Batman Un-Begins

I saw The Dark Knight Rises yesterday. It was pretty good! In fact, I’m going to paint myself as an Internet heretic and possibly a man who shall be regarded by all as a complete idiot by saying I enjoyed it a lot more than The Dark Knight. Yes, Heath Ledger’s Joker made a more interesting villain than Bane, but TDKR feels more like a complete movie than TDK, which was more like a movie and change and should have ended a good 30 minutes sooner than it did. There’s something to be said for a piece that works as a cohesive whole, and what I like most about TDKR is that it makes all three movies work as a unit, self-contained and complete.

Most of the complaints I’ve seen lobbed at TDKR revolve around its assorted logic holes and plot points that stretch credibility. Fair enough, but a lot of these elements are the sort of thing that every movie suffers from; certainly the first two Batman flicks did. I suspect that expectations had a lot to do with it: People loved TDK so much they expected perfection from the sequel, but what they got instead was a very good movie that made many of the same mistakes and leaps that TDK did. And, absent a late, lamented talent’s tour-de-force enhanced Tom Waits impersonation, those flaws stand out a little more prominently. On the flip side, I felt the TDK was drawn out and kind of irritating, especially compared to the considerably leaner Batman Begins, so I found TDKR to be pleasantly surprising.

All told, TDKR has considerably raised my opinion of TDK, because I have a better sense of that film’s purpose now. And I especially appreciate Christopher Nolan’s decision to work counter to the serial nature of comic books in adapting Batman to film. There’s a completeness to his trilogy that simply never happens in franchised, licensed movies like this. TDKR draws upon both of the movies that came before it, adds some new stuff, and wraps it all up.

In the process it does some dumb things and wanders through the land of heavy coincidence. The part that really chafes for me is the whole five-month police situation, which conveniently disregards the nature of a Manhattan (SORRY I MEAN “GOTHAM”) winter, the sanitation needs of 3,000 people, and, hell, the fact that police uniforms probably aren’t going to look super clean and pressed after that sort of ordeal regardless of how much spray starch was lowered in buckets. The science bits of the movie were pretty stupid, too. But what the hell; it’s a comic book movie about a billionaire playboy who dresses in a suit of tech armor that looks like a bat. As such things go, TDKR ranks up in the top-five percentile in terms of believability and coherence. Heck, I’d even go so far as to say it’s the first comic-based movie I’ve ever seen to include multiple villains (the lines are a little blurry on who qualifies as what, but let’s say three and not count Cillian Murphy’s cameo) without any of them seeming extraneous.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie after all the dire things I’d heard about it. And the best thing is that because it offers such a compact sense of closure, I can comfortably ignore the inevitable needless franchise reboot. Well, unless they reboot it as Gotham By Gaslight. I couldn’t say no to that. And since Nolan managed to hit on Year One, The Killing Joke, The Dark Knight Returns, and No Man’s Land, there’s not a lot of other top-caliber material left to be mined. Hmm.

13 thoughts on “Batman Un-Begins

  1. Maybe we could get a Batman movie based on Batman – The Superman of Planet X or The Rainbow Creature

  2. Loved the movie as well. Also, this latest franchise trend worries me — I think that in order for a studio to hold onto the rights to one of these huge comic licenses, they need to make another movie every so often. This was why The Amazing Spider-Man was made (as well as to make money of course). Now, however unnecessary that movie might have been, I did enjoy it, so now I just wonder about what Batman story they will be forced to tell next.

    • People want more Batman, though! I’d love to see Nolan do another instead of someone else, however, even if if takes a few years. The Batman trilogy is his best work, anyway.

  3. I saw it for the second time yesterday. My initial impression was underwhelming, mostly because Batman didn’t do enough of the proverbial ass kicking. However, the movie moved along much more quickly the second time, and whenever Batman made an appearance, it was really triumphant. Bane was also an excellent villain.

    Best superhero movie this year, anyway. I won’t put it above TDK, but I don’t put much above that one.

  4. I feel like it leaned a bit too much on it’s connection to the first film, Talia and the whole League of Shadows thing felt pretty unecessary to me. That being said, it was indeed a rather complete experience and an excellent cap to the trilogy. I think the main opposition its facing is the simple fact that no one was quite prepared for Ledger to be as captivating as he was going in, it was rather a surprise for most, and that kind of novelty is impossible to recapture, I think. Two things, though: Much have been made about Bane’s inglorious end, and while I’m loathe to jump on that bandwagon after the world’s manliest tear was shed, the fact that his end was capped by a freaking quip from Catwoman really irks me. And two; far be it from me to tell Nolan how to shoot his films, I am of the strong opinion that the last shot of Alfred should have been exactly that, just him looking across the resteraunt with no cut to Bruce.

    • I can’t argue with either of those latter points, but they’re pretty minor quibbles. I thought the League of Shadows made perfect sense, on the other hand.

  5. YOu want to talk quibbles, Nolan had ONE MORE CHANCE for Ra’s to call Bruce “detective” and he blew it.And it’s not so much that the League stuff didn’t work, more that it would have worked just as well without it, and Bane’s motivations could have been perhaps more interesting than “Talia hated her dad until she didn’t.” Plot holes that don’t matter in the wider scheme, sure, but that could’ve been a bit neater. Maybe the real twist should have been that Bane was Catwoman’s vanishing blond friend behind the mask.

    • Why would Ra’s call Batman “Detective”? Batman isn’t a detective in these movies.

      • How true! An aspect of the character that would have been difficult to incorporate on top of everything else, admittedly, I just can’t get that bitchin’ 90’s cartoon out of my head when I think of Ra’s, hence minor quibble, or even fanboyish whining.

  6. As a writer, Jeremy, I’m curious: does it bother you that the Nolan brothers are the kings of exposition? I feel like his movies would be so much more emotional and evocative if he would let his characters breathe a little bit. Then again, long-winded diatribes may just be his style.

    The first 45 minutes to an hour of TDKR in particular felt like a play where everyone was rushing to say their lines, yet when I think back on it (saw it a couple days ago), I can’t remember much of what was said.

    • Compared to most other nerd-bait pop culture — comix, anime, Matrix sequels, and every video game ever — Nolan isn’t so bad. I prefer more concise and less expositional films, but I’ve seen waaaaay worse.

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