Two-Face had failed, The Penguin drowned, Mr. Freeze had faltered and even The Joker couldn’t do it. But Joel Schumacher did it, he killed Batman. After 8 years, 4 movies and 3 different lead actors the franchise was dead after Batman & Robin. Despite the bad, and there was a lot, we did learn some things.
1- At the end of the day your soundtrack should not be the best part of your movie. Even if Seal is a boss.
2- Casting is crucial to the villains mattering.
3- The villain’s plan should also make sense. Again to make things matter.
4- Despite its effect at raves a Batman movie should not be multicolored.
So for 8 years the franchise sat dormant. For years rumors and here say would go around about the next movie. At one time it was Batman Triumph, Schumacher getting one last chance to bring the series to its darker roots. Another had a retelling of Frank Miller’s “Year One” storyline with Darren Aronofsky directing. There were even plans for a movie Batman vs. Superman movie direct by the next Spielberg, McG. A movie where Alfred was dead, Clark Kent was going through a divorce and Lex Luthor was behind the death of Batman’s generic love interest. Alas these A-list ideas never got off the ground.
Then came Chris Nolan. Not the biggest name in Hollywood but promising with movies like Insomnia and Memento under his belt. How did it all turn out? That’s what we’re here to find out in Batman in Film: Part 3.
Batman Begins (2005)
To me Christian Bale is the perfect Batman, particularly in Batman Begins. To me he does what none of the actors could do, he was able to portray not only Batman but also Bruce Wayne. I will admit that Michael Keaton is close but he looks a bit too much like a serial killer to be Bruce Wayne. Kind of funny considering American Psycho. Back on topic I thought it was awesome to see Batman’s training on the big screen. The way it was tied to Ra’s Al Ghul, even better. They also gave an explanation for all of Batman’s gadgets and how they worked. Given it’s kind of goofy but from the tumbler to the bat suit it is all as realistic as you can get. This is greatly appreciated.
Also, for the record, Batman doesn’t kill anybody. Given he doesn’t necessarily save everyone but he doesn’t intentionally kill anyone. I’ll assume Ra’s is immortal like in the comic.
Like Batman I thought the execution of Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul were spot on. The underrated Cillian Murphy is pitch perfect as the Scarecrow. The way he shifts can shift from Dr. Jonathan Crane to the Scarecrow is spot on. The look, the demeanor, all exactly as it should be. Liam Neeson as Ra’s is, well, Liam Neeson. I’ve come to the conclusion that he plays the same guy in every movie that somehow fits perfectly. Batman Begins is no exception. That isn’t to say it’s a bad thing either. The air of sophistication that Neeson brings to every role fits perfectly as Ra’s Al Ghul. It’s just a shame that he isn’t in the movie more.
For the first time in the series the supporting cast were crucial to the plot. Michael Caine as Alfred is perfect, period. While Michael Gough’s Alfred seemed more content with sitting on the sidelines and Caine is there by Bruce’s side from day one. Always supportive he really is the father figure I expect Alfred to be. On the flipside is Rachel Dawes portrayed by Katie Holmes. Now unlike some I didn’t have any problem with her acting, I thought she did a decent enough job as Miss Dawes. The problem is the character written for her. They basically set her up as the generic moral compass for Batman. The problem with this is that we already have Alfred. She fares no better as the love interest due to a complete lack of chemistry between Holmes and Bale. As a whole the character is a complete dud.
So far Batman Begins has the best actions scenes by leaps and bounds. Movies like Batman or Batman & Robin look archaic in comparison. From hand-to-hand to car chases they are top notch. The only thing that they lack is being able to actually see what is going on. Unfortunately Batman Begins uses what I like to call “The Bourne Effect”. Basically this is when the action will be edited with quick cuts and shots just a bit too close to the action. While it can convey the impact of a fight more often than not it just becomes annoying. It’s a shame because it’s the one thing that would make scenes like Ra’s fighting Batman even better.
While origin stories are nothing new Batman Begins was the first of the new crop of superhero movies. As such it sets the bar and that bar is pretty darn high. We not only get to see how Bruce Wayne became Batman but more importantly we see why. They show what motivates a man to become such a vigilante. And for a movie about a guy dressing up like a flying mammal they make it pretty believable. Now some parts are a bit too coincidental or cliché but that comes with the territory. Anyway the pacing and story or so well written that these small problems can be cast aside.
