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Batman Begins (2005)


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Ugh. J.R. Jones in The Chicago Reader.

Like his predecessors, Nolan visualized Gotham as "New York cubed," and in keeping with the downbeat-realism aesthetic, the cityscape is pocked with vast hillside shantytowns like those in Rio de Janeiro. Some exteriors were shot in Chicago, most memorably a hell-for-leather car chase on Lower Wacker Drive. The climax, in which supervillain Ra's Al Ghul plots to poison Gotham's water supply, unfolds along the Chicago River. This is the first Batman movie since the September 11 attacks, and I wasn't exactly pleased to see a plot to annihilate an entire city transpiring on a bridge I cross several times a week. It reminded me of a recent Harper's story by Jeff Sharlet, in which a Christian fundamentalist in Colorado Springs learns that Sharlet is from New York City and responds, "Ka-boom!" Ra's Al Ghul expresses much the same sentiment when he tells Batman, "No one can save Gotham. . . . Purging is inevitable." If that's the way Americans generally feel about cities and city dwellers, somebody better crank up that Bat Signal, and fast.
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He has been going out on this paranoia limb more often recently. I just wrote up a short piece on his Revenge of the Sith review in which he goes off on how closely that installment mimics "American Imperialism."

I don't mind these sorts of film readings at all, but Jones is going to have to reel it back in before he gets pigeon-holed.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Anders wrote:

: Isn't Oldman a notoriously right-wing type?

Is he? Hadn't heard that. Interesting.

Re: J.R. Jones, does he really think the film expects Americans to identify with the VILLAIN who wants to destroy the city and not the HERO who wants to save it!?

And for that matter, just how "American" is this film anyway? The writer-director and the actors who play Batman, his parents, his butler, his board chairman, Sgt. Gordon and all three villains (Falconi, the Scarecrow, Henri Ducard) are all European to a man; indeed, except for Rutger Hauer, they're all from the British Isles; in fact, come to that, two of the three villains are played by Irishmen, which may have some whole OTHER subtext! Morgan Freeman and Katie Holmes are the only Americans with major roles here. (I think co-writer David S. Goyer is American, too, but it is VERY open to question just how much of the finished script is owed to him; for reference's sake, Goyer wrote all three Blade movies and directed the last one.)

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"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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IIRC, there were articles at the time of the release of The Contender reporting that he was upset that his role as the Republican conservative had been altered via rewrites or editing to make him seem despicably villainous when he had WANTED to play a right-wing politician with more integrity.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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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IIRC, there were articles at the time of the release of The Contender reporting that he was upset that his role as the Republican conservative had been altered via rewrites or editing to make him seem despicably villainous when he had WANTED to play a right-wing politician with more integrity.

That's what I was thinking of Jeffrey.

Helleewww... This is what I was talking about a few posts ago:
Well, Oldman's publicist denies that he's right-wing (this was a very early sidebar piece for American Outlook magazine)...

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"To the truth, I never actually read it." blushing.gif

"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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I saw Batman Begins. All I can say is, whoa. w00t.gif

I can die happy now. Batman has been translated to celluloid properly, in one of the most hugely enjoyable movies that I've seen since the Lord of the Rings trilogy ended. Better than the Spider-Man films (after one viewing, at least), and easily better than X-Men, Hellboy, Daredevil, the Hulk, etc., this could be the best comic-character film ever made.

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a question about Batman: to what extent did the Burton movie that started all this impact the comic book Batman, and to what extent was Batman a brooder prior to Burton's treatment? I was pretty young when I read Batman, by the mid 60's I pretty much dismissed DC in favor or Marvel. Keep in mind that the 60's popular vision of Batman was comedic (Adam West & Burt Ward).

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a question about Batman: to what extent did the Burton movie that started all this impact the comic book Batman, and to what extent was Batman a brooder prior to Burton's treatment? I was pretty young when I read Batman, by the mid 60's I pretty much dismissed DC in favor or Marvel. Keep in mind that the 60's popular vision of Batman was comedic (Adam West & Burt Ward).

The Burton film came out during a strange in-between period when both Frank Miller's dark take on Batman and the campy 60s' show were both fresh in people's minds. I think that it was influenced by both; hence, you have a dark, foreboding hero, yet lots of comic relief, and a very over-the-top, Cesar Romero-like Joker as the villain.

