Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Batman Begins d. Christopher Nolan, 2005

I understand the elation - really, I do - but what about the rest of us? A boon to comic book nerds the world round (and I use the term nerds here endearingly), the new Batman film (apparently) hugs the rails of the original storyline. Wry one-liners punctuate the gravitas, Batman himself fights in a throng of blurry & indecipherable melee, and the thin barrier separating vengeance & justice is carefully teetered upon. Now: I am left with two possible courses of action 1) To maintain that I just, on the whole, do not dig Batman 2) To maintain that someone, in the midst of this faithful adaptation, screwed up in the act of making a good film. In the interest of not sounding like an elitist pop-culture curmudgeon, I'll go with the latter.

It is the last of these ("the thin barrier separating vengeance & justice") that proves the most problematic for Batman Begins. The spirit of justice is one of righting wrongs, of protecting innocents. When Bruce Wayne (Batman's alter-ego, for the cultural illiterate) refutes the idea of vengeance, opting instead for vigilante justice, his demolition car ride through the nighttide city of Gotham becomes laughably ironic. So justice is great and vengeance is bad - wouldn't want a bunch of innocents, partial or otherwise, without retribution, would we? Nor would we want some caped idiot running around destroying anything that sneezes, right? - but then the Man in Black Rubber himself, auto-professor of justice, instead of vengeance, inadvertently uses his tank of a Batmobile to destroy these innocents and their city, thereby nullifying any sense of justice. In justice's stead: bedlam. This wouldn't be problematic in the slightest if writer, director, or otherwise decided to spend a bit more time on the issue, maybe noting the hypocrisy of the situation, but not a thought is given. Nor would it be problematic if Batman Begins were a slight summer blockbuster - flashy, theatrical, and thematically puerile. Rather, Batman Begins clearly has ideas on the brain. This Vengeance v. Justice idea is only a decent one - thoroughly mined by all mediums - but it still deserves to be treated with more respect than Nolan gives it.

Add to this mess a grab bag of Hollywood cliches (the meaning-pregnant reiteration of a phrase uttered previously in the film, embarrassingly dorky one-liners, blatant cash-cow open-ended sequel mongering) and an inexplicably indecipherable action palette, and you have a film of divided halves. There are two films here: the serious, philosophical film about Bruce Wayne's inner struggle with Batman, and the summer movie* that blows stuff up. Each individual film has the equal potential for quality, but together they equal only sullied waters.

*And just to clarify, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a summer movie, or a rom-com, or anything of that sort. A good movie is a good movie, w/ all genres carrying the potential for greatness. Be it Citizen Kane or Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, if the earmarks of a well-made, quality film are there, great. Unfortunately, they're simply missing in Batman Begins.


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23 October, 2005 00:18  

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