June 23, 2005 at 11:16AM
Batman Begins: A Movie Review of a Movie I Haven't Seen
We all have our little despised truisms; for my part, I've always found a huge fallacy in that familiar chide "You can't judge a book by its cover." This just isn't, in my experience, always the case, for better or for worse. Truth is, you can often garner a pretty good idea of someone's personality from their tee-shirt, get a pretty accurate idea of a movie from its trailer and, yes, get the gist of a book from what's on the jacket.
Which brings me to my latest innovation, a revolution in film criticism that is sure to shake that esteemed literary tradition to its very foundations: reviews of movies I haven't seen! Think of the time we poor scribes of the screen will save by not thanklessly ruining our eyes absorbing Hollywood waste product! Why, given the phoned-in" no, fuck it, telegrammed-in nature of most contemporary criticism, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this technique is already widely practiced!
All of that said, I would like to inaugurate what I'm sure will soon become a Reverse Shot institution with my thoughts on Batman Begins, a movie whose overwrought grayness and 140 minute runtime will almost certainly bar me from ever, ever setting foot into a theater where it's playing. So; A Movie Review of a Movie I Haven't Seen. For the purposes of bemusement, I have written in "sarcastically fawning" mode:
Batman has always managed to tow an uncomfortable line in the comic book universe; he's a superhero who looks like a supervillain. There's a blessing to this; that badness makes him easier to fully root for than, say, a lily-white all-American do-gooder like Superman. It's what makes Bruce Wayne work, and it's what Joel Schumacher mucked-up with his two neon nails in the coffin to the Batman franchise. Tim Burton, that mad master of brooding set design, made Gotham a glossy deco nightmare; Schumacher made it a pinball machine.
Enter Christopher Nolan, the wildly inventive young Brit director responsible for the devilish puzzle-box Memento, who wipes the slate clean. When he's done with the Bat-legend, you feel like Guy Pearce in the aforementioned movie; the short-term nightmares of Schumacher's missteps have disappeared! Gone are lantern jawed caped-crusaders like Clooney and Kilmer; you can't tell if nouveau Bruce Wayne Christian Bale even has a jaw, masked as it is under a wiry beard.
Yes, this movie is dark, bearded leading-man dark, the dark of glistening mean streets' concrete, the dark of all-night Edward Hopper diners, a hyperbolic uber-noir dark that will leave you squinting when the house lights come up. It was so dark that this critic often wasn't quite sure what he was looking at, only sure that he loved it! Serious isn't just for Dostoevsky anymore; with Batman Begins, Nolan makes a passionate, grimy argument for comic books as the novels of the 21st century (would that make video games our new movies?), and it would take a self-serious fuddy-duddy to ignore the importance of this tough, broody material. Who will soon forget the moment when Wayne reveals his true identity to Katie Holmes, the sight of the new, bulky, all-terrain Batmobile skipping across rooftops, Last Samurai's Ken Watanbe (Toshiro Mifune v.2.0, as I've taken to calling him!) solemnly filling Bale's mind with mysterious Eastern mysticism and fighting techniques, or that show-stopping final battle between our dark knight and the supervillain that he fights? Not I, and not, I suspect, many viewers--the idiot who said that American lives don't have second acts obviously didn't count on the resilient modern mythology of Batman."
So, how'd I do, Batfans?