(Warning: This review should contain no more spoilers than you would have seen in the trailer for Batman Begins, but if you don't want to know anything about the movie look away now. )
While the rest of the world sat down to watch Live 8, I went to see Batman Begins. I believe in the cause so I just couldn't be arsed sitting down for 14 hours to watch an endless parade of celebrities.
I'm a fan of Batman. I've watched every episode of the cartoon on TV that I could (not the 60's TV show, the Batman animated series). Despite not being into comics I have read a couple of them. I liked the Tim Burtons Batman with Michael Keating. Unfortunately after the first movie the series spiraled downwards. Val Kilmer and George Clooney both failing miserably.
Batman Begins is a good movie. It is probably the best of the Batman movies in that it portrays Gotham as a more realistic city. There are no circus clowns or mad scientists running around like every day features of the town. Instead it is portrayed as a large built up city in the middle of a major economic depression. Its recognizable, but at the same time you know its not a real place. The low level villains are ordinary enough criminals and thugs. Even the supervillains somehow have more of a base in reality, masks, chemicals, training and weapons are used instead of physical deformities.
Batman himself is no Superman. He depends on his gadgets and training to do what he does. He gets injured, he falls but he learns to get up again and he goes looking for new equipment so he wont fall again. I particularly like the way they explain where all his gadgets come from and then explain why they aren't used by anyone else.
The list of actors is impressive, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Rutger Hauer, Tom Wilkinson are all in supporting roles. Christian Bale has proven himself to be a more versatile actor that any of the previous holders of the mantle of the bat. Katie Holmes, easy and all that she is on the eye, has the most to prove but even she pulls off her role. Infact all the actors are well suited to their roles, nothing too adventurous is being tried. Caine is very good as Alfred. His back talk to Bruce Wayne provides a little comic relief and serves to bring Wayne/Batman back down to earth when he gets too carried away. Oldman as Gordon is perhaps the most unusual choice and he may have needed some more screen time. He never really seems comfortable in his role, but then he is playing a character whose potential is being held back by his surroundings.
The only problem I had was with the character of Batman. Don't get me wrong, I think Christian Bale has proven to be a good choice for Batman. He is believable as the playboy billionaire with beautiful women on his arm, as the shrewd business man underestimated by everyone, as the haunted figure looking for a cause and as Batman the masked ninja type figure. The problem was in the character of Batman. I just didn't find him as dark as I expected. By the time Batman is created it appears that Bruce Wayne has come to terms with his demons and with the death of his parents. Liam Neesons Ducard simply does too good a job of saving and training him. Wayne seems to have found inner peace and is no longer the haunted, brooding figure Batman should be. Now maybe I'm wrong but he just seemed to be less intimating and dangerous as a result. But that's a personal opinion I suppose.
It is a good movie, probably the best of the Batman movies and hopefully the beginning of a long stable franchise. So long as they hold onto the big name actors this version of Batman could well rival Spiderman for the best comic book franchise. If you don't want to see it in the cinema make sure you rent out the DVD when its released, its a good way to pass an afternoon while everyone else tries to save the planet.