Do not be afraid, fear no darkness, and unleash all expectations. This film is as good as the all the hype, and more.
I was fortunate enough to have seen the film before I read any of the standard assortments of critical reviews out in the press. I had heard hearsay that Roger Ebert had said that this movie accomplished exactly what comics to movies should accomplish. Nothing more, just the standard rumblings you’d expect from the standard summer blockbuster.
This film is not a regular summer blockbuster. It saves the Batman movie genre single handedly from the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tommy Lee Jones and other terrible performances from the past five films based on Batman Comics. This film is also the greatest achiever in the category of “Comic Book based film.” This film beats Spiderman II and X2: X-Men United.
This is one of those movies that accomplishes all that it could. It is an achievement from every element, writing, directing, acting, special effects, and production. It will be difficult to describe fully.
This film is directed by Christopher Nolan, who also directed the underground favorite “Memento.” Nolan holds viewers in this comic book world effortlessly. The movie is 2 hours and 21 minutes in length, but the viewer doesn’t notice this at all. Even in films that are really good, like the LOTR trilogy, you still feel some dissonance as you realize you’ve been watching for a considerable length of time. Not in this film. There is only great disappointment that the movie has to end. Nolan accomplishes much in this film, but most of all he brings the viewers into a different world, and keeps them their without complaint.
There are some great acting performances in this film as well. Christian Bale plays the lead role as the young and troubled Bruce Wayne; he flees to another country before returning to Gotham to try to pick up whatever was left of his life. Liam Neeson plays Ducard, the man who takes the young Wayne under his wing into a secret Ninja society before he and Wayne part ways and Ducard become an antagonist. Neeson plays a character caught between good and evil: someone who has noble goals but dangerous means. He’s sympathetic, which makes him the perfect villain in this role.
Oscar winner Michael Caine plays Alfred, the beloved butler of the Wayne family. Caine’s performance overshadows all others, including the abilities of Morgan Freeman, who plays another Bruce Wayne confidant. The only dim bulb in this cast was Katie Holmes, who does well, but her role is limited as the love interest and damsel in distress.
What makes this story so great is it escapes what I call the “superhero problem.” All movies that deal with how a superhero becomes a superhero are boring. Superman is just an alien. Spiderman gets bit by a radioactive spider. The Fantastic Four are hit with extreme radiation. The X-Men are just mutants, the next step in evolution. None of this is interesting alone. Even the non-super power superheroes have boring background stories. The Punisher is just a guy whose loved ones were gunned down. While this is the setup for Batman (the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents as a child) it isn’t the full story.
Bruce Wayne becomes Batman in the event described in this film. The persona evolves. First Wayne tries to understand the man who murdered his parents by becoming a criminal himself, running away to the Orient for seven years. There he ends up in prison, but is released and studies to become a Ninja at a mountain school under Liam Neeson’s character. The two have a falling out, and Wayne returns home. His concern for Gotham and Katie Holme’s character (a local district attorney) leads him down the path of vigilante-hood.
However, Wayne never fully embraces the idea, the persona “Batman” until he forced to deal with a super villain, in this movie Scarecrow. As the movie escalates, we see Wayne evolve. Despite my description, the plot is very fast paced and interesting.
Sure, there are some weak points. Christopher Nolan felt the need to intersperse small tidbits of humor at inopportune times. Some of the plot is wholly unbelievable, but we forgive these transgressions because even a diamond has imperfections, and this film is still a diamond in a sea of cruddy summer blockbusters. Enough reading already, go see this film!