spiderman and Bryan Singer’s X-Men, but without the whimsy that blurs the edges of those films.

The FAB-O-METER was twisted by the dark psychology of Batman Begins. 7 out of 5. (well, it was better than Spiderman 2…)

*Alvin Sargent wrote the screenplay to the Robert Redford directed Ordinary People, one of my favourite movies of all time, and not just because it stars Mary Tyler Moore, but that did help a lot.