Monday, June 27, 2005

Batman Begins Sucking Only Slightly Less Than Before 


After positive reviews, including one from my co-blogger, I was more than a little excited to see Batman Begins. I haven't been as disappointed and frustrated by a movie since, well, Batman Forever. To be sure, this movie was not as bad as Batman Forever, and neither was as bad as the abomination and permanent stain on humanity that was Batman and Robin, but given Nolan's involvement, the excellent cast, the positive "buzz" and the word that this was a return to a darker, more realistic Batman, I have to say this movie was nearly as disappointing as the Schumacher debacles.

I loved Tim Burton's first Batman. I enjoyed the classic Batman comics of the late 1980s and early 1990s - including A Death in the Family, The Killing Joke, Batman: Year One (which should have been this movie) and, of course, The Dark Knight Returns. So, to be fair, I may have a specific version of what I think Batman should be in my head, and it may be that a movie that doesn't match that will fail. Having said that, I have the following complaints:

(1) There are too many villains. God fucking damn it, this annoys this shit out of me. Why can't there be one villain who is attempting to commit a crime or a series of crimes? Then the movie could focus on two characters - Batman, and said villain. They could fight for two hours, it could be cool, Batman could stare darkly at something, have a flashback or two about his parents' death, stop the villain from committing the crime, save Gotham and we could all go home and talk about how dark it was. There are at least three villains in the movie - the crime lord (played well by Tom Wilkinson), Scarecrow (totally wasted - why do they always turn the best villains into henchmen?) and Raz a Gobba Doo Wad or whatever his name was (played by Liam Neeson).

(2) Despite the clear attempt to return to a more "realistic" Batman, the movie's main villain (Raz a Fondu or whatever) still had a ludicrous and totally pointless plan to "destroy Gotham." I don't particularly care if a comic book movie is realistic as long as it's interesting. This was just another lunatic trying to destroy a city by putting poison in the water supply. Simply adding a few lines about how they are crime fighters and changing the poison to fear gas made from a blue flower found in Asia doesn't change the fact that this was the exact plot of the first Batman movie - except that in that movie we were able to witness the Joker's slow descent into insanity and could sort of understand where he was coming from.

(3) Batman clearly killed a bunch of people. This might have annoyed me the most. I always thought one of the coolest things about Batman was his refusal to kill anyone - a code of honor that he follows in the comics to an almost insane degree - most notably in his refusal to kill the Joker even after the Joker killed Robin. Of course, there are versions of Batman where he doesn't have qualms about killing people - and that's fine. You could still tell a good story. (I'm not sure, but I believe Batman killed people in the first Tim Burton movie.) Also, if you are planning a series of movies, you could have some event in one of the later movies trigger a promise never to kill. But the Batman in this movie said numerous times that he was not going to kill people; starting, I think, after he almost shot the guy who killed his parents. But if you're going to set this up, you can't have Batman blowing up a house on a mountain with 100 people in it and only trying to save one person. You can't have Batman racing his car through the city and causing cop cars to flip over and blow up. I know Alfred said something about nobody being killed, but that didn't really fit in visually with what I'd just seen on the screen. Batman has to be extra clever and resourceful when he fights crime due to his solemn oath not to take life; too bad the lazy makers of this movie couldn't do the same.

Then, in the end, Batman says to Ra Fiddy Doo Doo (or whatever) that "I won't kill you, but I don't have to save you." The shit? I would say that a promise not to kill people does, in fact, entail a promise to act when you can easily prevent someone from being killed, even if that someone is a sworn enemy. In fact, that is exactly what the Batman of the comics does time and time again. But the writers and artists behind the comics obviously take their character more seriously, and make him either keep his promise or deal with consequences when he does not.

(4) The fight scenes were just terrible. I mean, hold the god damn camera still so we can see the fight. Please.

(5) This might grow on me if I were to see it again, but I don't think it's necessary to spend 10% of the movie explaining where Batman's gadgets come from. I mean, if you have to do it, you may as well have Morgan Freeman explaining them. But I always just sort of assumed that Bruce Wayne used his money to acquire the latest in crime-fighting gear, and not having this explained to me never really interfered with my enjoyment of a good Batman story.

(6) It's really quite a coincidence that the first thing Bruce Wayne/Batman does after he puts on the suit is bust up a drug shipment that just happens to be connected to an evil plan being perpetrated by the very league of shadows he just tried to destroy. I would have liked to have seen Batman break up a few street crimes/violent crimes and then become involved in taking down drug shipments. I don't really understand why the public already has opinions on Batman when all he does is stop some cocaine from coming into Gotham - like, why does the kid say "Batman will save us" when all Batman has really done is beat up some drug dealers. Wouldn't people assume or at least think that he just worked for a rival gang? It's hard for me to explain, but there was just something weird and "off" about all of this.

(7) That little kid was really annoying and profoundly unnecessary.

(8) Katie Holmes was really annoying and profoundly unnecessary.

(9) The killer of Batman's parents was revealed. This is something that also bothered me about the Burton version, and it's really a matter of personal taste. In the comics (or, in the comics I was reading), Bruce Wayne's parents are killed by an unknown mugger. It's just a random street crime. Batman's obsession is created by the desire for revenge coupled with the knowledge that he will never have revenge. I like the idea that every time Batman punches a villain, at some level he thinks he might be punching the guy who killed his parents. This movie sort of ruins that - and goes a step further by making their death a result of their continued quest to save Gotham.

I actually thought the first hour or so was really good, and I also thought Michael Caine was perfect as Alfred. Garry Oldman was decent as well. I was sad to see the whole thing sort of devolve into a boring, stupid, "now if you'll excuse me, I have a city to destroy", Schumacher-like mess.

As for calling this one of, if not the, best comic book movies ever, I mean, this might be another of those issues (like the Flag Burning amendment) that I just can't debate. Just off the top of my head it's clear that Superman, Superman II, Spiderman, Spiderman II, Batman, Batman Returns and X2: X-Men United are all vastly superior.

I wrote a little too much about this, didn't I?
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