Holy Revisionist History Batman!
Okay it's been almost a month since Batman Begins came and I've already seen it twice (not because I particularly loved it, but because I just felt like it), so here's my thoughts on the movie.
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS
Major Spoilers is one bad military mofo. You see him everywhere on the net these days with the words "WARNING" preceding his name. He sent me and email demanding that I include his trademark warning in my next blog entry, otherwise "the puppy gets it". He couldn't mean Sassy! She's so cute:
Aaaw don't annihilate my puppy Major Spoilers!
Seriously, though, I'm gonna devulge quite a few things you may not want to know if you haven't seen the movie. I'm too lazy to do that swipe-and-reveal thing with text fonts so this is purely read-at-your-own-risk.
First off I must say I loved the first half of this movie. They did a great job setting up Bruce Wayne's character and explaining his means and his motivations. They did take a few liberties with the character... Lucious Fox is now the scientific bat-brain, which is alright. I guess you can't expect one man to do everything all by himself. Bruce also gains a fear of bats when he's just a kid. I thought that was cool. This aspect of his youth also served to add more depth to the defining event in Bruce's life: his parents' murders. This time, instead of leaving a theater showing The Mask Of Zorro, they are leaving an opera filled with folks dressed up as (what else?) bats. A frightened Bruce begs his father to leave the opera house, and it is right after that Joe Chill shows up and commits that fateful crime. That sows the seed of guilt in the young Wayne, and the desire to redeem himself somehow.
We get other interesting divergences from the comicbook: Bruce attempting to murder the man who kill his parents (he fails; someone else beat him to the punch), Bruce travelling the world in an angry and (perhaps) misguided attempt to understand the criminal mind, Bruce training with the League of Shadows under the watch of the enigmatic Ra's Al Ghul, Bruce forming a bond with his mentor Ducard, Bruce refusing to subscribe to the League's extreme philosophy of justice... all good stuff.
I even liked the middle act quite a bit. The important aspects of the Bat-getup and his gizmos are explored and explained. The beginnings of Batman's relationship with Jim Gordon are poignant and amusing. Alfred throws in a few great one-liners. Bruce Wayne experiments with the foppish playboy persona he uses to throw off any suspicion that he might be the Bat.
Ironically, it's when the superhero stuff kicks in when things start to fall apart. The first appearance of Batman is a little dissatisfying. The whole scare-em-first-then-kick-their-butts idea is good, but I wasn't entirely convinced with the execution. I wasn't certain why the mafia thugs got as scared as they did as quickly as they did. Then when Bats finally comes out with fists flying, we see... nothing. Really. I can't tell you how Bats takes down the thugs because the camera is spinning past the scene of the fight too fast for you to tell what's going on. He could've gotten into a pillow fight with them or pepper sprayed them for all I know.
Then when the final plot to destroy Gotham is unveiled, I just could not believe how convulated it was. Let's see... there's some crazy gas you need to inhale, that makes you scared of everything, and someone's put it in the water supply, but oh! the people of Gotham need to breathe it not drink it, so a big WayneTech microwave emitter is stolen, and get this, it heats up all the surrounding water so that it vaporizes instantaneously! So that's how they're gonna get the crazy gas into the air! But first they need to put it on this bullet-train that goes around Gotham, so they'll blow all the water lines! Yeah! And then all of Gotham will inhale crazy gas and everyone will start killing each other because... they're scared? Huh?
Finally, when it's revealed who the big bad dude behind all this overly complicated evilness is, it's another huge letdown. Firstly, it's cliched as hell. Oh, Bruce's mentor and "friend" Ducard is behind this? You don't say. But wait, this one I wasn't expecting... Ducard isn't Ducard. He's Ra's Al Ghul! What the hell. When did Ra's turn white? That's like revealing at the end of the upcoming Superman Returns movie that Lex Luthor is actually a bisexual woman. It's just a little unneccessary, and feels like a very cheap attempt at creating shock value. I hope Ken Watanabe comes back in the next movie and tells Bruce, "That Ducard was just messin' with ya, I'm the real deal and look, my Lazurus Pit brought me back from the dead! Like it does in the comics! Muahahahaha! Oh btw here's my really hot daughter Talia played by Zhang Ziyi, that cute chick from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon:"
The final act is not all bad. Dr Crane/Scarecrow is entertaining when he's doing his thing, though he does get a really lame sendoff (he gets electrocuted while riding a horse and rides off into the night screaming like a sissy). I like what Rachel has to say to Bruce at the end, about him really being Batman, and Bruce just being the mask. I like that she tells him she'll wait for the day Batman is no longer needed in Gotham.
In the end, I'm two minds about this movie... I think it's because it seems more like two movies: a good origin story and a lame live-action version of a saturday morning cartoon. I'll still watch the next one though. Especially if Zhang Ziyi is in it.