My favorite TV or film incarnation of Batman used to be Batman: The Animated Series. I enjoyed the original Batman live-action films, but the animated series managed to be more intelligent and dramatic even though it was a “kid’s” show. After seeing Batman Begins, though, I think it’s my new favorite.
I’ve seen Batman Begins referred to as a “prequel” in some reviews. It’s not a prequel…it’s a complete reboot. It retells Batman’s story from the beginning and answers many of the questions you’ve always had about how the Caped Crusader came to be. The movie tells this story in a way that is darker, grittier, and more “realistic” than any other version. Under no circumstances should you take a little kid to see this movie.
The best thing about this movie, however, is the cast. Christian Bale puts in a very good performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman. He does a good job of portraying Bruce as a young man looking for direction in his life and a way to honor the memory and ideals of his father. Bale is also quite convincing as Batman. He at the very least just as good as Michael Keaton was in the original film. The supporting cast is superb. I enjoyed Liam Neeson as Ducard, Bruce’s father figure/mentor who teaches him the secrets he would later use as Batman. I also liked Michael Caine as Alfred. He brings his trademark wit to the role. Cillian Murphy is creepy as Dr. Jonathan Crane while Gary Oldman is the good cop we all hope for as Jim Gordon. Morgan Freeman is wonderful in his relatively small role as Lucius Fox while Katie Holmes is better than expected as Bruce’s childhood friend Rachel.
The action sequences in Batman Begins are very good and free of the overly CG look of other action films. The exterior scenes of Gotham City were actually filmed in Chicago although the effects and art direction make it virtually unrecognizable. As someone who lives just south of the city, I can say that Chicago hasn’t looked this cool on film in a long time.
Overall, Batman Begins is not just a great comic book/superhero film, but a great action thriller as well. It raises the bar the way X2 and Spider-Man 2 raised the bar before it. It rejuvenates the Batman character and shows why it has endured for all these years. I hope that the same creative team returns for the inevitable sequel. Things can only get better.
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