Gone is the Dr. Seuss from Hell look from Tim Burton. Thank God the terrible rave look Joel Schumacher “crafted”. In its place Chris Nolan simply made a realistic city. No garish statues nor are there any multicolored rooms in sight. Instead we have any other metropolitan city. This is perfect. While the DC Universe can be a wondrous place full of heroes and monsters Gotham City isn’t. It’s a city just like any other and Nolan captures this. Like his past movies Nolan’s the direction is top notch. Nothing too stylized but good looking regardless. Accompanying Nolan were Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard on the soundtrack. While not memorable as Danny Elfman I think that they do a good job with the film’s score.
I love this movie. While people may point to The Dark Knight, and rightfully so it does some things better, to me this is the perfect Batman movie. It captures not only the action but also the tone and heart of what Batman is all about. A great script, amazing performances and solid action combine to make the best I can hope for in not just a Batman movie but a movie period.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The voice. I know he had it in Batman Begins but they did post-production editing to make it even gravellier. Now I didn’t have a problem with it like most people, it was fine. But when he makes his big speech in the end it’s practically unintelligible. With that out of the way I do generally dig the arc. Batman trying to find his own redemption was fascinating. The acting though, not so much. Maybe it was just being across Ledger and Eckhart but Bale’s performance seemed neutered in comparison. Kind of lifeless, maybe it’s just me. It’s not that it was bad but in comparison to Batman Begins, not as good.
On a more positive note, Batman doesn’t kill anyone. Two for two from Mr. Nolan .
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that Heath Ledger his amazing as The Joker. While bits may be similar to past portrayals Ledger is to make his own unique, and downright terrifying, version of the clown prince of crime. My only problem is that he does too good of a job. I know that sounds kind of crazy but let me explain. What Ledger does is so great and unique that, to me, it overshadows everything else in the movie. By the end it feels more like “Joker’s Wacky Adventure” than a Batman movie. You begin to wonder “When do we see Joker again” instead of “How will Batman survive this”.
This is unfortunate because it leaves some things feeling less developed like Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Which is a shame because I found Aaron Eckhart’s performance to be the one of the more underrated pieces of the film. It’s a shame he had to share the screen with Ledger because I think he could have been the highlight otherwise.
This time around Rachel Dawson is more than just Vicky Vale or Love interest 32. Instead she becomes a symbol of redemption for Bruce. Character development, thumbs up. Michael Caine is still awesome as Alfred. Although he does seemingly have a speech for every moment. Maybe it’s just me but Bruce Wayne having brunch doesn’t necessarily need a speech about the nature of evil. We also get more of Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman as Commissioner Gordon and Lucious Fox, respectively. In an interesting direction we see their trust in Batman tested. Their doubt just adds to the realistic tone Nolan created with his series of movies. Also Tiny Lister appears in the movie. I like to believe Deebo got out of the hood and terrorized Gotham.
The action scenes are much improved since the last movie. While there are still the occasional quick cuts during the scene they are less frequent. The action set pieces are much bigger this time as well. Even the minor ones like Batman taking Lau in China feel bigger are more epic than anything in Batman Begins.
The plot I dig. Joker being the antithesis to Batman, pure chaos to the dark knight’s order, is perfect. I also found Harvey Dent’s arc very compelling. The triumph of evil, how only certain people could be handle being Batman, good enough to be its own movie. Then there are the subplots. Now for the most part they’re fine, 5, 10 minutes max of screen time. The thing is they add up and some of them have no real point. The best example is story about a guy in logistics that discovers Bruce’s identity. It really has little point in happening. Or how about Commissioner Gordon faking his death. It’s a nice twist but it just didn’t seem like it needed to be done. As this adds up it feels like adding 15 minutes to the movie. Now I’m not saying that it’s not well executed it just might not be necessary.
Like Batman Begins everything in this department is top notch. I wish I had more to say but there really isn’t anything I haven’t said before. Excellent direction, check. Good soundtrack, check. Wonderful script, check. Everything is as perfect as it could be.
It’s funny, I actually wasn’t the biggest fan of The Dark Knight when it first came out. I nitpicked at the movie’s imperfections, as slight as they may be. But with each reviewing of the movie I like it more and more. I still feel that the movie is a bit bloated but it’s appropriate, if that makes sense. It doesn’t hurt the movie it just adds to the epic feel that the movie has.
Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up.
As I went through the movies in the past week this line from Batman Begins ran through my head. To me, in a way, this describes the series as a whole. None of the movies are perfect, nothing is. But every few years they would return and try again. Try some new things, try some old things, trying to perfect on the last. Trying to get back up after every fall to make the perfect Batman movie. After watching everything I came to realize that the highs, the lows, it all come together to craft one giant Batman mythology exclusive to the silver screen. And despite some things being awful I wouldn’t change a thing.