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

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Seriously, some of these critics are just making me really angry!

"Batman Begins is for morons."

-- Rex Reed, NEW YORK OBSERVER

No, after this shocking piece and his tirade last fall against Wes Anderson and company, I'm forced to conclude that Rex Reed is infact the "moron."

"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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Rex Reed longs for a filmic exploration of Batman's relationship with Robin, in an unhealthy way. I stopped reading him long ago, when he dogged the LOTR movies unrelentingly.

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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at least Ebert (caution, possible spoilers) liked it:

This is at last the Batman movie I've been waiting for. The character resonates more deeply with me than the other comic superheroes, perhaps because when I discovered him as a child, he seemed darker and more grown-up than the cheerful Superman. He has secrets....

....after an eight-year hiatus, the Batman franchise has finally found its way.

I said this is the Batman movie I've been waiting for; more correctly, this is the movie I did not realize I was waiting for, because I didn't realize that more emphasis on story and character and less emphasis on high-tech action was just what was needed. The movie works dramatically in addition to being an entertainment. There's something to it.

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at least Ebert (caution, possible spoilers) liked it:

This is at last the Batman movie I've been waiting for. The character resonates more deeply with me than the other comic superheroes, perhaps because when I discovered him as a child, he seemed darker and more grown-up than the cheerful Superman. He has secrets....

....after an eight-year hiatus, the Batman franchise has finally found its way.

I said this is the Batman movie I've been waiting for; more correctly, this is the movie I did not realize I was waiting for, because I didn't realize that more emphasis on story and character and less emphasis on high-tech action was just what was needed. The movie works dramatically in addition to being an entertainment. There's something to it.

Edit: mp3 audio from Ebert & Roeper here.

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Darrel Manson wrote:

: a question about Batman: to what extent did the Burton movie that started all this

: impact the comic book Batman, and to what extent was Batman a brooder prior to

: Burton's treatment?

Hard to say, as I had only been collecting Batman comics for about four to six months before the movie came out in the summer of 1989 (and the movie annoyed me so much, partly because the screenwriter Sam Hamm had written an excellent storyline, Blind Justice, for Detective Comics #598-600, which led me to expect great things from the film, which the film did NOT deliver on).

(Note: titles in bold were part of the regular Batman or Detective Comics series and have since been republished as graphic novels; the other titles were all stand-alone mini-series or one-shots, though several of these count as part of the official continuity, too, e.g. The Killing Joke.)

It wasn't just Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns (1985) and Batman: Year One (1986-87) that emphasized the darker aspects of Batman's character. Jim Starlin's Batman: The Cult (1988) was also pretty grim (and the use of a four-letter word in this comic tipped me off to the fact that it wouldn't be so odd to hear such a word in the films), and Alan Moore's The Killing Joke (1988) had the Joker crippling and possibly sexually molesting Batgirl before leading Commissioner Gordon naked through a freak show, all in an effort to drive him insane and thus prove to Batman that we are all just One Bad Day away from losing our minds just as both the Joker and Batman have already lost THEIR minds; and FWIW, in Mike W. Barr's Son of the Demon (1987), Batman had an affair with Ra's al Ghul's daughter Talia and she ended up giving the child up for adoption. And then, of course, there was A Death in the Family (1988-89), in which the Joker kills Robin. Actually, come to think of it, there was also Ten Nights of the Beast (1988), which ended with Batman trapping a villain called the KGBeast in a chamber underground and leaving him there to die; this disturbed future writers enough that they tried to pass it off as something Batman did during a moral lapse while grieving over Robin, and then tried to undo; the only problem here, of course, is that Robin was very involved in this storyline and didn't actually die until AFTER it.

For that matter, when John Byrne reinvented Superman in The Man of Steel (1986), he included a chapter in which Batman coerces Superman into doing something by planting a secret explosive somewhere that will kill someone if Superman doesn't comply.

This is just going by what's in my own collection. Those whose collections stretch back to the 1970s could probably find even earlier examples of the darker, more brooding Batman.

Personally, my own impression was that the quality of the Batman comics took a dive after the film came out and lowered everyone's expectations.

