Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Batman Begrins (spoilers!)


Batman Begrins (spoilers!)
Originally uploaded by Gelatomettista.
[jimlee]

Today is opening day for Batman Begins; the picture above was the view from my hotel room near the Grauman's theater where the premiere was hosted early last week. That building was right across the street from the theater and appropriately dominated the landscape. My wife and I had just flown back Sunday night from a wedding in Fano, Italy for the Monday premiere (was at the wedding recepion til 1:30am, slept for 2 hours and then got up at 3:30 am to drive 4 hours to Rome for our 10:30 am flight to the States!) so I was worried that I would fall asleep during the flick since it wasn't going to start til 7pm which is 4am Central European time.

Why the long trek to see the movie...well, I had a very small role in the flick. Now before you waste your time looking for me in the scenes with the Ninjas...what I contributed was at the very beginning. I did the illustrations that are part of the DC credit at the very beginning of the movie. I had seen animated logo before online when it was being created and it lasted some 12-13 seconds. I swear when I saw it on the bigscreen, it felt like 2.

After that, I left the theater and went to bed.

Just kidding. Anyway, I wanted to post my thoughts about Batman Begins before it officially opened. Deadlines got in the way, but better late than never, right?

Couple caveats before I begin. I work for the parent company that produced Batman Begins. I also draw a comic book featuring Batman which may or may not be a positive factor in that I think comic book purists are the toughest a-hole critics to please. Count me in please. I wasn't a huge fan of the original 4 films. They started out really good and then got bigger and flashier and less interesting with each sequel. Just as a litmus test, my favorite 'superhero' comic book movies are Superman, Superman 2, the Rocketeer and Spider-Man 1...and the first Matrix which though technically not based on a comic book, just nails the spirit and intelligence we all look for in a superhero flick.

And you we won't be with Batman Begins. Simply put, this is a GREAT movie; not just a great superhero movie, but a GREAT movie even if Christian Bale never donned the Cape and Cowl halfway through the flick; in other words, the origin pre-Batman was just as or more compelling than when he actually becomes the Dark Knight which is a real tribute to the director Chris Nolan (Memento, Insomnia) and screenwriter David Goyer (Blade). After 20 minutes of watching the movie, Denys Cowan who was sitting next to me, nudged me and said this is already better than all the other movies combined.

And he was right. The first 2/3s of this world are loaded with intense imagery, great scripting and fantastic acting. We see aspects of the origin never really explored before. For one, we see more of the relationship between Thomas Wayne and Bruce that I had never seen in print. No longer just a cipher, a character introduced and killed to create sympathy and motivation to the protagonist, Thomas Wayne is quickly developed to be an extremely likable character. We know instantly who and what kind of person he is and that it's Bruce's need to be like his father and his guilt over his death which drives the man behind the mask, more so than the thirst for revenge against the criminal element.

There were lines and scenes which made me go �"wow, give me more." And more they gave. Not so much in terms of the action, though there is plenty, I have to say that that kind of movie bores me to death. I know it's a function of my age as I have passed into a whole new demographic after hitting 40 but I love the scenes where we see and explore the character of Bruce Wayne and his various interpersonal relationships with his father, Alfred, and Lucius Fox more so than the end fight sequence along the streets of Gotham. Unfortunately, because we are so used to seeing action movies end in big set action sequences, we KNOW beforehand what we will be seeing and the net effect is a bit too point by point for me. Stopped the out of control train? Check. Big showdown with the main villain? Check. As visually fantastic as the action scenes were, I was more mesmerized when the ACTORS got to strut their stuff on the screen.

Which takes me to the casting which for a glitch here and there was just SUPERB. Christain Bale is so talented he can convince you that he is both 17 or 30 years old on the screen and when he looks angry, it's just primal. Cillian Murphy just KILLS as the scarecrow. His crazy piercing eyes really makes this character much more formidable than the one you see in the comics. Micheal Caine's Alfred is just a treat to watch. He can tell he is reigning it in and he still manages to steal his scenes. Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox is so damn charismatic and fatherly, it's crazy while Jim Gordon is more understatedly played by Gary Oldman who I wish we got to see more of. Probably plays a much bigger role in the sequel. Liam Neeson does an admirable role of playing the heavy--completely believable and smartly played. I was just glad to see him in a movie where he doesn't die in the first 15 minutes like in Kingdom of Heaven or Gangs of New York (and Star Wars tho he didn't die right away...but you knew it was coming!).

