After a day of heavy thinking, mostly induced from a talk given by Victor Burgin, I thought it might be wise to relax my brain with a bargain theatre screening of Batman Begins. What a mistake that was. Though I had heard good things from many people, I failed to see much of merit in this unimaginative rebirth of the Batman legend. The film did not entertain me, nor did it relax me. If anything it put me on edge and here’s just five reasons why.
1) The science of it all. Just one of the many, many storylines in this film involved the use of a stolen military device designed to emit substantial amounts of microwaves, so much so that it instantly evaporates a town’s water supply. For reasons to convoluted to get into at this time, this weapon is deployed in the poorest part of Gotham City. Now, these folks must be really poor because unlike most human beings, they were obviously not made up of 70% water.
If a device can instantly evaporate puddles of water on the street and the water flowing through pipes what do you think it is going to do to the water in a human’s body? If you are unclear of what might happen might I suggest putting your cat or dog in your microwave and turning it on for a while?*
2) The only person who can do the Batman legend justice is a classically trained Japanese director. This latest chapter in the Batman saga begins in the orient. Just where in the East is hard to tell as the mish-mash of Pan-Asian cultures looks more like a food court than a foreign country. Perhaps, its Tibet. Who can say. Still, this inclusion of martial arts training in a foreign land helps to develop the backstory of Batman and how he grew from a young boy to the Dark Knight, one of the few comic books heroes not empowered with super powers. Like so many samurai and martial artist, Batman had to train to be a superhuman. The story of Batman’s birth is a classic story, near epic, but it needs the grace of more skilled laborer, someone in touch with the elements of myth, someone like Kurosawa or Mizoguchi.
Sadly, the style of filmmaking in Batman Begins is reminiscent of American action films and not swordplay or samurai films. Action sequences are sliced and diced to the point that it is impossible to tell what is happening. The frame is never well composed lending itself to iconic imagery, the stuff of legends. All the internal anguish is lost and the film suddenly becomes a picture about cool toys and criminals with calling cards. This is all fine an good for the era of Adam West’s Batman, but with today’s push towards darker, more mature material that lends itself to myth something new is needed. Presently, this new breed of Batman is nothing new, just more dimly lit, more violent, and moister…Because nothing says “hard times have arrived” quite like an abundance of moisture.
3) Katie Holmes can’t act. Neither can Christian Bale. Wait, I’ve never seen Holmes give a credible performance, but Bale was good in Velvet Goldmine. So maybe it’s Christopher Nolan who just can’t direct. That’s got to be it. Because for the most part it feels like he never bothered to consult his actors. Bale takes on this raspy voice every time he pulls on his Bathood. Why Batman must sound like an emphysema victim is beyond me. Did Nolan suggest this? If not, why didn’t he correct it? Does he thinks its sounds tough? Bale isn’t tough. He’s a great socialite. He’s a great Bruce Wayne, but he’s a tough as silk handkerchief. Adding phlegm to Batman’s voice isn’t going to help Batman’s image. Batman was always meant to sound cool, calm and composed, not like he’s dying of throat cancer.
The rest of the cast, with the exception of Holmes, who should never have been tapped as Tom Cruises lover. Even Lauren Bacall couldn’t have convinced the world that Tom Cruise doesn’t love women. He loves himself. But Holmes aside, the rest of the cast is left to their own devices and all are rather brilliant. Michael Caine plays a wonderful, if not underused Alfred the Butler. Morgan Freeman takes the part of mythical negro, a role he was born to play, and not surprisingly he does it well. Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy make good bad guys, though Cillian Murphy is less of a performer and more of freak. Those eyes and those cheekbone give me shivers. Then there is Gary Oldman. I never would have guessed it but he’s the perfect person to play Lt. Gordon, Batman’s one friend on the police force. Oldman is actually subdued, not chewing through scenery, and adding rather human moments to film that deserves far less. My only question for Oldman is, “When the hell are you going to use the paychecks from Harry Potter and Batman Begins to direct your next film? Do something good with your money Gary, before they suck all your time away with Batman sequels!”
4) That fuckin’ Batmobile. I hated the damn thing from the instant I saw it in the trailers and I hate it even more now. Forget the fact that it looks like a squished Hummer. No, don’t forget that. Instead ask yourself, when did looking militaristic become cool. What happened to the sleek look of old Batmobiles, with tailfins that mimiced the look of bat wings. This new car looks more like a cockroach than bat. Should we blame be blaming the king of American action filsm. Should we blame Arnold? He gave us the Hummer as a street vehicle. If you ask me that makes him worse than Hitler. Adolf at least gave us the VW Beetle.
Now, let’s just talk mechanics. Can anyone please explain how this thing works? Why must Batman’s chair fold downward, placing him stretched out on his stomach, in order to pull certain maneuvers? If your answer is “for safety reasons” then why doesn’t the passenger seat do the same? Or does no one care if Katie Holmes dies? It just doesn’t make sense unless you consider it to be cool. If this operational device looks cool to someone, even though it explains nothing, than I guess it has to be part of the film, right?
Next is the issue of driving on rooftops. Outside of a line or two, poorly delivered thus dwindling the limited laughs it might have received, why must Batman take his armored vehicle to the rooftops? Have chase scenes on the ground become so boring that we must now plow from building top to building top to make them watchable? Certainly this must be the case as driving across rooftops does not help Batman escape. As soon as he lands back on the ground two cop cars are seen directly behind him, less than 50 years away. All that destruction and for what, cheap thrills?
5) The politics of Batman are beyond reason. First off, the overall film projects a negative image of cities. In the world of Batman Begins cities are havens for crime and vice where the poor can only be saved by the kindness of rich families such as the Wayne Family. Of course little is ever mentioned on how the Wayne family acquired all that wealth or how Gotham grew to be so large.
Then there is the issue of Batman’s personal politics. He won’t kill a criminal because that would reduce him to their level. However, like the criminals he is willing to throw caution to the wind and give little thought to the countless numbers of lives he endangers with his reckless driving or his destruction of city structures. I’m not just talking about human life here. That’s something that can’t be replaced. But, what about the things that can be replaced? Who is going to pay for all the destruction? The taxpayers? Yes, he in all of his recklessness Batman saves the greater populace, but certainly someone else gets hurt in the process. Those victims get no screen time.
Finally, there is issue of Bruce Wayne’s house. After the damn mansion burns to the ground he promises to rebuild it just as it was. While this job may create some employment for a few Gotham area contractors why must Wayne Manor be rebuilt in all its extravagant glory? Is it his reputation he must uphold and if so wouldn’t he be setting an example to all the people he wants to help, the same people his rather wanted to help, if he proved that he could get by with less? Why does a bachelor need a mansion? Why can’t Bruce Wayne lead by example? Does he not create his own problems by living so extravagantly? Doesn’t he create greed that drives criminal behavior as people break laws to attain what they desire. Bruce Wayne, of course, broke no laws, but he’s also never worked an honest day in his life. Perhaps this is an issue Batman should brood about while in his Batcave.
In conclusion, this stupid film ruined my evening. Is it too much to ask that Hollywood make a decent film, one where I don’t have to think about such issues?
* If you are stupid enough to actually try this experiment with your own dog or cat you should not be allowed to have either. Not only that, but you should not have access to a microwave. Who might, however, really like Batman Begins.