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BATMAN BEGINS review thread...

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BATMAN BEGINS review thread...

Old 06-05-05, 04:58 AM
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Originally Posted by scott shelton
VARIETY...

Batman Begins


A Warner Bros. release of a Syncopy production. Produced by Charles Roven, Emma Thomas, Larry Franco. Executive producers, Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Screenplay, Nolan, David S. Goyer, story by Goyer, based upon Batman characters created by Bob Kane and published by DC Comics.

Bruce Wayne/Batman - Christian Bale
Alfred - Michael Caine
Ducard - Liam Neeson
Rachel Dawes - Katie Holmes
Jim Gordon - Gary Oldman
Dr. Jonathan Crane - Cillian Murphy
Carmine Falcone - Tom Wilkinson
Earle - Rutger Hauer
Ra's Al Ghul - Ken Watanabe
Flass - Mark Boone Junior
Thomas Wayne - Linus Roache
Lucius Fox - Morgan Freeman
Bruce Wayne (age 8) - Gus Lewis


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By TODD MCCARTHY
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It's more Bruce Wayne than caped crusader in "Batman Begins," a telling of the legendary character's formative experiences that gives precedence to psychology over super-heroics. While developing an elaborate backstory for the 66-year-old comic book figure, director Christopher Nolan delivers a very serious would-be franchise launcher that, perhaps inadvertently, bears closer thematic comparison to "Kill Bill" and aspects of "Star Wars" than to what audiences primed on the Burton/Schumacher films or the TV series might expect. Ambitious, well made but not exactly rousing, lavishly produced Warner Bros. release will ride heavy promotion and want-see to big openings worldwide, but is too dark and talky to appeal to kids and won't inspire much repeat viewing, which casts sought-after blockbuster B.O. in some doubt.


After so much to-and-fro about how to revive the Dark Knight (the studio's last entry in its four-picture set, the lamentable "Batman and Robin," appeared just eight years ago), it was a fairly gutsy bet on Warner's part to entrust the job to Nolan, a crafty young director whose "Memento" and "Insomnia" evinced storytelling smarts, visual flair and good instincts with actors.

But these matters aren't at issue. Rather, it's the story that's been chosen to be told, and the degree of gravity invested in it. From the opening scene, Nolan and co-screenwriter David S. Goyer ( the "Blade" series) foreground the demons that haunt and drive Bruce Wayne, and it's a full hour before "the Bat-Man" (as he was originally called) shows up. Psychological depth is all well and good, but it's an open question how much time you want to spend on it when the subject is a cartoon character.

The filmmakers seem intent upon making Bruce/Batman and his actions as plausible (one resists saying realistic) as possible, emphasizing that he's a distinctly human hero with no super powers. All the same, guys, he was still born in a comic book, and it's doubtful Batman would have lived very long had the original DC Comics been as drained of sheer childlike fun as this film is. There is talent and cleverness here, but not much excitement.

Jumping around in time during the opening stretch, pic details how Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale as an adult, Gus Lewis as a kid), the only child of a wealthy philanthropic industrialist, is traumatized at an early age upon accidentally falling into an empty well that's home to an enormous number of bats; feels guilt over the murder of his parents at the hands of a derelict robber; leaves his palatial home upon reaching maturity to investigate criminality in the darker corners of Asia, and is rescued from a dreadful prison (in what the press notes indicate is Bhutan) by a mysterious fellow named Ducard (Liam Neeson). A tough taskmaster, Ducard teaches his specially selected pupil about achieving justice and becoming a legend.

Although shot in Iceland amidst spectacular terrain that recalls the Alaskan setting of "Insomnia," this long instructional section is filled with philosophical gobbledygook about developing strength by facing your deepest fears, methods of focusing anger and vengefulness, and how "you must journey inwards."

Some of this is delivered while Ducard and Bruce face off with large swords on a frozen lake, and one must be forgiven for imagining that what's onscreen are outtakes from "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace," with Neeson's Jedi knight teaching Obi-Wan Kenobi dueling techniques.

It doesn't stop there, however, as "The Last Samurai" is invoked with the entrance of Ken Watanabe as the charismatic leader of a vigilante ninja org called the League of Shadows.

In the end, Bruce proves himself a worthy student, returning home to take on the rampant corruption in Gotham (or is it Sin City?). Half the city is in the pocket of gangster Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson). Others up to no good are Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), a young psychiatrist who leads a double life as the sinister Scarecrow, and Earle (Rutger Hauer), who has taken charge of the Wayne family industries.

Although none of these figures qualifies as a great villain, Bruce begins developing his alter ego with help from ever-loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and company high-tech expert Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Fox functions much like "M" in the Bond films by turning Bruce on to useful gizmos, including a very powerful armored vehicle ("Does it come in black?" Bruce inquires, in one of the better lines).

Batman begins modestly by disrupting a drug shipment and handing Falcone to the police, one of whose few honest officers is Detective Sergeant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman). Also on the good team is Bruce's childhood friend Rachel (Katie Holmes), a very young-looking assistant district attorney who is disappointed that Bruce appears to be a dissolute playboy with no ideals.