"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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Just thought of something. If the League of Shadows are stand-ins for jihadists, then perhaps this sheds a whole new light on the phrase "Caped Crusader". smile.gif

"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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I saw this tonight. As usual with things like this, I'll give my initial impressions without having read this thread.

First off, I like Chris Nolan as a director. I liked Memento, I liked Following and I didn't dislike Insomnia despite the fact that I tend to avoid two members of its cast. I had high hopes for Batman Begins when Aronofsky was supposed to be directing it, and I had high hopes for it when I learned that Nolan would be directing it instead.

I liked this film as entertainment, but it was disappointing as art. Too many cliches, too many uneven moments. Too many scenes seemed tacked on or out of place or unnecessary. I liked it more than either Spider-man movie simply because it annoyed me less. I liked it more than any other Batman movie simply because it didn't suck, although the Burton films have faded from my memory and could indeed have been better. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if I revisited at least the 1989 Batman and found that it was a better film.

I don't really have an opinion on Christian Bale as Batman. It seems to me that you can take any white male in Hollywood, stick a mask on him, and tell him to talk with a raspy voice, and you've got yourself a Batman. I think that Christian Bale is probably a step above the average Hollywood actor, but this isn't really the role for showing that off. Katie Holmes also did a great job portraying an attractive woman, so I guess the casting was perfect.

I guess my summary of Batman Begins is that it was "too Hollywood", but it's probably a cop out to even say that without giving a definition. This movie dumbed itself down to appeal to a wider variety of people, and I can't help but feel that I'm being condescended to by a scriptwriter who thinks I should laugh at some guy saying "nice car" when someone pulls up in a Batmobile. I think I hate that most about American cinema fare. I hated that about Batman Begins, but I enjoyed the experience anyway.

Edit: After more deliberation I'll say this: the first two-thirds of this film were good, while the rest was a mess.

Edited by theoddone33
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Wow, reading back through this thread it appears that I really missed the status quo on this one. That's OK, I'm cool with not liking something that tanked in the last 30 minutes.

I did like guy from 28 Days Later in this. It's nice to see him in movies without male nudity and zombies.

IMDB is very enthusiastic about this movie. It's at number 68 on the top 250, and various comments on the messageboards indicate that it should win Oscars. Ridiculous.

Edited by theoddone33
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For that matter, when John Byrne reinvented Superman in The Man of Steel (1986), he included a chapter in which Batman coerces Superman into doing something by planting a secret explosive somewhere that will kill someone if Superman doesn't comply.

However Peter, don't forget that it turned out that the "innocent person" who would have been killed had Superman not done what he said was actually Batman himself, not some random person. Batman knew that Superman could likely tell if he was lying, so he needed to actually put someone in danger (of course the ridiculous part is that Superman can hear Batman's heartbeat, etc. and tell if he's lying, but he can't find the hidden explosive device on his person).

"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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theoddone33 wrote:

: I don't really have an opinion on Christian Bale as Batman. It seems to me that you

: can take any white male in Hollywood, stick a mask on him, and tell him to talk with

: a raspy voice, and you've got yourself a Batman.

Sure. But who would you rather have as BRUCE WAYNE? Bale, or Keaton/Kilmer/Clooney?

Anders wrote:

: However Peter, don't forget . . .

Shhhhhh, no giving away spoilers, Anders!

Anyhoo, the spoiler doesn't change anything -- I believe Batman, on that very occasion, uses the word "Machiavellian" to describe his tactics, and that suits the "dark" vision of the character quite well, 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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Anders wrote:

: However Peter, don't forget . . .

Shhhhhh, no giving away spoilers, Anders!

Anyhoo, the spoiler doesn't change anything -- I believe Batman, on that very occasion, uses the word "Machiavellian" to describe his tactics, and that suits the "dark" vision of the character quite well, I think.

Whoops! Sorry. I wasn't thinking that it would be a big deal. And I did actually like Man of Steel a fair bit. And I agree with you. It does fit with a "dark" vision of Batman and contrasts him quite clearly with the "Boy Scout" that Superman is.

That's one thing though that I liked about Batman Begins as well. I think it portrays a rather balanced view of Batman and his attitude, not unlike the Animated Series.

"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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