Batman Begins (12a)

Directed by Christopher Nolan
On general release from 16th June 2005

Reviewed by Kenn Taylor

The famous Batman comic-book character was saved from being remembered for the camp 1960s TV series by Tim Burton’s great 1989 Batman. However the sequels got progressively worse till the god-awful Batman & Robin in 1997 which seemed to be the end for the caped crusader in the movies. But the franchise has now been resurrected by Memento director Christopher Nolan as a new summer blockbuster.

As the title suggests, the film takes us back to the origins of how Bruce - the heir to the millionaire Wayne fortune - became Batman the superhero, who fights against injustice in Gotham City. It opens with a dishevelled looking Bruce (Christian Bale) trapped in a Chinese prison camp before he is rescued by the Obi-Wan-like Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) - a member of a vigilante group who recruits Bruce, teaching him how to master his fear and become a fighter of injustice in the world. This is intercut with the childhood trauma that the young Bruce had to face. However, Wayne has a lot to learn before he can return to the crumbling Gotham and take on the forces of evil.

This is a ‘big’ film in every sense of the word: big stars, big sets, big themes, big budget but it manages to avoid getting overblown...just.

The old master-training-brave-but-unskilled-youngster bit has been done to death and better (Kill Bill, Star Wars, Highlander) and the acting in the lead roles is nothing exciting. Christian Bale looks brooding and troubled while Katie Holmes as DA Rachel Davies has a bit of fire but mostly just looks pretty and needs rescuing. Much better performances come in from supporting roles with Gary Oldman showing his versatility as incorruptible cop Jim Gordon and Cillian Murphy as twisted psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Crane.

Like in Burton’s Batman, the themes get as dark as the sets in places, with ruminations on the nature of fear, justice and revenge but there is a bit of humour to lighten things.

Don‘t fear Batman fans, this is one you can go and see without cringing. And for the rest of us it’s not a bad bit of Hollywood escapism.

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