I went into Batman Begins expecting a lot and left the theatre wanting less—less psychological babble, less backstory and less of Liam Neeson’s ridiculously wispy goatee. Director Christopher Nolan’s movie—he’s best known for making an edgy little thriller called Momento—thankfully has more in common with the Tim Burton Batmans than the unwatchable Joel Schumacher campfests that ruined this franchise a few years ago. Still, I found Batman Begins to be a little too somber and so heavy it almost threatens to collapse in on itself.
In an effort to clearly define why Bruce Wayne becomes Batman Nolan spends the first hour of the film creating an elaborately plotted, although kind of dull backstory for the character. By the time Wayne finally becomes the Caped Crusader I wanted to scream, ‘I get it! He’s afraid of bats and wants revenge for the death of his parents.’ It is the simplest story of all the classic comic book heroes and yet here Nolan muddies the water with unnecessary detail. I would have liked to have been able to see more of the action scenes, but they are so murky—shot in the dark and mostly in close-up—that I found it difficult to get too engaged with what I was seeing on screen.
Christian Bale, best known for his role as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, is the new Batman. He’s a little too Johnny-one-note for my tastes, but holds his own against the previous big screen Batmans. He’s got the dark edge Michael Keaton brought to the role, the youthful physicality of Val Kilmer and seems to have crawled out of the same blessed genetic gene pool as George Clooney.
Batman Begins is definitely a better comic book adaptation than Daredevil or Electra; admirable in its emphasis on character over gadgetry, and is ambitious for a summer blockbuster, but for me, unfortunately it never quite takes flight.