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June 2005

By Wilson Morales

Batman Begins

Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Producers: Emma Thomas & Charles Roven & Larry Franco
Screenwriter: David S. Goyer
Composers: Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Ken Watanabe, Katie Holmes, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer
Screened at Loews Imax Theater - Lincoln Sq., NYC



With four previous Batman films already done, folks were asking if a new one was needed. The answer is quite simple: Yes. In the previous Batman films, much was made more about who was the villain in the film and who was playing the role than the role and characteristics of Bruce Wayne/ Batman. The 1989 version, directed by Tim Burton, featured dazzling effects and costume designs that were breathtaking, but the film was stolen by the presence of Jack Nicholson and his role as The Joker. That set the stage for the subsequent films where Batman was no longer a factor but more of a backdrop for the archenemy to shine. From the Riddler (Jim Carrey) to The Penguin (Danny Devito) to finally Ice Man (Arnold Schwartzenggar), each film seemed to concentrate on their backgrounds than of Bruce Wayne. Well, thank God for director Christopher Nolan. Nolan, who has an eye for details and characters, has only done three films, but they were well received that he was given the chance to give Batman his due respect and that he has done. In going back to the beginning, "Batman Begins" is one of the best transitions from the comic book to the big screen. Not only is it spectacular, but it is truly amazing and embodied by such a talented cast.

We first meet the future Caped Crusader as a young Bruce Wayne as he is playing on the grounds of Wayne Manor with his childhood friend Rachel Dawes. When he accidentally falls down a shaft, he is besieged by numerous bats that will torment his life and his blessing. While at an opera with his parents in downtown Gotham City, and still haunted by the bats, Bruce urges his parents to leave the show and go home. Outside of the theater and in an alley, the Waynes are accosted by a thug who then shoots Bruce's parents. With his parents dead and in the care of Alfred the Butler (Caine), Wayne leads a life full of anger that when he returns from college years later, he comes back with vengeance on his mind. As his friend Rachel (Holmes) now a district attorney, points out, justice has been served as the killer of his parents is being set free due to some information that will catch other criminals. Bruce (Bale) is still bent on killing the man who killed his folks but doesn't have the courage to do so. When circumstances put him to look at his life, Wayne flees the city and his life to see what the other side of justice is.

Living anonymously in a foreign land, Wayne is then introduced to Henri Ducard (Neeson), who is a member of the League of Shadows, the organization presided over by Ra's Al Ghul (Watanabe). Ducard can sense Wayne's frustration with evil and wants him to join the group to combat crime in their own way. He trains Bruce with ninja soldiers and challenges him to do a dirty deed to cement his acceptance with the group. With reluctance, Wayne says no and has to literally fight his way out of Asia and head back home to fight crime. With Alfred safely guarding his financial assets as well as Wayne Manor, Bruce comes home a different man. No longer the man who was afraid of bats, Bruce embraces them as he sees their home (down in the shaft where he fell as a child) as his way to shield the world from what he has to do. With Alfred' s assistance as well as help from Lucius Fox, an old family friend and employee of Wayne Enterprises, Bruce Wayne becomes Batman the Caped Crusader and ready to combat crime. As Batman, Wayne can do things that cops can't do and with Lieutenant Jim Gordon patrolling the city, Batman can flesh the bad guys and have someone he can trust to see that justice is serve. Only two men stand in way and that is the psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Crane (Murphy), who protects the criminals with his insanity cases and Carmine Falcone (Wilkinson), the mobster who has ruled Gothan City for decades. With the city ready for disaster, Batman uses his skills to outwits his adversaries and clean up the city. When a old enemy resurfaces, Batman faces his greatest task: staying alive and live to see another day.

Screenwriter David Goyer has nailed it with his adaptation of Batman for the big screen. Never before had we seen the upbringing of Bruce Wayne from boy to man, and from someone young and afraid to someone mature and fearless. What the other films lacked was the essence of who Bruce Wayne is and why he does what he does. Bale is the perfect actor to play. No disrespect to Michael Keaton who played the Caped Crusader in the '89 version and following sequel, buy Bale is young and possesses the physical attributes necessary to see Bruce Wayne emerge as a person we come to see as strong and fearless. Nolan has a way of going back and forth in time as he has done with his previous films and he does so here in establishing the time link of where Bruce has been and the relationship he had with his father. Caine is the best Alfred put on the screen. Alfred's role in Bruce/ Batman's life was never established in the previous films yet he is the most important figure in Bruce's life. Caine plays the role with some comic relief but is effective in demonstrating the father figure that Bruce misses in his life. Morgan Freeman is just cool; playing the role similar to that of "Q" from the James Bond films. There are many villains in this film and that makes the film interesting because had it been one villain as we see in other superhero films, the script could have been written by a blind person. The more the merrier add to the intrigue of the film. Having the score done by Zimmer and Newton Howard adds the beauty of this film. It's dark and pounding is needed for a film that is supposed to dark. Batman Begins is the film most have been waiting for. It's entertaining, dramatic, and loaded with dynamic scenes. It's simply phenomenal!