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Batman Begins (2005)


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Jeffrey writes in his review that

Christopher Nolan distinguishes himself amongst comic-book film directors by focusing so intently on storytelling and character development that he forgets almost entirely about special effects.
.

Last night after seeing the film, as my wife and I were trying to digest our experience over some mexican food, we came to somewhat the same conclusion. Here is a film that actually tries to develop character. Sure, there's a nice car chase and some good fight scenes, but the focus of this film is the conflict that is Batman. It's a wonderful insight into Wayne's character that

he doesn't kill Chill because he decides it's wrong but because someone gets to him first

. Lesser films would have shied away from this ambiguity.

Jesus is not a zombie...I shouldn't have to tell you that.

--Agent Booth, Bones

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Saw it last night and loved it. It didn't feel like I was watching a superhero movie. Sure, there's a guy running around in tights and cape, there are a few monologues, and whatnot. But it felt far more mythical and epic than any superhero movie I've seen.

And it had ninjas! What else could you want?!? ninja_hide.gif

I think I remember a (minor) complaint somewhere up above about the fight scenes not being shot so that the audience could see the moves, but I think that is the point. I remember one of Ducard's lines about how fighting is not a dance. The League of Shadows' fighting style is quick and severe and meant to incapacitate the opponent quickly. Also, I think that Nolan's attempted effect was to represent Batman seeming supernatural - but not to us the audience - to his foes. He's so quick, so powerful, so stealthy, so fear-inspiring that he's just this black mass/force/persona knocking down all in his path. The fight scenes represented that to me, and I think it fits.

My thoughts exactly. Although I'd love to see a Batman movie tackle the fight scenes like a classic kung fu movie, the closeness and tightness of the fight choreography worked for me. It added a brutality and an immediacy to the action, making Batman seem, like you said, more a "black mass/force/persona" than a guy in tights. Which, if I was Batman, would be the effect I'd want to have.

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I buy that explanation of filming fight scenes so they can't be seen -- once. The first time, it works -- we experience Batman as his foes do, something you can't even get a good look at, let alone hit. But if Batman is sufficiently humanized and demythologized for us the audience that we can see him slam ungracefully into the side of a building or crash disoriented several stories to the ground, we can get a good look at his fighting style, no matter how mythically efficient and brutal it's supposed to be.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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I saw it and really enjoyed it. I loved the visual look of the film, it had a dark gritty yet real look to it. The shots of Gotham were clear and striking. And I thought the scenes with the bats flying around were done quite well too. All the characters in the film delivered. And finally we get to know the character of Batman himself in a way that the other films never showed. The Burton films were OK for their time, but this Batman film had more depth, a graphic novel rather than a comic book.

And yes, the Ninjas were cool!

w00t.gif

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tctruffin wrote:

: It's a wonderful insight into Wayne's character that

he doesn't kill Chill because he

:

decides it's wrong but because someone gets to him first

.

FWIW, I have a copy of The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, a compilation put out by DC Comics in 1989 (the 50th anniversary of the first Batman story), and on pages 66-78 it reprints 'The Origin of Batman' from Batman #47 (1948), in which Batman discovers that the man who killed his parents is Joe Chill -- a gangster who smuggles criminals across state boundaries. Batman tries to trap the guy on a couple of occasions, and finally resorts to removing his cowl and telling him that he'll always be watching him. Chill, scared, runs to some other gangsters and asks them for help, but when they find out that Chill is responsible for the superhero who has thwarted so many of their crimes, they kill Chill -- and then they go, "Whoops, we forgot to find out from him what Batman's real name is." Then Batman swoops in and knocks them all out.

One of many things I always hated about Burton's film was that he had it so Batman's parents were killed by the man who ended up becoming the Joker. One critic remarked at the time that this gave the film a revenge-themed climax -- a climax that might have undermined the likelihood that Batman would continue with his crimefighting.

Suffice to say Nolan's film avoids that pitfall wonderfully. And, as I remark at my blog, Nolan actually makes Joe Chill HIMSELF somewhat sympathetic -- he was driven to desparation by the depression, and the depression itself was caused by the actions of others, etc., etc. NONE of this excuses the fact that Chill did something WRONG. But Nolan does not make it EASY for us to despise the murderer of Batman's parents, the way that Burton did; instead, in a deft and economical way, he asks us to consider the forces of good and evil tugging on even THIS man's heart.

Gosh, I love this film. And I love Nolan. I have seen Memento several times, but Insomnia only once. I will have to rewatch my copy soon.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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It's making me giddy to see the enthusiasm for this film. I'm so excited to have a mainstream action director who is so interested in substantial storytelling again. I hope that Warner Brothers learns a good lesson from this. But if mainstream critics don't stop bashing it (and an alarming number of them are), and if attendance doesn't SKYROCKET in the next few days, I'm afraid the studio will learn the WRONG lesson.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I just flipped through Frank Miller's Batman: Year One and realized that Gordon's partner in that story was also named Flass (and Gordon beats him up and leaves him naked and handcuffed in the woods, in order to teach him a lesson).