My favorite shot in the movie is a sweeping shot as we pan across Gotham's skyline, passing Batman standing on a spire. It just looks so right, so real, and yet so eerie. Which is the feel the whole movie has. There are some CGI added bits to the downtown landscape but they really feel unnecessary in my humble opinion. The contrast of seeing this crazy masked figure juxtaposed on a real, very naturalistic looking cityscaping is really just breathtaking, much like it was seeing Spider-Man swinging through NYC or Christopher Reeves flying through a classic, modern looking Metropolis. Every environment looks and feels like they were there rather than in front of a green screen or in a movie lot. You can feel the biting cold of Tibet (shot in Iceland) and the dank, slippery rocks which line the Batcave.

Overall, this is a sophisticated, intelligent movie which begs to be seen again and trust me, I haven't seen a movie twice in the theater in nearly a decade. And what I also really enjoyed was the humor in the movie. There are some droll asides from nearly all the principal characters including Batman and it's refreshing to see that even as Batman, Bruce Wayne is not entirely lost behind the mask. Director Chris Nolan really did something difficult here; Batman Begins is an entertaining, dazzling action movie which singlehandedly puts the Ooopmh back into the franchise yet manages to serve up a captivating, haunting tale of a man and his search to exorcise his personal demons.

====

Afterwards, at the after party, I got to meet some of the people behind Batman Begins but I wanted to get back home since I had been on the road for nearly 2 weeks so we left at midnight and made the 2+hour drive back to San Diego in our rental car which was a fitting bookend to this crazy trip.

32 comments:

Carlos Martinez said...

Jim,

Thanks for the great review of the movie. I'm looking forward to seeing this Friday night.

I know how tiring it is to go globe trekking like you did, glad you are back in San Diego safe and sound.

Thanks agagin!

Choisez said...

Yeah, the movie's very good. I was lucky enough to catch it in IMAX at the Wizard World Philly show and it easily won over a roomful of comic fans who'd been burnt one too many times by previous Batflicks.

I think the biggest compliment anyone could give this is to say it's a very good movie and not just a very good 'comic' movie, like it's not good enough to compete against other 'real' movies too.

Btw, I caught that opening montage you drew in the beginning, but it went so fast, I thought they were just pages from Hush or even All Star Batman & Robin. I'll have to catch a better look when I go see it again later today.

-Eddy

MISSLEMAN said...

I liked R.A.G.

Surprise, Surprise.

I know I was.

I hated Bats Suit, well not his suit, but his mask.

Sam Out-

// Ron said...

The cast was incredible and I kept commenting on the script throughout. There were some cheesy moments with the Batmobile and the train seen but all very tolerable.

I must say the origin of Batman in Tibet and the scenes within capture more of the spirit of Batman than the costumed scenes. Bale's sense of humor as Bruce Wayne is quite admirable.

I could say more but you already said it Jim.

// Ron

espressoDOM said...

Good post... i am excited to get to see this when I get home from my business trip.... This has been a great early summer.... Star Wars now this... SWEET

| rc | said...

Great review Jim. I saw it last night @ Burbank...Great movie, and your right the first 30 minutes of the movie beat out the other 4 :D

jrsorrell said...

Loved your review Jim! I saw it last night at the best theatre here in Columbus, Ohio (The Arena Grand Theatre) and my mouth hurt after watching it because I had the biggest grin on my face throughout the whole movie. Right from the opening bats sequence I knew they finally got it right...I just knew. Simply put, it's an amazing film! I'm a huge Batman fan and I couldn't have been happier...well maybe if it would have kept going, ha-ha.

-Jeremy Sorrell

fceeviper said...

Great review!!

I felt the same way about the movie, it rocks!

Dentedbucket said...

Jim,

I missed the date to that premiere or I would have seen ya there!! Thought it was Tuesday!!

Anyhow I finally saw it yesterday(Tuesday). WOW!!! Really what a magnificent flick. Being such a big fan of the Bat, this is what I always wanted. A Batman-centric film intead of surrounding the villians. But speaking of villains, we got a real treat there at the end eh?

Lastly the Batmobile bugged me prior to seeing it. But it all makes sense and what a beast it is, fitting for Batman.

Warren

icemanx62 said...

