The Sunday Review: Batman Begins

Sunday 8 October (2006)

batman begins

Bloody superhero movies. I hate them! They either try and make the story believable, like in a ‘yeah that could happen in the real world’ sense, which always sucks, or they go out-and-out fantasy which can be entertaining in a sort of ‘this film is bad but I’m enjoying it’ kind of way, but it still leaves you feeling rather empty afterwards. Really, I can’t think of any films in this genre which I truly think are good – properly good. Everyone loves Donner’s Superman movie, and the first sequel, but I think they’re boring. Superman himself is incredibly shit, and I don’t understand the attraction – he’s an alien who is basically indestructable? Great. This makes every adventure thrilling. Burton’s Batman movies were pretty stylish, but really, they were crap. And bloody Spiderman! Raimi’s movies are so incredibly awful that I seriously can’t understand why they’re so revered the world over. You already know what I think of X-Men.

So when my friend asked me to go and see the new Batman movie at the cinema, I laughed in his face. I laughed long, and I laughed hard. But, there was another movie out at the time which I really wanted to see – so in the end, we made a deal that he would see my movie if I saw Batman Begins. And I have eaten my words so much since then that I can’t even remember what that other movie we saw was. Batman Begins is a brilliant movie.

The reason it works so well is that it takes the flimsy, 1940s comic book mentality and backstory, and throws them out the window. Batman exists because someone thought that Bat-Man sounded cool (just like Spider-Man does, and any other creepy anthropomorphised animal – Sharkman, Octopusman, Bearman – it’s easy) and that was that. Bats come out at night, thus Batman comes out at night. Etc. But Batman Begins was made by Christopher Nolan, the man who made Memento, and as such the complex plot is the most important thing here.

Suddenly, there’s a new and kind of believable story for Batman’s origins. Bruce Wayne is taught by a radical and ancient sect of ninjas that theatrics are incredibly important – you can kill a man, but you can’t kill a symbol. In creating his alter-ego Batman, Bruce Wayne creates an indestructable icon; the person who says ‘break the law and I’ll come for you.’ He’s not Superman – he can’t fly, he has no superhuman abilities. He relies on gadgets (of course, how he gets the gadgets is also adequately explained) and his own physical abilities. This sets him aside from the other big comic book stars, like Spiderman or the Fantastic Four, and it ultimately makes him a more believable character.

The style of this movie, the plot, it’s all incredible. It’s not entirely believable, and there’s more than one or two flaws (the weaponised hallucinogen is stretching credibility a little – the CIA tried to do that for decades before giving up) but this is acceptable, because this is a superhero movie. It’s the best superhero movie.


4 Responses to “The Sunday Review: Batman Begins”

  1. Huzbo Says:

    I fell asleep during Batman Begins without realising. It made no sense.

    But then I saw it again and it was great! I loved the atmosphere of Gotham and the fact we got to see it in its heyday, before its decline. It was a creepily believable vision of a decaying model city, like an exaggerated version of how the real New York – I presume that’s what Gotham is supposed to be – is often portrayed.

  2. I have to agree. I wasn’t expecting that much from Batman Begins either, but I was drawn in almost immediately by the first encounter between Bruce and the guy who teaches him what’s what.

    I think it’s the believable, gritty tone that really sets it apart. I really didn’t like the style of the older movies at all, and I found myself surprised by how believable the character actually becomes considering how excessively theatrical (to quote the movie) Batman himself is. And of course the atmosphere of the whole film is just really gripping, helped a lot by the extremely moody soundtrack which fits the film perfectly.

    As you say, definitely the best superhero movie thus far by a long, long way. Anyone who hasn’t seen it wants lining up and shooting.

  3. Sally Says:

    That’ll be me then 😉
    Oh Dan. What will we do with you.

  4. sickr Says:

    Easily the best Batman film since Tim Burton held the reins on the franchise. Subsequently I’m looking forward to the next installment.

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