[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,

April 2015 Preview

 

Happy April! Let’s look ahead to April’s film releases, starting with…

 

Furious 7

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In Paul Walker’s final film role, the seventh adventure in The Fast and the Furious franchise follows Dom and Brian are being hunted by Owen Shaw’s brother Deckard, played by Jason Statham. The last few films in this franchise have just gotten better and better as they embraced the auto theft story over the street race plots. It also features director James Wan diverting from his horror roots to take on an action pic, which I’m feeling good about.

 

 

Woman in Gold

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Woman in Gold features Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, a holocaust survivor who fought to retrieve a portrait taken from her during the Nazi invasion of Vienna. I enjoy Mirren’s work but I feel like this film has a supporting cast likely to fail, specifically the dreadful Katie Holmes. Ryan Reynolds too is hit or miss so I can’t guarantee anything.

 

 

The Longest Ride

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I am so sick of Nicholas Sparks movies. They are all pretty much the same and I intend for that to be a criticism in every possible way. The Notebook was pretty good, but everything since feels like a carbon copy.

 

 

Child 44

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Tom Hardy stars as an MGB agent investigating a series of child murders in the Soviet Union. I recall great things being said about the novel, and the cast here is filled with capable performers. I’m thinking yeah.

 

 

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

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Paul Blart doesn’t deserve to be captured on film. The original film didn’t and neither does this one. It’s a shame that quality films are going to be passed over for this dreck. Please, for the love of all things sacred, skip.

 

 

Unfriended

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I love a good stylistic horror film, but Unfriended, about six people connected to a high school girl’s suicide one year prior, are hunted during a Skype chat, seems like its suspension of disbelief will ask too much of me. I’m not feeling this one.

 

 

Little Boy

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Does anybody think this movie looks good? It is the story of a young boy who will do whatever it takes to bring his father back from WW2. No. No. No.

 

 

The Age of Adaline

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I’m liking the idea of a romance film with a hook. Most of these films don’t work out well, but for some reason, I think The Age of Adaline has a chance.

 

Final Tally:

Best Bets: Furious 7, Child 44

On the Bubble: Woman in Gold, Unfriended, The Age of Adaline

Likely Misses: The Longest Ride, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Little Boy

 

So there you have it. See you in May!

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Giver (2014)

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Director: Phillip Noyce

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Cameron Monaghan, Odeya Rush, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift

Screenplay: Michael Mitnick, Robert B. Weide

97 mins. Rated PG-13 for a mature thematic image and some sci-fi action/violence.

 

The hotly anticipated adaptation of the dystopian novel The Giver has arrived and initial response has not been great. What did I think? Well, wouldn’t you like to know?

The Giver is the story of Jonas (Brenton Thwaites, Oculus, Maleficent), who lives in a normalized version of reality set some time in the future. His world is one of plainness, of emotionless life filled with routine followed by more routine. It exists without color and without free thought. Life is good. Jonas is about to go through a life-changing ceremony along with friends Asher (Cameron Monaghan, TV’s Shameless, Click) and Fiona (Odeya Rush, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, We Are What We Are). This ceremony grants each of them jobs in their society, and Jonas has just been granted the most important role of all as Receiver of Memory, a role of passing down information from a man known only as The Giver (Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski, R.I.P.D.), who has some very valuable information for Jonas.

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The Giver isn’t a bad movie as much as it is a rough one. I get the sense that this movie wasn’t fully completed. I also feel as though the book, through fantastic, was not made to be adapted. There is just too much that feels like it would work until you actually see it.

Jeff Bridges is wonderful in the titular role, and he should be, as he has been trying to get the film out of development hell for almost two decades. He even previously filmed a version using family members in the roles to prove that the film was doable.

We also get some great, though very underutilized work from Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada, Into the Woods) as the Chief Elder, a woman who has her own secrets and doesn’t really trust that Jonas will stick to the guidelines of his role, just like ten years previously when a young girl named Rosemary (Taylor Swift, Valentine’s Day, The Lorax) failed as the Receiver of Memory.

Brenton Thwaites is passable, though very underwhelming at times. The saving grace is Odeya Rush as Fiona, a girl who helps inspire emotion with ease.

As for the parental units, Father (Alexander Skarsgard, TV’s True Blood, The East) is pretty good while Mother (Katie Holmes, Batman Begins, Jack and Jill) poses too many questions, the most important being, “How does Katie Holmes keep getting work?” Seriously, I haven’t seen a passable performance since…wait, give me a minute.

As for Taylor Swift, come on. Not good. Not horrible, but definitely not good.

This adaptation was trouble from the start. The entire civilization is without emotion so much so that watching it would be kind of boring. Then again, add any noticeable emotion and people will claim that it breaks its own rules.

THE GIVER

I personally enjoyed myself over all, but the film is not without its problems. That much I can promise you. I just keep thinking. It could have been so much more.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror: Day 11 – Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)

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Director: Troy Nixey

Cast: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison, Jack Thompson, Alan Dale, Garry McDonald, Julia Blake

Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins

99 mins. Rated R for violence and terror.

 

When an incredibly talented director decides to take on a remake, it is interesting. When he decides to take on a horror remake, it is even more so. When he decides to remake a 1970s made-for-television horror movie, it is about all I need to want more. That’s what Guillermo del Toro set his mind to for Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, which tells the story of Kim (Katie Holmes, Batman Begins, The Giver) and Alex (Guy Pearce, Memento, The Rover) a couple who makes their life on flipping homes. When they get their hands on the home of Emerson Blackwood (Garry McDonald, TV’s Offspring, Moulin Rouge!), they cannot wait to spruce it up with their unique alterations. Alex’s daughter Sally (Bailee Madison, Just Go With It, Parental Guidance) harbors ill feelings against Kim for “replacing” her mother, and soon she discovers a basement inhabited by small creatures with ties to ancient and modern-day myth. Harris (Jack Thompson, Star Wars: Episode II-Attack of the Clones, Bonnie & Clyde) and Mrs. Underhill (Julia Blake, TV’s Bed of Roses, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), employees of Alex, do not want harm for the girl and know a lot more than they are letting on, but all that Alex is worried about is impressing Charles Jacoby (Alan Dale, TV’s Dominion, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), who has influence with a famous design and architecture magazine. When the creatures’ motives become clear, however, Sally knows that she must do whatever she can to stop them.

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This is all typical fare director and screenwriter Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak), so maybe that explains why he passed off directorial duties to newcomer Troy Nixey. Del Toro merely scripted the story with writer Matthew Robbins.

Now, this movie isn’t all that bad. It just isn’t all that good, either. It falls under the realm of simply existing for a while and then dropping off into obscurity, much like the film it is based on. I do like the idea of del Toro choosing a relatively unknown film to remake. I think there is far more potential to a project, with less expectations of comparison.

There isn’t anything wrong with the performances, except for Katie Holmes, who seems to have given up on even trying since making the biggest mistake of her career by passing on The Dark Knight.

Troy Nixey can handle the piece with some result to it, but ultimately the film feels like it is dragging. Part of that can be that the creatures resemble ones that Guillermo del Toro has dealt with before, and they feel boring. Even the effects are pretty good, but the creatures aren’t really anything new, and therein lies the fault. The whole film feels like we have seen it before, even for those of us who hadn’t heard of the obscure original film.

Would the film have been any different under the grasp of del Toro? I’d like to think so. I’m at the point with his work enough to the point that I will head to the theater just because his name is on the credits for a particular film. His influence seems to suggest better work than this.

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I feel like this film is one you can see if you want, but you don’t have to. Nobody is forcing you, and if they are, then their motives would be somewhat questionable.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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