I was also reminded that, for some years at any least, the tradition has been that the Waynes went to see a Zorro movie the night that Joe Chill killed Bruce's parents; one masked hero inspired another. So what significance is there, I wonder, in the fact that this film has the Waynes going to see an opera about the demonic underworld (specifically, Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele) on the night of their murder? Instead of being inspired by another masked hero, Bruce Wayne is inspired by, um, Satan?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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The problem with a lot of these critics who don't like the film is that, contrary to what they want us to believe (because as you know, they've seen Burton's 1989 "masterpiece" and thus are the experts; or as Peter notsoaffectionately told us they were known, "batfags") they DO NOT UNDERSTAND BATMAN. Liking Burton's first film better than the three that followed, does not a fan make.

The more I think about it, I agree with Peter that Burton's films are not very good. They are campy. As I was re-reading some old posts, I came across a comment where Peter called Burton a "would-be-animator." Brilliant turn of phrase that is perfectly true. At leastI think it's true. So many of my friends in University go ga-ga for Burton. But as I once pointed out, weirdness for weirdness sake is rarely interesting. Every one of Burton's films, with the exception of Ed Wood is seriously flawed in some way (though I still enjoy Sleepy Hollow; probably too much), usually because of Burton's excesses. I really dread Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, becuase I know all these critics are going to lavish praise over the film as Depp completely misplays the character and Burton goes over-the-top with the weirdness. Then someone's going to bemoan the fact that Burton didn't make this Batman film. Then I'm going to kick something and possibly utter a curseword.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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For that matter, what significance might there be in the fact that a COMIC shows the character getting his inspiration from a MOVIE, but a MOVIE shows him getting his inspiration from an OPERA? Would it have been too self-consciously cinematically intertextual, I wonder, if the MOVIE had depicted another MOVIE?

Re: box-office, the film grossed $15 million yesterday, giving it the 11th-highest Wednesday opening ever. Of the 18 films that opened on a Wednesday and made over $10 million on their first day, only one (a Pokemon movie) failed to make $100 million, and only four others (The Matrix Revolutions, Jurassic Park III, Men in Black II, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) failed to make $200 million. Note that all of that last batch were sequels, and most of them were, in fact, sequels to sequels. Hopefully Batman Begins will not be regarded as a sequel at all, and will not fall into that category.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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So what significance is there, I wonder, in the fact that this film has the Waynes going to see an opera about the demonic underworld (specifically, Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele) on the night of their murder?  Instead of being inspired by another masked hero, Bruce Wayne is inspired by, um, Satan?

Well, of course he isn't exactly inspired by the opera. Miller portrays young Bruce Wayne dancing and fencing the air after Zorro, giddy with excitement; Nolan's Bruce is

terrified of the bat-like demons on the stage, and his fear leads indirectly his parents' death

. To me, the significance is simply that it ties into the movie's overriding theme of fear, and that Bruce ultimately seeks to channel his fears and turn them outward against his enemies.

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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The problem with a lot of these critics who don't like the film is that, contrary to what they want us to believe (because as you know, they've seen Burton's 1989 "masterpiece" and thus are the experts; or as Peter notsoaffectionately told us they were known, "batfags") they DO NOT UNDERSTAND BATMAN. Liking Burton's first film better than the three that followed, does not a fan make.

Um, that was me, I believe, not Peter. smile.gif (Sometimes even I mix us up. wink.gif ) Otherwise, word. Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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It's making me giddy to see the enthusiasm for this film. I'm so excited to have a mainstream action director who is so interested in substantial storytelling again. I hope that Warner Brothers learns a good lesson from this. But if mainstream critics don't stop bashing it (and an alarming number of them are), and if attendance doesn't SKYROCKET in the next few days, I'm afraid the studio will learn the WRONG lesson.

I'm a bit concerned about this too. I'll be very surprised if this isn't the best film of the summer, and it deserves to be the biggest hit. Hopefully word of mouth will make it a smash.

I think that Anders is right about the critical tendency to fancy oneself as an expert on everything; like you said to me on the phone, Jeffrey, many critics seem to have wanted a "return to Burton," and the fact that Nolan is doing something else seems to be leaving some of them cold.

I also wonder whether for some critics it might not go against the grain politically to cheer for a movie in which a hero conducts a literal war on terror against an enemy organization that embraces beheadings, terror, and weapons of mass destruction against urban targets in its quest to combat human decadence. I dunno, maybe it's being seen as a Red State kinda movie??

Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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SDG wrote:

: Well, of course he isn't exactly inspired by the opera.

Actually, he is, sort of. He specifically tells Alfred that he is becoming a bat because he fears bats and it is time that villains felt his "dread". That's one of those lines I'm thinking of when I say that the script is occasionally a bit too comic-book-ish for my taste.

: Miller portrays young Bruce Wayne dancing and fencing the air after Zorro, giddy with

: excitement . . .

In The Dark Knight Returns, possibly, but not in Year One.

: Nolan's Bruce is

terrified of the bat-like demons on the stage, and his fear leads

:

indirectly his parents' death

. To me, the significance is simply that it ties into the

: movie's overriding theme of fear, and that Bruce ultimately seeks to channel his

: fears and turn them outward against his enemies.

Yes, this fits what I said above, I think.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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SDG wrote:

: Well, of course he isn't exactly inspired by the opera.

Actually, he is, sort of.  He specifically tells Alfred that he is becoming a bat because he fears bats and it is time that villains felt his "dread".

Well, yeah, but that goes back to the fall into the cave. The night of the opera is just an extension of that.

In any case, I think it's reasonable to say that it's the batlike nature of the opera imagery, not the satanic associations, that is most relevant here.

That's one of those lines I'm thinking of when I say that the script is occasionally a bit too comic-book-ish for my taste.

An occasional comic-book type line I can deal with. Now, a line that jumped out at ME was on the plane ride home, before Bruce has developed his Batman identity, when Alfred says something that shows that he instantly understands and accepts the whole concept of dual identity that Bruce has in mind. I thought it was too quick, like Alfred understood he was in a comic-book movie. I thought it should have been preceded by something like "Wait a minute, what exactly are you suggesting?"

: Miller portrays young Bruce Wayne dancing and fencing the air after Zorro, giddy with

: excitement . . .

In The Dark Knight Returns, possibly, but not in Year One.

Correct. I can see the panels in my mind's eye, and they're drawn by Klaus Jansen, not David Mazzuchelli (who is my idol BTW). Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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Mazzuchelli rocks.

I liked DKR, but Year One made me a Batman fan, and it was 95% Mazzuchelli.

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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You people have me stoked. I will never be able to help the fact that I love comic book films, especially ones that are made well. CANNOT WAIT to get to the theater, except that this week the biggest question is: The Holy Girl or Batman, The Holy Girl or Batman, The Holy Girl or Batman.....??

Love the thread and all the thoughts here, especially Peter's thoughts on the opera and Satan and SDG's thoughts on Batman vs. The Left.

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Saw the film for a second time tonight. I loved it even more a second time. This time I was really struck by how they make Gordon a hero. It's about time! I've always loved the character, and they never got it right (execpt again in TAS; if you haven't noticed, it's just about my favourite TV show of all time. I've got all 3 Volumes on DVD so far). I really hope they manage to get Gary Oldman to stick around for the next one.

Some comments about major spoilers.

spoilers1.gif

I thought it was brilliant how

Liam Neeson's character ended up being Ra's Al Ghul in the end

. It really took me by surprise, partly because I have never read the Henri Ducard storyline from back in the day. I love Batman and have read a lot of the comics, but I still have to admit that I don't know every storyline or detail. I will defer to a more knowledgeable source. I've always known Ra's from the "Son of the Demon" storyline, etc. The question for SDG is

what is the deal with Ducard in the comics? Does he actually have any connection to Ra's? Either way, I'm happy to have more Liam Neeson in the film, and to tell the truth Neeson fits better with how I always pictured Ra's Al Ghul anyway. Loved it.

Also, SDG, I want to say I love that you point out in your review that the film mispronounces the name Ra's Al Ghul, or at least differently than I always understood it. IIRC, even in the animated series they call him "Raish" rather than "Raz," no?

Oh, and walking out of the theatre tonight, some "expert" was complaning about how "They got it all wrong. They were making a prequel and how come they don't even have the guy who shoots them say 'You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?'" I was about to turn around and throttle the guy. I wanted to say "Becaue they want you to forget those other films even exist you fool!" I'm hoping the fact that this is a "reboot" instead of a "remake" doesn't pass over the heads of too many people and that this doesn't hurt the film at the box office.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Good grief, some people are morons. Like I say at my blog, I always HATED the fact that the Tim Burton film had the Joker kill the Waynes, and not Joe Chill. I'm with you, Anders -- I'd like to throttle the guy myself.

As for humour -- well, this film HAD humour, and in just the right doses. And because I had seen the film at a press screening before I took my wife to see it Monday night, I had the pleasure of knowing exactly when to expect her to laugh, and sure enough, she did. (Alfred's "I was thinking about meself" line, Lucius's "Oh you wouldn't be interested in THAT" line, etc.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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FWIW, from the National Post's profile of Gary Oldman:

The vigilante subtext was especially intriguing to Oldman. "I think Gotham is just like America," he says. "People going around getting on with their business, pretending something isn't there.