Great review Jim. I'm jealous of choisez because I had a orange wrist band at WW Philly. I'm looking forward to catching it Friday.

GoingNuckinFuts said...

You know how Batman and Bruce Wayne always have different tones in there voices. I absolutely loved his Batman voice! It was so convincing and brutal. I can only imagine how much saliva Christian Bale must had spat at him. I have to admit that I didnt like the suite in the begining...but it got through to me. Plus you hardly get to see it with all the action and watnot.

BTW...I think the guy who played Gordan is the same guy who played Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban?

BrianChing said...

Go to: http://giochannel.com/search/search.jsp?action=searchit&keyword=batman+begins&imageField.x=0&imageField.y=0/news/shownews.jsp?newsID=3085

download the 10 minute trailer-- it has the new DC Comics opening with Jim's drawings. It happens pretty quickly but still quite cool to see.

meek? said...

Terrific review! Amazin' movie. Bale captured the Batman persona really well. Batman's interrogation scene was just how I envisioned the true spirit o' Bats to be like... more beastly than of man. I, too, appreciated the fleshin' out of Thomas Wayne's noble character and I enjoyed gettin' to know Lucious Fox. A lil' disappointed w/ Ken Watanabe's small role, how Scarecrow seemed to be really young, and Katie Holmes' presence in general, but other much much stronger elements thankfully overshadowed those slight hindrances. Overall, fantastic movie... they really did finally get it right.

Peace...

The Edge said...

Jim,
I agree with you completely on this movie. I was very excited to see it and it did not disapoint.
There were times in the movie where I actually sat open-mouthed. I don't usually impress very easily and there were parts of this movie that just hit me hard. It was great and the best part was, it was very psychological which is sort of Chris Nolan's stock in trade. But it was refreshing to see it done and done very well.
My only question is, who built those "wonderful toys". I would really like to know if they actually work.
Anyway, if you haven't seen it, go for it ASAP
Mark

D said...

I just saw the movie last night, and it was one of the best films I have seen this year. There are so many great things about this movie that I can't think of just one. The Batman that the Scarecrow sees when he is high on his own medicine is pretty awesome though. In addition, they managed to fit in zombies (drugged up thugs) into the movie, which automatically makes it a personal favorite. Zombies and Batman, that is a win win formula.

TLG said...

Agreed: Cillian Murphy has fantastic, crazy eyes. I have to admit, I had a geek melt-downn in the theater, which is unbecoming because I'm a girl. I've been a batman fan since birth, and I've been so sorely disappointed by all the other movies, I felt like this was WB's big appology for the first four :)

Vince said...

Hello Jim,
Great review !
does seeing this kind of movie affect your work on Batman ?
Bye !

ComixCollector said...

i've seen the movie last night and it was very nice to see how bruce wayne transformed into batman.

i don't know if it's only me, this movie was advertised before as the film version of batman:year one but the only reference to the book of frank miller was the ending where gordon gives a hint that a certain 'joker' is the new menace of gotham.

jrsorrell said...

Year one was really only a piece of inspiration. They also mentioned other Batman books that they used too for reference. There were other sequences though where they took from year one. The best example is how Batman uses that sound device to manipulate the bats to help him escape...which was a sweet scene in the film and was also great in year one.

-Jeremy

Vittorio said...

I've seen the movie yesterday,at the premiere,in Rome...and it was great...i wonder,did Jim make the interview of some weeks ago for the dvd edition of Batman Begins??

Neo said...

Jim
Batman Begins? You're right it's awesome, I give it a 10!!!
BATMAN HAS NEVER BEEN SO KICK ASS COOL AND THERES NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO BE DRAWING HIM!
You lucky sod :-)
Regards
Neo

patman said...

thanks for the review. i unfortunately haven't seen it yet even though i had 2 sets of advance screening passes. =(

i am looking forward to it though and its eventual move to DVD.

in a related topic, here's a cool article on how the bat suit works (for those who haven't seen it)...
http://www.howstuffworks.com/batsuit.htm

and a map to gotham city...
http://www.rasalghul.co.uk/gotham_map.asp

GTJDorris said...

Jim --

You're doing a cover for Spawn 150, is that right? Any chance we might get some previews or does Todd want to keep it tight-lipped? Let us know!

Ciao.

-- Jonathan

epic said...

