[Batman Day] Batman Begins (2005)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ket Watanabe

Screenplay: David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan

140 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense action violence, disturbing images and some thematic elements.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Cinematography

IMDb Top 250: #116 (as of 9/14/18)

 

Happy Batman Day, everyone! Celebrate with some comic books, cartoons, and Batman movies, like Batman Begins.

The Batman franchise was in a bad place in the early 2000s. After the trainwreck that was Batman & Robin, the franchise was limping and needed to be fixed. Even myself, a hardcore non-retconner, can say that there was no other way. In stepped Christopher Nolan (Interstellar, Dunkirk).

Batman Begins takes the story of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale, American Hustle, Hostiles) all the way back to its not-so-humble start. By now, we all know the big piece, the death of Bruce’s parents, but Batman Begins delves into his complex relationship with butler Alfred (Michael Caine, The Quiet American, Sherlock Gnomes), his combat training with The League of Shadows, led by Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai, Isle of Dogs), and the mistakes he makes along the way to the hero we all know and love. As Bruce is honing his skills, crime boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton, Denial) and corrupt psychologist Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy, 28 Days Later, TV’s Peaky Blinders), working for an unseen nefarious foe, are setting Gotham City down the path to destruction from within, and Batman, with the help of Sergeant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour, The Hitman’s Bodyguard) may be the only one who can stop them.

This was the kick in the ass that the Batman franchise needed to stay fresh. Something I’ve learned in the years since Batman Begins is that there will always be a new Batman. He’s like Robin Hood and Peter Pan. They just keep coming back. This comeback, however, is just that damn good.

Christian Bale kicks ass as both Bruce Wayne and Batman. He chose to portray each half of his persona as a completely separate character, as it he had multiple personality syndrome and Batman is just another person living within him. Then there’s The Voice. I’m a firm defender of The Voice within Nolan’s realistic take on the Caped Crusader. Otherwise someone would eventually be able to figure it out. It is notable that he packed on the muscle for the role, the insane method actor that he is, having just come off The Machinist.

Speaking of the realism, Nolan took special care to craft a Gotham as realistic as possible. The gothic tone of the World’s Greatest Detective is still there, but Batman’s tech is as grounded in reality as possible. Even its villains stick to somewhat tangible backgrounds, with Crane’s Scarecrow become a truly horrific legend. Murphy’s portrayal is near and dear to my heart with the Scarecrow being my favorite Batman villain, and while originally I took issue with the way Nolan elected to recreate this character, I soon found myself heavily engaged in his frightening take. Ra’s Al Ghul is another character that usually takes on an otherworldly visage in that, if I am correct, he is often shown as having survived for over 600 years, dying and reviving due to The Lazarus Pits. Now, it could be true of the character we see in the finished film, but Nolan never once brings it up. In fact, the way he portrays Ra’s Al Ghul is haunting in its simplicity.

What’s great about Bruce Wayne is how compelling he is without the Batsuit, and how driven he is, just like his counterpart. Being the World’s Greatest Detective is something that applies to both Wayne and Batman, and Nolan, alongside co-screenwriter David S. Goyer, gave us time to connect with Bruce before introducing his superheroic other half.

I think if there was one thing I didn’t like about the film, it falls to some marketing mistakes and the fact that the film doesn’t firmly enough plant itself as being a reboot. Much like the ill-fated Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, Batman Begins almost plays itself up as a prequel to the 1989 Tim Burton Batman. There are clues as the film goes on, most notably in the death of Bruce’s parents, but as the convoluted mythology of the previous Batman series never really had itself nailed down, one wondered if the film was connected, and it wasn’t until its follow-up, The Dark Knight, released in 2008 that we finally got our answers. I just think fans struggled throughout the film’s runtime trying to figure out what it was.

Nitpicks aside, Batman Begins is nearly perfect. There are some slight issues with things like placing the film within a franchise timeline and a few acting slips (looking at Katie Holmes on this one), but all in all, Batman Begins isn’t just one of the best Batman films, it’s one of the best films of any kind.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, click here.

For my review of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[Batman Day] [Editorial] The Batfleck Situation

Hey goat herd,

I’ve been pretty busy as of late so I don’t have a new Batman movie review for you today.

I did, however, want to take a few minutes to discuss the controversy surrounding Ben Affleck’s future in the DCEU. So I’ll start with this…

I love Ben Affleck’s portrayal of the Dark Knight. I think he was the best of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The movie had a lot of issues but not a single one stems from Affleck’s acting performance. I think it’s absolute bullshit all the hate he got for taking the role. He’s a lifelong fan of Batman, and the way fans have treated him is unjust and cruel. I really wish he could find joy in the role again.

Now, I’ve heard a lot about whether or not Affleck will continue as The Batman, and I personally believe he isn’t done with the role yet. For starters, Justice League is the second film of his three-picture contract (I’m pretty sure his cameo in Suicide Squad had nothing to do with his contract). So he has one Batman standalone left. Now, yes, Warner Bros. and DC may choose to release him from his contract early, but I don’t think they are ready to give up on him yet. And money talks. Maybe Warner Bros. drops a big stack of cash on him and he accepts. I refuse to believe that his engagement with the role has dwindled so quickly.

