One line review: The Dark Knight gets his balls back.
Slightly longer (spoiler free) review:
We came out of the cinema last night grinning. Sure, we overheard a few people muttering "too long" and "bit slow" but they were obviously stupid and would soon walk under a bus or tube raising the city's IQ slightly. Batman Begins is great. And we had a PILE of reservations, but thankfully we worried over nothing. So let's fill you in on where we stand on the history of this particular crime fighter. Context is everything.
Tim Burton's Batman was crap. Yeah we know it's bordering on sacrilege to say so but let's be honest... Tim Burton is a very hit and miss director at the best of times and Batman was just DULL. It was a pretty good Joker movie, but casting a block of wood as the Bat was a big mistake. Things improved slightly with Batman Returns because things got darker, but again the hero was sidelined and it was more of a Catwoman movie. After that the franchise became a leather nipple and crotch fetish disguised as very long tedious toy advertising. So the TV spin off aside (KAPOW!) we've been waiting a very long time for someone to get Batman right. Now at long last thankfully Christopher Nolan has hit this weird little nail right on the head.
Stay with us after the jump for what he got right:
The casting. Christian Bale is perfect not least because he still carries that slice of Patrick Bateman with him from American Psycho and unlike just about every other guy who has donned the suit he's actually an actor first and a star second. Michael Caine as Alfred is inspired - he's the perfect foil to Bale's driven hero and it's his best role since The Quiet American. Rutger Haur has a slightly longer role here than he did in Sin City, but makes the most of his time reminding us what a wonderful and charismatic actor he still is. We're tempted to start talking about a Hauer comeback, but we know that he's probably even now filming some terrible action flick in the Baltic wearing an eye patch and a very large hat. Even Katie Holmes is spot on - doey eyed but tough and on hand to need a damn good rescuing from time to time. Gary Oldman as Gordon was perhaps our biggest worry as he's either very good or hammy as hell, but he finally brings this often sidelined character to life. Liam Neeson continues to remind us what a good solid actor he is and between this and Kingdom of Heaven we've just about forgot that Jedi crap he got mixed up with. Cillian Murphy from 28 Days Later is here as Dr Jonathan Crane and has a slimy plasticy look that is very unsettling even before... well as we said. No spoilers.
The pacing. Batman doesn't even arrive until 40 minutes or so into the movie. Instead we get some badly needed character development for the somewhat tarnished icon. Although things get perhaps a little more frantic and formulaic towards the end this is a movie confident enough to take it's time and it's a much more rewarding experience for it.
The plot. Nolan takes the best pieces of the character's mythology and some of the better ideas from the last ten years or so of the comic (with large nods to Frank Miller's 'Year One') and tosses into the mix some of the less iconic Batman family which will keep the fanboys happy, but are less likely to overshadow the Bat himself. So we get to meet the Scarecrow, the head of the Falcone crime syndicate, Ra's Al Ghul...
The gadgets. Batman has more in common with James Bond than he does his fellow superheroes. He's just a regular Joe (albeit one with a hideously large bank account) with a need to crack skulls so his gadgetry is important. In this film just about all the crap hanging from his utility belt has a more or less solid explanation and he even has his own Q this time out in the form of Morgan Freeman. This film is packed with surrogate father figures... I guess Bruce wasn't a big mummy's boy. Oh and the Bat Mobile? It's a tank that drives OVER rooftops. Nuff said.
The score and soundtrack. No Prince and No Artist Formally Known as Prince - in fact no diminutive little tossers at all. One less record to throw at the undead then but also no nu-metal (thankyou!). No discernible theme either, but that's a good thing here. No musical queues whatsoever so for the most part we're as in the dark as the thugs are as to where the Bat will spring from next. We've never seen a 'hero' quite so frightening.
And that's the best thing here. The theme of the movie is fear with a capital F and from the Scarecrow's gas to the bats that scare the hell out of and later define Bruce Wayne this is not a little kid's movie. If it is a kid's movie at all then it's designed to scare the crap out of them rather than sell them toys (are you listening Russell T Davies, you miserable hack?) and the face of Batman as perceived as a hell-spawned demon is not only something the franchise needed it's also a hell of an image to take away with you.
So blowjobs all round for everyone involved. Must be a big relief for DC to finally get something right on the big screen and maybe now they can take that pesky Spiderman on...