I've already seen this movie twice since Wednesday. Once with my best friend, then agaqin last night with my girlfriend, and I can't help but completely agree with Jim on this one. The movie is great. I have 2 more friends who want to go see it with me so I get 2 more chances to flip out at the wide scope of awesome scenes the movie dishes out.

I'd also like to say that I noticed it was Jim's art when they aired the 10 minute preview on smallville a coupla weeks ago. Way to go Jim!

Neo said...

"Spoiler"
"I won't kill you! but I don't have to save you!"
How cool was that scene?
Later
Neo

Paolo said...

Seen yesterday. Wow.

Bale IS the man. He's great, just look out at his other movies...

And Nolan. Eh. Memento. Nuff said.

During the movie, I found myself almost Shouting
"Nowlan, Ti voglio bene!!!!"
That's Gross? Yeah. But great.


Ah, le voci italiane sono ORRENDE. Batman parla quasi in Siciliano, "Camminchia!"

Neo said...

Hey
I'm going again tomorrow to see Batman Begins! YEH BABY YEH! Only thing to make it better? a complimentary pencils only edition of All Star Batman & Robin :-)
Later
Neo

Matt said...

I saw Batman Begins on Thursday night, and I was amazed. Batman has never been portrayed so well on film. Chris Nolan and David Goyer have a masterpiece on their hands. Bale was impressive, nailing both brooding crimefighter and flamboyant playboy all at once. Cillian Murphy could not have been better for the part of Scarecrow -- right on about those piercing blue eyes. Overall, great flick and great review!

Ted. said...

Hey Jim, the scene on the building spire was my favourite also.
It was just so REAL.
I got a little misty eyed.

kampilanWil said...

Hi all. I really loved your movie review Jim and pretty much agree on all counts, including everybody else's positive reviews. Aside from Star Wars:Revenge of the Sith, Batman Begins was the other film I looked forward to the most this summer(Mr. and Mrs. Smith being the 3rd). I loved the change in music: No loud Elfman fanfare march theme here. Zimmer and Howard's soundtrack rocks. Definitely loved seeing elements from Year One, especially the beginning with all the swarm of bats(coulda sworn for a sec this was going to be a Dracula flick or somthing :D) The Batmobile aka The Tumbler was absolutely awesome and I loved its design from the very beginning(early promo stills on the official site last year got me very fanboy-excited). I knew it wasn't going to disappoint me! It was very much as intimidating as I'd hoped it to be.

To get into what Jeremy and Denys said about already being excited about this film from the get-go: Aside from the swarm of bats in the beginning and the "lesson on ice"(that music track is so damn powerful),was the scene where adult Bruce is completely surrounded by the awoken bats.
Only gripe: I don't like horror films much in general but the scare factor for this film really does help to add weight to the Batman mythos.

// Ron said...

These are Design and web/Flash oriented sites I reference often. This is intelligent and clever Flash designers not your cousin who knows Flash.

www.joshuadavis.com formerly praystation.com. Joshua is hands down one of the most creative indivduals in the Flash and new media community and a real cool individual. Designs ranging from Wired magazine, Nokia, Volkwagen to TOOL.

Yugo Nakamura of yugop.com. Nakamura can beat up your Flash Designer/Developer. Yugo is a very evil genuis.

Todd Dominey of whatdoiknow.org this guy knows quite a lot in fact. Check it out if you are into new media and the Apple platform.

Jon Hicks of http://www.hicksdesign.co.uk/ another wonderful British designer and a great icon creator. Created the Firefox logo among other things.

nin.com Trent Reznor has released tow versions of his latest songs for Garage Band on his site, if that isn't cool I don't what is.

www.24-7media.de German design firm. These guys are just good. Plus they have a cool forum that ranges from everything from Photoshop tutorials to Affter Effects.

Matt Owens at voloumeone.com another design guru. make sure you look through his porfolio to see his range of work. If you see some similarities with Joshua Davis it becasue they are neighbors

http://www.imaginaryforces.com/ Imaginary Forces is simply the best in Motion Graphics. Hats off to Kyle Cooper.

One of my all time favorite sites although I don't visit it daily.

http://hospital.apoka.com/

http://www.eccentris.com/splash.htm

I would say more but I'm giving away all my secrets. ;)

Ron Domingue
www.rondomingue.com

Gemma said...

Is there a way I could find out where, when and how to get tickets to the premiere of The Dark Knight? Could you help me out with that? Any suggestions?