But what do you think? Is Ben Affleck the Batman we need? Who else could take on the Caped Crusader in his absence? Let me know/drop a comment below. Happy Batman day.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Batman Day] Batman: The Movie (1966)

batmanthemovie1966a
Director: Leslie H. Martinson
Cast: Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin
Screenplay: Lorenzo Semple Jr.
105 mins. Approved.
I first saw the original Batman: The Movie (yeah, before Michael Keaton) about ten years ago. It was in the height of serious Batman Christian Bale’s reign as the caped crusader, and so I didn’t look upon the film too fondly. This year, I took the initiative to look back on Batman: The Movie in honor of Batman Day. Did my thoughts on the film change?
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In the film, the dynamic duo themselves, Batman (Adam West, TV’s Family Guy, Meet the Robinsons) and Robin (Burt Ward, Moving Target, Beach Babes from Beyond) are tasked with defeating four supervillains in their devious plan to use a weapon capable of dehydrating people to hold the world ransom. Batman finds himself emotionally involved when The Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, TV’s Barnaby Jones, The Ultimate Gift) disguises herself as a helpless damsel in distress to lure him in. As The Penguin (Burgess Meredith, Rocky, Grumpier Old Men) sets his plot in motion, the caped crusader finds himself fending off sharks and ridding Gotham of bombs. Can Batman defeat the foes? Or will he find himself in deeply dehydrating water?
Camp for the sake of camp. The 1960s saw Batman as a silly and over-the-top representation of truth, justice, and the American way. The 1960s were also a pretty confusing and sometimes scary time period. The world didn’t need villains. We already had them. What the world needed was an escape from the real. And, with Batman: The Movie, they got it.
The first season of the Batman television series has finished, and the producers decided to hit upon a movie’s budget to increase their usuable bat gadgets, a pretty genius idea all said and done. It’s what helps make the later seasons of the show stay exciting and fresh.
Adam West and Burt Ward play off each other really well, and it is their chemistry that drives the film. Both actors play the material as seriously as possible, and it makes the fun moments of cheese work so much better than playing them for comedy. And the screenplay itself, from screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. (Papillon, Flash Gordon) knows exactly what it needs to be.
From the rogues gallery, I particularly liked The Joker (Cesar Romero, The Little Princess, The Thin Man) and Meredith’s The Penguin. They have the most fun in role and absolutely steal their scenes.
Now, the film has some definite lagging issues in Act 2. By and large the best parts of the film are the Shark fight on the Bat Copter and the Bomb Chase sequence. The ending of the film falls flat too and isn’t all that memorable.
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From the film’s winning score to some truly unique visuals, Batman: The Movie is an interesting time capsule of a time we may never see again (though an upcoming DC animated film looks to see the return of the 60s Caped Crusader). It’s a lot of fun and has the potential to be a great passing of the torch for young viewers just getting into Batman and Robin.
3.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

[Batman Day] Batman (1989)

 batman1989b

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance

Screenplay: Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren

126 mins. Rated PG-13.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration

 

Happy Batman Day! I think, in honor of the legendary Caped Crusader’s special day, we should look back on the 1989 Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Big Eyes) film, Batman, featuring Michael Keaton (Birdman, Minions) as the tycoon-turned-hero.

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On the dark criminal-filled streets of Gotham, tough guy Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson, The Shining, How Do You Know) has been betrayed by his boss, villainous gangster Carl Grissom (Jack Palance, The Swan Princess, Tango & Cash) and now, disfigured by a vat of toxic chemicals, he has donned a new persona, the Joker. Commissioner James Gordon (Pat Hingle, The Land Before Time, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams, Star Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Fanboys) are powerless to stop him, but there is hope in the guise of the near-mythical masked vigilante Batman (Keaton) to stop the incoming crimewave.

Batman is a strange but not entirely out of line choice for director Tim Burton, who had previously worked on dark horror-comedies like Beetlejuice and the short film Frankenweenie. Burton had a very tall order to deliver on, having a pantheon of stories to honor is his depiction of Bruce Wayne and his story, and fans were not too thrilled with the decision to cast Keaton in the role.

I think I can say wholeheartedly that fans were proven wrong. Michael Keaton kills it in this role. His decision to play Bruce as an unhinged man, fully committed to his insane lifestyle is what drives his performance home. He fits perfectly in Burton’s over-the-top occasionally overtly-goofied version of Gotham.

Add to that an absolutely bonkers portrayal of The Joker given by a perfect casting choice in Jack Nicholson. Nicholson almost passed up the opportunity to play the villain, but thankfully, due to a considerable offer, he signed on. This is also the first time ever that viewers received a Joker origin story. Up until that point, and in many subsequent versions of the character’s tale, we do not get the answers to why he is the way he is. This origin is perhaps not as powerful as the mystery surrounding the character, though.

Now, from a technical perspective, Batman is hit-and-miss. The set decoration, for which the film won an Oscar, is incredible, but from a sound perspective, I believe the film mostly misses the mark. The sound mixing is a real loss, and the idea of jamming a great theme from Danny Elfman (I can’t believe I just said that) with original music from Prince was a huge mistake.

I should point out that I do love the opening titles. How about that fantastic theme? Am I right? Another interesting tidbit from this film is in the sequence where an underground doctor is fixing up Napier after the incident with the toxic chemicals. The tools used to operate actually came from the Little Shop of Horrors props, which was remade from a 1960 film featuring Jack Nicholson way before being famous. Movies are fun, eh?

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Batman wouldn’t have worked if it were made in a different time period. It is darker than the overtly campy 1960s iteration and yet still embraces the silliness more so than Christopher Nolan’s self-contained trilogy. I still find the film, despite its shortcomings (seriously, how do people not know who Bruce Wayne is), to be an interesting and enjoying piece of pop art, and it was a ton of fun to revisit.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

  

For my review of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, click here.

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