Nolan and Goyer dwell on the idea of the masks one chooses to put on for the world to see, as well as the notion of character being defined by deed not word; concepts are entirely appropriate to Batman, but are hardly new or worth belaboring. Then there's the late-on surprise of who the main bad guy turns out to be, which is all right but further splinters the villainy.

All along, pic emphasizes the real-worldliness of Bruce. This is even a Batman movie in which the Batcave is an actual bat cave. But when it comes to Batman's attacks on adversaries, the film fudges it, throwing a flurry of images on the screen with quick editing that obscures how the winged one manages to so easily drop in on his enemies.

What this incarnation of Batman lacks is theatricality, a sense of showmanship to put over the new approach. Although little jokes and quips are gradually introduced, only slowly does Nolan dare to begin having any fun with the material, and even then far too cautiously. It's not that the film is prosaic, but it is terribly sober, afraid to make grand gestures and build to major payoffs. It's as if, out of a desire to appear smart and not to pander to the large public destined to see the picture, Nolan restrained himself from providing moments that might prove too audience pleasing.

As opposed to the highly designed Gotham City of the Tim Burton pictures, this one features cityscapes that recognizably belong to the real Chicago, with a fictional monorail system added in. Nor is there anything fetishistic about the Batman costume, which is plain and functional.

With an ideal physique and bearing for the role, Bale makes for a committed, driven, urbane and intelligent do-gooder; only oddity is the somewhat electronic quality of his voice as Batman. Neeson is a fearsome mentor, and Murphy makes a strong impression as the corrupt doctor, although the Scarecrow persona is woefully undeveloped. Oldman is effectively cast against type as the most decent man in Gotham, Holmes is OK, and Caine dryly does all he can in the butler role that could have benefited from some posthumous additional dialogue by Preston Sturges.

Unusual soundtrack collaboration by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard results in a moodily churning score that adds an extra sense of momentum to the tale. Tag promises a sequel in which the Joker is specifically indicated as the chief villain.



Camera (Technicolor, Panavision widescreen), Wally Pfister; editor, Lee Smith; music, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard; production designer, Nathan Crowley; supervising art director, Simon Lamont; senior art director, Alan Tomkins; art directors, Susan Whitaker, Dominic Masters, Peter Francis, Paul Kirby; set decorators, Simon Wakefield, Paki Smith; costume designer, Lindy Hemming; sound (DTS/SDDS/Dolby Digital), Peter Lindsay; re-recording mixers, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo; supervising sound editors, David G. Evans, Stefan Henrix; visual effects supervisors, Janek Sirrs, Dan Glass; special effects supervisor, Chris Corbould; visual effects, Double Negative, Cutting Edge, The Moving Picture Co., BUF, Rising Sun Pictures, The Senate Visual Effects, Jim Henson's Creature Shop; associate producer, Cheryl A. Tkach; assistant director, Cliff Lanning; stunt coordinator, Sy Hollands; casting, John Papsidera, Lucinda Syson. Reviewed at Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, June 1, 2005. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 140 MIN.
It's funny how this negative review is making most look forward to the movie even more.

This reviewer dislikes the movie for all the reasons most will like it.
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Old 06-05-05, 08:35 AM
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A "serious" Batman movie? Thank you Chris Nolan.
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Old 06-05-05, 09:26 AM
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Ebert and Roeper give two thumbs WAY up - both agreeing that finally someone got Batman right!
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Old 06-05-05, 09:38 AM
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I think Gotham looks good. However I still think the movie se7en was the perfect Gotham.
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Old 06-05-05, 10:38 AM
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I'm not going to even bother reading the negative reviews, I know this movie will be good. Ebert and Roeper were very enthusiastic yesterday when they reviewed it.
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Old 06-05-05, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by DVD King
I'm not going to even bother reading the negative reviews, I know this movie will be good. Ebert and Roeper were very enthusiastic yesterday when they reviewed it.
Same here, I'm leaving the negative at the door. I can't wait to see this movie and I already know it's going to be excellent
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Old 06-05-05, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by DVD King
I'm not going to even bother reading the negative reviews, I know this movie will be good.
But how will you know the reviews are good unless you read them? Are you depending on reviews of reviews, because that means we're getting into a whole meta-level of criticism...
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Old 06-05-05, 11:51 AM
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Caught a screening last week and afterwards thought "This is what the Burton Batman should have been."
I was a comic collector and while not being a huge Batman fan, I was dissapointed by previous movie attempts. This one around is more grown-up and as dark as the comics are. (Not quite to the Dark Knight series level but we can hope Miller will do something with his success from Sin City)
The story is tight and well written. The visual effects are fantastic. And there is enough humor mixed in to pace the movie correctly.
I was mostly impressed with the sound mix. This is a movie that shows off surround sound. I was thinking I could hardly wait until the DVD comes out and I give this a spin on my HT.
I think this was a very good movie that will be enjoyed by fans and non-fans alike.
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Old 06-05-05, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by DonnachaOne
But how will you know the reviews are good unless you read them? Are you depending on reviews of reviews, because that means we're getting into a whole meta-level of criticism...
I've already read a few, and i'm sold after hearing ebert and roeper.
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Old 06-05-05, 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by William Wallace
It's funny how this negative review is making most look forward to the movie even more.

