Monday, June 27, 2005

The Traveler & Batman Begins

I posted my review of The Traveler last night. A gripping, frightening novel that eerily mirrors our own society. This book is going to be big. The Web sites associated with the book are receiving continual updates, too:

I saw Batman Begins yesterday and the movie lived up to the hype. At the time, I thought Michael Keaton was a pretty good Batman, but Christian Bale IS Bruce Wayne/Batman. A lot has been said of how well the character of Bruce Wayne was built up before he donned the cape and cowl and it's true. I really think the little early scenes with Bruce and Thomas (Bruce's dad) Wayne were great and showed how good a relationship there was between father and son, which lent greater impact to Bruce's loss. Bruce's frustration with where his life was or wasn't going and his world travels and training in the League of Shadows all helped to build up Bruce Wayne as he grew into the role of Batman. This film did a lot of things right in capturing what makes Batman such a mythic icon.

The early instances of Batman on screen are handled superbly well, he is in the shadows and you don't get a complete image of him. As the film moves on, the image of Batman becomes more clear, a nice parallel between Bruce's vision of himself and what the audience sees. The strongest influence on this story, from the comics, is without a doubt, Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's definitive origin story, Batman: Year One. Nolan and screenwriter Goyer lifted scenes directly from the pages and as in BYO, Batman is not perfect, he bounces around walls and gets banged up. The scene with the bats in Arkham was just about lifted from BYO as well, it was effective on the comic page and even more so on the screen. The feel of parts of the story of this movie also had a lot in common with Loeb/Sale's The Long Halloween.

The animated series did much to capture the essence of Batman, and in the series, Kevin Conroy voiced Wayne/Batman for many years, and still does on Justice League Unlimited. Before seeing Batman Begins, his was the voice I heard in my head when reading the comics, now it will be Bale's voice. Bale was delightfully insane in American Psycho, and the intensity he showed in that role carried through here, though there were no scenes of him runing nude with a chainsaw.

The remaining cast members were absolutely perfect and like a lot have already said, Gary Oldman is Comissioner Gordon. Morgan Freeman seemed like he had a lot of fun playing Lucius Fox, he had the best one liners. Michael Caine was very good as Alfred. The people who played Bruce's Parents, especially his father were very good, Liam Neeson was excellent as well and the Ra's al Ghul scenes were great. Katie Holmes looked good and I thought the relationship between her and Bruce was handled very well, especially the end.

If I can raise any complaint it was that the film was a bit too long, but I find that to be the case with most films nowadays. Comparing this to other recent comic-book films is almost like comparing apples and oranges. The Spider-Man films were excellent, but a bit more bright. As much as loved the Spider-Man films, I have to say Batman Begins topped them. This is probably the best movie I've seen since The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

As did Spider-Man 1 & 2, Batman Begins ended on an almost perfect note with Batman leaping from a top a building. As in BYO, the foundation for Gordon and Batman's relationship is set and I cannot wait until the sequel. Additionally, a lot of groundwork was laid for future sequels and the last exchange between Gordon and Batman hit me with a huge amount of fanboy glee, though to be honest the whole film really did. This wasn't just a great superhero/comic adaptation, it was a great film period. Dramatic tension, superbly acted characters, great action and overall, a wildly entertaining film. I want to go and see it again, something I haven't done in theaters since Empire Strikes Back.

I think Lou Anders agrees, too.

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