I saw Batman Begins this weekend. It made me very happy. It had moral ambiguity, sympathetic characters and a plot that didn’t make my eyes roll back in my head, plus some genuinely scary moments and an excellent sense of mood. Plus Cillian Murphy, but we`ll get to that in a moment.
Batty batty bat, batty batty bat… 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3…
Of course, I can’t reward a movie that made me happy by not heckling it, so I`m going to heckle anyway. I’ve protected the spoilers, but even so you should avoid reading this if you haven’t seen it, because I`d hate for a good part to come up and you be distracted by remembering my crappy heckle.
Let us begin, the good and bad together.
- It started out sorta self-serious for my taste (tho` I realize my tastes would have everybody running around making pop references like the cast of Scream on a joint VH-1/meth binge). Neeson stomps through a series of “fear is the little death, fear is the mind-killer” aphorisms, providing the kind of fireside chats and new-student-humbling swordfights that were already homages in Kill Bill. But then the movie goes and *expands on the themes it presents.* After Revenge of the Sith this made my head go all swimmy — a mentor character makes a series of dour pronouncements, and they *figure into the character* and *guide the story’s choices*? Who wha wha? Dollars to donuts Christian Bale teabags Ewan MacGregor at the next sexy British badass convention. Who’s Batman, huh? Who’s Batman? GO WALES!
- Michael Caine is good. So good. Bruce Wayne’s dad would say something in a flashback, and it would come off kinda flat. Then Michael Caine would repeat it twenty minutes later, and it would sound warm and rich and fatherly and genius. I wanted to try that with other characters, like, oh, I dunno…
Um, it’s OK if you don’t wake up. No, seriously. It’s cool.
Katie Holmes was GHASTLY. Admitted she’s fighting an uphill battle as a 26-year-old District Attorney who you can tell is Very Serious because she wears stud earrings and the jewel tones from H&M, and she doesn’t have much to do but get mad at Bruce Wayne and keep the plot moving, but that’s no excuse. In fact, here are three actresses off the top of my head who would have been better in the part:
No Scientologists here.
One problem with Katie is her voice is high — there’s a seriousness that’s hard to convey when a telemarketer would ask for your mom (heh heh — your mom). Another is that her mouth is set at a diagonal, so even the slightest Dawson smirk gets double the inappropriate points — in the car after Joe Chill gets offed, she makes a speech about justice versus vengeance, smirking away. Then her beloved childhood friend reveals his plan to shoot his parents` killer, pistol in his lap and everything, and she slaps him *twice*, and then cut back to her expression and SHE`S STILL GOT THAT DAMN SMIRK! I haven’t seen that much smirking since the last State of the Union.
I found out from my meager mediocre acting experience that because the corners of my mouth turn up I have to actively make a mad face when I`m being serious, otherwise I look like either I`m going to crack up or I`m an insufferable prick, neither of which normally suits the material. That’s sorta what’s happening with Katie in this movie. I can see a meeting between Katie Holmes and her people and Christopher Nolan and his people: “See, I know I`m grossly underqualified, but I’ve got a plan with this actor guy who’s kind of a big deal, `cause he’s got a movie coming out that summer, too, and if you cast me I bet we can announce our engagement the week Batman is released.” Then everyone sells their soul and I get the giggles so bad I can’t pay attention.
- On the other hand, Cillian Murphy was verra, verra good and made me happy in my bathing suit area. Whether he’s just milling around being evil or worried about “the BAT. MANNNNN,” that man’s all right with me.
Yeah, you right, I sexy.
It didn’t hurt that by his first appearance the movie had just hooked me and I was done fussing about whether the rich-ass Waynes would have had that old well filled in. It also didn’t hurt that the second time he shows up I suddenly remembered I had seen him nekkid in 28 Days Later, and that’s always a weird moment (for an American, anyway). But what nailed it for me is his “the BAT. MANNNNN” moment which is perfectly perfect, not too big, not too dry, and beautifully built into the context: the appearance of Batman pulls him away from torturing Katie Holmes, which is the only thing that really gets his noodle going (can’t say I blame him; and he’s drawn from his reverie with this perfect combination of irritation and coitus-interruptus glow.
I think the thing about him is that parts of his face are exquisitely crafted, just pretty beyond pretty, but as a whole his face is a little peculiar. So while he *is* pretty, he could never *play* pretty, and this is the phenotypical distinction between him and Tom Welling.
- Batman on geography: Bruce gets chucked out of a Chinese prison (said a dude behind me in the theater: “They just dumped him? That sucks.”). Then he climbs a big-ass snowy mountain (Himalayas, yes?) and ends up in… Japan? The architecture looks Japanese, and then there’s a bunch of ninjas, and then there’s a samurai motif with the swords and costumes, and then there’s Ken Watanabe. But later you find out this is Liam Neeson’s enterprise, so maybe he was gonna build it in Japan but got scared off by the real estate prices. Never know.
- Batman on race relations: Bruce refuses to execute a convicted murderer. Fine. But to avoid it he blows up a compound, killing hundreds of people. Okay. But then he goes wa-a-a-ay out of his way to rescue the only other white dude in the joint! Damn! All you Chinese ninjas can burn in hell, but I`ll be damned if Whitey Whiterson goes off a cliff.
In other news, I sorta wish that Katie Holmes` character hadn’t been white, because it would have lent an extra dimension to “you’re a spoiled rich kid, you don’t know what it’s like out there,” but I reckon if the Waynes are rich enough for Wayne Manor they’re rich enough for white servants, too. Then Morgan Freeman moseys in and says, “Sheesh, I`m the only black guy here? Oh, well, I`ll just be over here being dignified when you need me.”
- Batman on civic planning: Why does a multi-million dollar opera house open onto the greasiest, nastiest dead-end alley ever? That was sorta silly. At least show them walking to the rail station or something. Or maybe this is what happens after TicketMaster takes their cut.
- I really liked Bruce Wayne having to act like a mindless playboy. Very Zorro. Also very American Psycho. I`da like ta seen his business card.
I`m Patrick *Batman*. Get it?