Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Movie: Batman Begins (2005)

I’ll be honest. I had reservations going into this one. I’m not even sure if I saw the last BATMAN movie. Who were the villains again? Tim Robbins as Egghead and Kevin Costner as Shame, right? With a cameo by Alan King as Louie the Lilac? Or was that a dream I had?

Plus I was feeling burned out on costumed avenger movies. How could you improve on the dizzy operatic heights of SPIDER-MAN 2?

But Spidey is a hero who rules the day. We need one who haunts the night. And Christopher Nolan is the man to give him life.

There’s too much mystical hooey at the beginning and too much everything at the end, but overall this is smart filmmaking with a flair for pop psychology and Gothic imagery. Nolan and co-writer David Goyer wisely put the focus on Bruce Wayne. It’s an opportunity Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney – hell, Adam West – never had. And Christian Bale is more than up to the challenge.

Cillian Murphy and his scarily low-tech Scarecrow mask get the job done in the villainy department. Some critics have taken Gary Oldman to task for his strenuous regular guy performance as Detective Gordon, but I’m enough of an Oldman fan to think that the effort is intentional. His work here called to mind the May Sarton line that opens John le Carré’s THE RUSSIA HOUSE: One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being.

My favorite performance in the movie, though, is from Tom Wilkinson as Gotham’s crime boss. Instead of doing another variation on the GOODFELLAS idea of a gangster, Wilkinson harks back to older examples out of the Warner Brothers library. And it works beautifully. It’s a treat to watch him channeling Edward G. Robinson, a dandy intoxicated by his own power, chewing his dialogue like breadsticks. His scene with Bruce Wayne is the strongest in the movie. I was sorry to see him go.

Overlawyered can tell you how much this movie would cost Bruce Wayne. Luckily, he can afford it. Thanks to Bill Crider for the first link.