Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005 11:03 pm
Batman is back, and good too (avoiding spoilers)
There was a time when Michael Keaton as the best of the movie Batmen. Tim Burton was the best of the Batmen directors, and somehow Prince and Kim Basinger were nasty uninvited guests.

Superman—a relatively boring set of comics IMHO—had Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder. The XMen and Spider Man had their Wolverine, Magneto, Professor X and Tobey Maguire. It was painful that Batman had a rich set of history, themes and villains, but already run its course—mismanaged by some ego-driven Hollywood nuts.

Now, with the upswing of non-expendable superhero movies (the “new” Punisher doesn’t count), DC and a new crew has done what many fans wanted—to pretend the past movies never happened—and tell the Batman story that exists, but that has yet to be realised on screen.

Is it necessary, worth it, and possible to? The Batman mythology has been continually repeated in multiple films, comic flashbacks, cartoons. Almost everyone knows of the senseless shooting, the dropping pearls, Zorro, Alfred, and the sociopath billionaire Bats.

I did not have high expectations for this movie at all. But it works. The story is strong enough that it works as an excellent stand alone action movie. The characters are strong enough that I hope we get to meet them again.

I dreaded the presence of Michael Caine (not a favourite), Katie Holmes (can’t stand her), Liam Neeson (always the mentor), Morgan Freeman (always the same old thing). I even had doubts about Gary Oldman (one of my favourite). Surprisingly, all deliver believable performances in the short screen time they have. Liam Neeson in particular—His performance here makes George Lucas’s Phantom Menace look even worse than it is. Katie Holmes is actually not a hopelessly bad actress. She is probably the 2nd best strong femme fatale in the Batman series (behind Michelle Pfeiffer. Meow). Keep in mind the competition includes Nicole Kidman, Elle McPherson, Kim Basinger, Uma Thurman and Alicia Silverstone. Also note that in the Batman comics, the supporting actors seldom have all that much to do.

The penultimate Batman actor has yet been found. IMHO Christian Bale needs a bigger chin, and a bigger torso. He is the best available though, and does a great job. At least he brings some height and humanity to Bruce Wayne, and some nastiness to a somophore Batman.

The movie dispenses with the overdone architecture of Gotham City that sprung out of Tim Burton’s mind, and corrupted by the subsequent pseudo-director. Awful CGI is also avoided (praise, praise). However, the action scenes seem to happen largely off camera. To enhance the mysteriousness of Bats, or because of poor choreography? Who knows. That bit was a little disappointing.

For the longest time, Batman was best seen in print, and in the excellent Batman cartoons. Thankfully, he has been reborn on the big screen. If the cast is agreeable to make further episodes, hopefully it is done quickly and well. X-Men and Spiderman sequels show that it can be done. Hopefully the franchise does not become Hulk (there can only be one), or The Matrix, or repeat its own previous errors.

I left the theatre with a large smile on my face. I can’t wait to see this movie again.

ps; And this is not Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One.

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