This reviewer dislikes the movie for all the reasons most will like it.
Really. "I don't like this movie because it's not as cartoony as the previous ones, although I didn't like those, either."
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Old 06-05-05, 04:04 PM
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I saw it last week, and left the screening thinking it was a B+. It's since risen to an A. The acting was terrific, there were fantastic scenes (anything involving Scarecrow), and some great lines. My only concern is the film's first 40 minutes which essentially deal with setting up the backstory; I wonder whether that could keep some of the mainstream audience away (luckily the sequel won't have to deal with establishing Bruce Wayne/Batman, so it should be even better than the first).

I think comic book fans will absolutely love this and everyone else should have a fun moviegoing experience. Well worth seeing.
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Old 06-05-05, 04:59 PM
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I predict a movie that Batman fans will love, and few others. That review reads like all comic book movies should be sis-boom-bah and such.

FWIW, reading that review actually got me more amped to see the movie, which is unusual for a negative review. Variety seems to have a habit of scoring a movie on how much potential it has at the B.O. as opposed to how good it actually is IMO.

The way I see it could be a win-win situation for the fans. If it scores, then we have a movie franchise with the potential to be done correctly. If it doesn't, then at least we got to see a Batman movie done right without sequels to tarnish its name (like the one Burton started) and, if you count it as a prequel to the previous ones, something that ended the character on a high note rather than a humiliating one.

Last edited by Dr. DVD; 06-05-05 at 05:09 PM.
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Old 06-05-05, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr. DVD
Variety seems to have a habit of scoring a movie on how much potential it has at the B.O. as opposed to how good it actually is IMO.
That's the nature of a trade paper.
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Old 06-05-05, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr. DVD
The way I see it could be a win-win situation for the fans. If it scores, then we have a movie franchise with the potential to be done correctly. If it doesn't, then at least we got to see a Batman movie done right without sequels to tarnish its name (like the one Burton started) and, if you count it as a prequel to the previous ones, something that ended the character on a high note rather than a humiliating one.
I'm pretty confident that Batman Begins will get a sequel no matter what. There's no way this isn't turning into a franchise. Even Punisher is getting a follow-up, and Batman Begins is 100x better than that.
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Old 06-05-05, 07:44 PM
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Originally Posted by BJacks
I'm pretty confident that Batman Begins will get a sequel no matter what. There's no way this isn't turning into a franchise. Even Punisher is getting a follow-up, and Batman Begins is 100x better than that.
You're probably right, and you know DVD sales will push whatever it lacks at the domestic box-office into the black ink territory, as seems the case with a lot of movies these days.

EDIT: SONOFABITCH!!! Being the movie afficionado I am, I decided to look into getting a subscription to Variety(the printed form). The cost for one year? $279.00!!!!!!! Anyone know a deal where I can get Variety as part of a package for a little cheaper? Why do they ask so much over other magazines and news media?

Last edited by Dr. DVD; 06-05-05 at 07:49 PM.
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Old 06-05-05, 08:25 PM
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How would you compare it to the other comic book movies
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Old 06-05-05, 08:31 PM
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Originally Posted by BigDaddy
I think Gotham looks good. However I still think the movie se7en was the perfect Gotham.
I think David Fincher as director would be great for a Batman film.
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Old 06-05-05, 09:44 PM
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I find it funny how everything posted as a negative in that review is what has me excited about this film.

June 15th don't delay!
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Old 06-05-05, 10:06 PM
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Seriously, this is probably the best negative review a movie has ever gotten.
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Old 06-05-05, 10:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Dr. DVD
EDIT: SONOFABITCH!!! Being the movie afficionado I am, I decided to look into getting a subscription to Variety(the printed form). The cost for one year? $279.00!!!!!!! Anyone know a deal where I can get Variety as part of a package for a little cheaper? Why do they ask so much over other magazines and news media?
Isn't Variety a daily trade? I would imagine that would have something to do with its pretty high cost.
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Old 06-05-05, 10:45 PM
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140 min run time eh? Cool. Nice to see Ebert like a Batman film finally.
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Old 06-05-05, 11:12 PM
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Is Eberts review already posted on his site or is everyone refering to his show with Roeper?
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Old 06-05-05, 11:17 PM
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Originally Posted by dvd182
Isn't Variety a daily trade? I would imagine that would have something to do with its pretty high cost.
Correcto.
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Old 06-05-05, 11:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Jordan Raup
How would you compare it to the other comic book movies
I enjoyed it more than both Spider-Man films and X1, and probably more than X2. I still think Superman reigns supreme, but in terms of recent efforts, Batman Begins wins IMO.
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Old 06-06-05, 12:23 AM
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From the reviews we've seen, it sounds like this might actually be the first oscar worthy superhero film.
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