Batman Begins (2005) 3.52/5 (3)


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Rating: The Good – 72.1
Genre: Fantasy, Action
Duration: 140 mins
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Christian Bale, Michael CaineMorgan Freeman

Last 90 minutes excellent, first 40 awful. Batman Begins is a case of director Christopher Nolan trying to do too much in one film. It begins with Bruce Wayne in some prison camp – cue token action scenes – and proceeds to tell his story through the use of flashbacks that are completely out of pace with each other. In fact, the overall pacing of those 40 mins is erratic as Nolan attempts to get all the exposition out of the way. So the “more than a man” speech comes far too early and the dialogue in general is wooden, clunky, bombastic (“What you really fear is inside yourself. You fear your own power. You fear your anger, the drive to do great or terrible things”) or outright cringe-worthy (“you’re not the devil, you’re practice”). The action is nothing we haven’t seen before and if anything it’s old hat. The ninja scene is straight out of the opening scene of Rambo III which was already lampooned by Hot Shots Part Deux so why Nolan tried to have a serious stab at it is a mystery. There are some good ideas in the opening act though. Wayne becoming a criminal and witnessing the ambiguity of crime, Tom Wilkonson’s speech that prompted Wayne to disappear are all original and thought-provoking.

Happily, once Wayne returns to Gotham, this film really takes off and it becomes quite excellent. Everything becomes more focused. The pacing settles, the score comes into its own and we are treated to one outstanding set-piece after another (with the rooftop sequence particularly standing out). Even the dialogue tightens up and becomes much more effective because of it. The cinematography throughout is splendid but peaks as the night-time cityscapes provide the backdrop to the originally executed action sequences. The seriousness of the film is also counter-weighted in the second act with Michael Caine’s light-hearted portrayal of “Alfred” providing some genuinely funny moments. With the calmer pace, the actors are given room to breathe and Christian Bale starts to show us a much more interesting and charming Wayne (though here too the ‘millionaire playboy’ scenario was rushed). Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman become relevant to the story and add great support because of it. The contrast between the first and final two acts is so stark that one wonders why Nolan just didn’t begin at the 40 minute mark The backstory could’ve been subtly sewn into its fabric with a series of unspoken shots like in Marathon Man (the type of which Nolan did briefly employ in the final act) and the film would’ve been much more fluid because of it. That said the final 90 minutes definitely make it worth wading through the first 40.

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