Web Edition

lead stories
other news



chess forum
town talk


press releases


last week's issue

real estate
classified ads


For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by David James)

photo caption:
SNATCHED FROM THE JAWS OF DOOM: Batman, the Caped Crusader (Christian Bale, standing), has rescued assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) from a fate worse than death so that she can continue helping him fight crime and corruption in Gotham City. end caption.

Batman Begins: Brooding Christian Bale Stars in Best Batman Adventure Yet

Review by Kam Williams

Although Batman is an American icon, it took a British production to come up with the best screen adaptation of the comic book super-hero to date. This latest installment was directed by London-born Christopher Nolan, whose murder mystery, Memento, was second on this critic's 10 Best List of 2000.

Not only did Nolan shoot the film in the U.K., he also hired fellow countryman Christian Bale to play the title character. Indeed, British actors comprise the bulk of the principal and supporting cast, and include Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Wilkinson, Linus Roache, Colin McFarlane, in addition to Ireland's Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Gerard Murphy, and Larry Holden. Morgan Freeman and Katie Holmes are the only American actors in lead roles.

Aside from occasionally inauthentic accents, Batman Begins works splendidly for two reasons: First, it dispenses with the idea that the villains have to be quirky, colorful, superficial savants, àla the Batman television series in the sixties. This film illustrates how compelling a plot can be when one works with fleshed-out antagonists as opposed to stick-figured caricatures of evil.

Secondly, the picture presents millionaire Bruce Wayne as a brooding, vulnerable human being, taking us deep inside his tortured psyche to explain the existential angst which led to the creation of his crime-fighting alter ego. We learn that, as a boy, he developed a paralyzing fear of bats after being trapped in a well while trying to retrieve an Indian arrowhead for his playmate Rachel Dawes (Holmes). He was further traumatized when his parents were mugged and murdered right in front of him.

Overwhelmed by his loss, Bruce abandoned Gotham City for the Orient, where he studied martial arts at the feet of Ducard (Neeson). Bruce Wayne was learning to channel his lust for revenge in a constructive fashion which would honor the Wayne family name.

Meanwhile, Gotham City has degenerated into a cesspool of political and corporate corruption. After he completes his training as a ninja, Bruce vows to return home to eradicate injustice and fear.

Upon his return to Gotham, he discovers that Wayne Industries, has come under the control of Richard Earle (Rutger Hauer), a crooked CEO who has shifted the company's focus from philanthropic concerns to earning profits at any cost. This irks Bruce because he hails from a long line of philanthropic ancestors, one of whom allowed runaway slaves to stay a cave on his estate, as a stop on their trip to freedom on the underground railway.

So, Bruce Wayne contacts Lucius (Freeman), a black executive unfairly booted from the board of directors. The inventive Lucius has been banished to the institution's equivalent of Siberia, i.e. a remote basement where he has been free to tinker away, inventing military prototypes such as a bullet-proof bodysuit and an armor-plated automobile.

There the Batman persona is born, and, with the help of his butler Alfred (Caine), and honest cop Jim Gordon (Oldman), the Caped Crusader embarks on a campaign to sweep the streets clean. This doesn't sit well with Mafia boss Carmine Falcone (Wilkinson) or with Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), aka The Scarecrow, an urban terrorist who has a weapon of mass destruction.

Batman Begins' dark-hued cinematography imbues the film with a relentlessly grim tone, creating a somber pall which adults may appreciate but which might be too scary for kids under the age of ten. Do not expect to have the tension cut by silly asides, since director Nolan has avoided distractions which would undercut the emotional tension.

Other features are Batmobile and Batsuit upgrades, state-of-the-art gadgetry, and spectacular chase scenes and fight sequences. Rachel has blossomed into a beautiful woman who is an assistant district attorney, but Bruce Wayne doesn't notice her, and as Batman, he is an obsessed super hero on a mission. No need for such distractions at this point since this story is about the genesis of the legend. The love interest may come in a sequel.

Excellent (4 stars). Rating: PG-13 for intense action violence, disturbing images, and mature themes. Running time: 140 minutes. Studio: Warner Brothers.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


Website Design by Kiyomi Camp