| The Red Right Hand
Since the cinematic atrocity that was Batman & Robin I had lost all faith in another good Batman film. Thankfully Schumacher had been culled from the series; enter Nolan, director of Memento and Insomniac. This Batman is aimed at an older audience (as the first Burton was) and tells of the origins of Batman. Being that this is the fifth in the series (sixth if you include West's original offering in the sixties) it's going to be difficult to accept, this was most noticeable when people left the screening saying how does that explain the other movies? In all brutal honesty you don't need the other films. Burton's first opens on the introduction of Batman to Gotham City and is seemingly set in the 50's, whereas this new one is very modern and not only explains why he became Batman but also how.
The reason this film works is simply because it takes a ridiculous subject and shows it in a possible set of scenarios. Batman & Robin was so colourful and marketed for children that it lost itself with the older demographic. Having said that there will still be adults who will sit in that darkened cinema and quietly mutter, "You've got to be kidding." One of the ways they've achieved this credibility is through casting, rather than going for disposable blockbuster names, classically trained, respectable actors have been employed. Not only do they deliver with an awesome presence and believability they also draw in crowds that would usually edge away from this kind of film.
Alright, I should really stop rambling about seemingly random things and focus on substantial elements of this film. Told from Bruce Wayne's [Bale] perspective we are shown a glimpse of his past, playing innocently in the garden as a child, discovering the old sealed well, being 'attacked' by bats (my apologies if this sounds somewhat flippant or lacking in enthusiasm, it's just that most people know the history of Batman - at least this part - so it's all routine, which is another reason that fans of the prequels may not get along with the start of the film, as the details are a little different) then he awakes from his nightmare in some oriental prison. After getting into a fight with half the prison he's dragged off by the guards, when asked why they tell him, 'For protection,' he looks a little stunned and replies, 'Protection? I don't need protection!' To which one guard says, 'Not for you, for them' and we cut to reveal about seven or eight men lying on the ground writhing in pain. This is a very important scene for Bruce Wayne worked out every day in the comics, he was built so that he could floor anyone in the room with half-a-given chance (something the previous Bat's never conveyed well). Having been torn away from the fight Wayne meets a tall gentleman in a dark suit, Henri Ducard [Neeson], who offers Wayne a chance to find what he's looking for; ooh mysterious, no? What follows is a lot of back story into the death of his parents and the present training he's undertaking - during which a few fine actors rear their heads. I don't want to give much away with that particular plot thread but it's a theme that returns later. Having trained up and now aware of how he can fight crime and bring order to the rotting city of Gotham he returns home. Disassociated and disconnected he has trouble fitting in, rarely letting anyone in, trying to build his crime-fighting alter-ego into a physical presence in Gotham's underworld.
Alongside this, Bruce's childhood friend Rachel Dawes [Holmes] has become an attorney yet seems hindered by the workings of crime lord Falcone [Wilkinson] and the evil psychiatrist, Dr. Crane [Murphy] who also doubles as 'Scarecrow.' Personally I think Murphy's a fine actor, pride of Ireland stuff, one to watch, etc, even if his accent is a bit ropey he was one of the best characters in the film. Holmes on the other hand wasn't and was in fact one of the worst things about the film. Every time they make a Batman film they have to add a girly-interest element - sometimes unnecessarily, which is a little upsetting as everything else was so good. The biggest problem is that we know the eventual outcome will be that she'll find out who he is and they can't be together, or they try but it doesn't work out, same old guff.
The plot follows some nice twists, the characters arch and bend with the flow of the story, there are some very real and emotionally mature elements thrown in for good measure and what you're left with is a beautifully rounded film. It works well as an action blockbuster, it works well as a big-name thriller and it works as come-s/f flick all rolled into this fantastical experience. Plus, let's face it, this film works because all the American glitz and glam has been removed and replaced with British realism - you think this unfair? Nonsense. English director and half the cast is British! I am eagerly awaiting the sequel and if the cast remain I would stake that the next offering will be just as good if not better. The Bat lives!
16th June 2005
The Scene To Look Out For:
Following the court hearing of the man who killed Bruce's parents, Wayne confronts Dawes and tells her that he wanted to kill him. She slaps him and he leaves the car, following this he makes his way to Falcone's club. Surrounded by officials and mob affiliates Wayne is told some hard truths and facts by Falcone, in a scene that reminded me of Amsterdam's first visit to Bill's hold-out in Gangs Of New York, very well delivered.
Difficult to say on this one. Murphy was brilliant, Wilkinson played the gangster-role perfectly, Caine gave a nice new shine to Alfred, Oldman [an actor I hold with the highest of regards] producing gold as usual, Neeson carrying himself genuinely as the mentor but I would have to really press myself and stop looking around the main subject - Bale. Bale is the definitive Batman, even if his Bat-voice is a little off putting to start with, as with The Machinist, Bale is a truly excellent character actor.
"People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can't do that as Bruce Wayne, as a man I'm flesh and blood I can be ignored I can be destroyed but as a symbol, as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting."
In A Few Words:
'The best Batman film available.. bar the TV movie with Adam West; it really cracks me up'