"Then there's the corruption and the crime and the bad guys, who think they are good guys, but for some mysterious reason, want to blow everybody up."

My first instinct was that Oldman was probably referring to Bush & Co. But maybe there is some way to interpret this as a comment on the jihadists?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Oh, he's most likely refering to jihadists. Isn't Oldman a notoriously right-wing type?

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Mazzuchelli rocks.

I liked DKR, but Year One made me a Batman fan, and it was 95% Mazzuchelli.

Have you seen their earlier collaboration in Daredevil: Born Again? Mazz is in even better form there, though it's earlier work. What puts Born Again over Year One in my book is the wonderfully textured brushwork; by Year One he was going for a more minimalist look with more uniform lines, and as great as it is it's less interesting to me than Born Again.

BTW, fifteen ago when I was making a serious effort to break into comics, sending submissions to Marvel and DC on a regular basis (which I kept up for about six months before I burned out and decided to try graduate religious studies), I had the privilege of a portfolio review with David Mazzuchelli, during which he commented that my work reminded him of his own early work. It was the best compliment I've ever been paid. smile.gif

Also, SDG, I want to say I love that you point out in your review that the film mispronounces the name Ra's Al Ghul, or at least differently than I always understood it. IIRC, even in the animated series they call him "Raish" rather than "Raz," no?

I think so. The whole point of that apostrophe is that it means that the "s" is asperated ("sh" rather than "s").

Regarding your spoiler question, I'm very weak on pre-Miller Batman and don't know anything about Ducard. I actually thought he was created for the film.

Oh, he's most likely refering to jihadists. Isn't Oldman a notoriously right-wing type?

Well, Oldman's publicist denies that he's right-wing (this was a very early sidebar piece for American Outlook magazine), but I suspect that this is a dodge. And yeah, I think it's safe to say Oldman means the jihadists. Edited by SDG

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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BTW, fifteen ago when I was making a serious effort to break into comics, sending submissions to Marvel and DC on a regular basis (which I kept up for about six months before I burned out and decided to try graduate religious studies), I had the privilege of a portfolio review with David Mazzuchelli, during which he commented that my work reminded him of his own early work. It was the best compliment I've ever been paid. smile.gif

Just when I thought you couldn't get any cooler... wink.gif

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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BTW, fifteen ago when I was making a serious effort to break into comics, sending submissions to Marvel and DC on a regular basis (which I kept up for about six months before I burned out and decided to try graduate religious studies), I had the privilege of a portfolio review with David Mazzuchelli, during which he commented that my work reminded him of his own early work. It was the best compliment I've ever been paid. smile.gif

Man, that is totally awesome! Just out of curiousity, what sort of submissions did you make to Marvel and DC? Did you invent your own characters and stuff?

Well, I was originally supposed to see Batman tonight, but I got stood up by the group I was going with (grrrr) so now I'll have to reschedule. Hopefully Saturday or Sunday I'll finally get to see it. I've heard nothing but praise for it so far.

-"I... drink... your... milkshake! I drink it up!"

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Mazzuchelli rocks.

I liked DKR, but Year One made me a Batman fan, and it was 95% Mazzuchelli.

Have you seen their earlier collaboration in Daredevil: Born Again? Mazz is in even better form there, though it's earlier work. What puts Born Again over Year One in my book is the wonderfully textured brushwork; by Year One he was going for a more minimalist look with more uniform lines, and as great as it is it's less interesting to me than Born Again.

BTW, fifteen ago when I was making a serious effort to break into comics, sending submissions to Marvel and DC on a regular basis (which I kept up for about six months before I burned out and decided to try graduate religious studies), I had the privilege of a portfolio review with David Mazzuchelli, during which he commented that my work reminded him of his own early work. It was the best compliment I've ever been paid. smile.gif

Indeed!

I haven't read Daredevil at all, except maybe for a moldering old issue in some back issue bin, where he is still in the yellow-and-brown costume. I was always a bigger DC fan than Marvel. I'd be interested in seeing DM's Born Again, though.

I find it hard to believe it's better than Year One. For me, the uniform lines, the stark simplicity of every panel, the reduction of every element to its barest essentials is what makes Year One's artwork sing. I have NEVER seen a better Batman image than the panel that closes out Year One, with Batman leaping towards the camera and the Batsignal in the bg. I can see it in my mind's eye as clear as day. There is not a single extra fleck of ink in that shot anywhere. It is stark, simple, elegant, powerful. It fits the tone of the story perfectly.

In my artwork, I strive for that kind of stark contrast, but I don't have the skill to boil things down to such simplicity.

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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