ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  christopher ball

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  comic book

LENGTH  -  141 minutes

RELEASED  -  15 june 2005

DISTRIBUTOR  -  warner bros.

OFFICIAL SITE  -  batman begins

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $150,000,000
batman begins - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from batman begins at

buy the soundtrack from batman begins at

the story of how bruce wayne became what he was destined to be: batman.

on the set, the costumed Bale constantly had two people trailing him to keep the batsuit smudge-free.


picture from batman begins

picture from batman begins

picture from batman begins

picture from batman begins

picture from batman begins

picture from batman begins

picture from batman begins

picture from batman begins

picture from batman begins


three out of four possible stars

A slightly bloated yet well put together yarn, Batman Begins is a product of current filmmaking's love of comic book characters and digital special effects. Long gone are the dialogue bubbles that flash on the screen flashing "POW!" in giant red or yellow letters when Batman throws some evildoer against a wall. This squeaky new beginning to the financial Batman powerhouse of a franchise is a dark and beautiful film and while there are a few faults littered around, the producers of the film have created a worthy big-screen experience.

Definitely created with a large movie screen in mind, Batman Begins is fifty percent special effects, forty percent ingenuity, and ten percent "oops." No film with as massive a budget at this film was granted could come out of the gate without a few small tumbles, but the filmmakers should thank their lucky stars those tumbles don't doom the film. And far from being completely doomed in any area, this "Batman" throws a few unexpected elements the audience's way, making way for a new breed of comic book based action film. Relying completely on neither Batman's story nor the special effects wizardry, the film showcases an impressive hybrid of a film that tries to think and feel at the same time.

While audiences might flock to a film simply because they are assured of an impressive array of computer generated effects, fire-breathing explosions, and large-scale stunts, this film can actually boast an interesting story, an element that usually falls to the cutting room floor in productions like this. And although the film could have been tightened as far as its running time is concerned, this fault is not something that should make you avoid the box office. Note to self: the filmmakers could earn redemption in this area if they were to release a "director's cut" of the film on DVD that trimmed about ten minutes off the running time.

As is many times the case with conflicted superheroes (actually, that might be a redundant phrase as all superheroes tend to need a little therapy), the trial for Bruce Wayne and the transformation in to the Caped Crusader is one that tries to tread lightly the line between good and evil or justice and revenge. By bringing a vigilante justice to the streets of "Gotham," Batman helps to protect the needy and toss criminals into the justice system. But interestingly, there is a car chase about three quarters of the way through the film that seemed to require a patch of sorts to keep Batman clean and "different" from the criminals he seeks to capture.

The car chase involves the Batmobile (a newly imagined model that looks much more like a tank than anything the Batman franchise has put on the screen before) and a squadron of police cars and covers much of Gotham and includes the usual myriad impossible stuntlery that's to be expected in a high speed car chase in a movie with a sky-high budget. While the technicalities of the car chase cannot be faulted as there is a suitable degree of energy pumped into the sequence by the effects teams, it's difficult to stay "with" Batman as he causes the ruination of so many police vehicles.

Although the characters do in fact mention to the audience that no one was killed during the pursuit, the information is one of the only portions of the story that seemed to be uneasily pushed into the narrative. Generally, Batman Begins possesses a more impressive script than many of its comic feature film contemporaries and the attention to thought and detail regarding the psychology of Batman and his evolution from billionaire Bruce Wayne is filled with interesting "facts" and plot. Having been in development for several years, it is clear the team responsible for the story details was intent on creating a film that was much more than a two hour special effects ride (as one might consider the first Spider-Man to be).

But though the story is an almost watertight ship, the iceberg of crappy dialogue inches its way toward the film far too often. Beyond the comedic tags at the end of most scenes, the requisite explanatory speeches (exposition spelled out for the audience word for word), and other expected dialogue elements, there are a few real doldrums regarding dialogue that just run straight into the wall believability like a bat without radar. With such a tightly interwoven and interesting history presented to the audience, it would have been marvelous to see the screenwriters take the same time and dedication with the dialogue.

Almost across the board, the film was very well cast, although the sole detraction to this compliment is the appearance of Katie Holmes in the role of "Rachel Dawes," a Gotham district attorney and childhood friend of Bruce Wayne. Careful consideration should lead one to the conclusion that it is not solely Holmes's theatrical abilities or her dialogue which is to blame. It is a combination of her lack of chemistry with co-star Christian Bale and her glassy-eyed delivery that makes her character the only one of the film whose tepid dialogue is essentially an insurmountable hurdle. Although it might be simple to blame her unsteady character on the dialogue alone, an actress more suited for the part might have been able to up the ante and disguise the poor dialogue.

Although he shares no definable chemistry with Holmes, lead star Christian Bale fares much better with the occasional less than inspired moments of dialogue and takes on the complicated psychological mantle of Bruce Wayne and Batman with vigor. Although a legion of actors was considered for the role, Bale's casting was certainly one of the best decisions the filmmakers made. Beyond his suitable physicality for the role, Bale's decades of filmmaking experience have prepared him well for a role requiring both the physical and mental difficulties thrown at him by the character of Batman.

And Bale is joined by one of the most impressive casts ever put together for a film (let alone a summer popcorn movie). Boasting the talents of master thespians Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, the only drawback to these two revered stars' appearances in the film is the small amount of screen time the two share. Seeing them together on screen for more than one scene would have been more than entertaining. And although he is younger by decades than his impressive co-stars, the ethereally beautiful Cillian Murphy, who plays asylum director Dr. Jonathan Crane, creates a character worthy of a movie devoted solely to his fascinating presentation and stage presence.

The talent pool in this film certainly amounts to a tidal wave with additional strong co-starring performances from Liam Neeson (playing Batman's mentor, "Ducard"), Tom Wilkinson (playing mob boss "Carmine Falcone"), Rutger Hauer (playing corporate scoundrel "Earle"), Ken Watanabe (playing martial arts master "Ra's Al Ghul"), Linus Roache (playing Bruce Wayne's father), and Gary Oldman as "Jim Gordon." Particular emphasis lies with Oldman's performance as Gordon (he is a lieutenant in this film but in later years would be the famous "Commissioner Gordon"). Oldman is so often cast as the penultimate evil character or a strange personality and his fans should relish this role with him.

This film is an extremely strong reentry into the franchise for Warner Bros. and if they wish to provide audiences with a sequel, their efforts would probably be welcomed by most viewers. Now, if they were to take this successful formula of providing both brains and brawn (otherwise known as a strong story and impressive special effects) with the additional [required] element of snappy and/or more believable dialogue, they would have quite a juggernaut on their hands. The film can certainly boast more heft in most creative areas than other recent comic book entries (like The Hulk or Daredevil) and can even eclipse other strong examples of the genre such as Spider-Man 2.

A particular stand-out is the musical score, which was a team effort by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer. Besting Danny Elfman's original score for the 1989 Tim Burton "Batman" is not something any composer would be capable of, but Howard and Zimmer have created an equal and affecting musical sound for the film. In Batman Begins, audiences are treated to strength in story, character, and production values and glossing over such weaknesses as length and dialogue, the film is one of the stronger films of the 2005 summer movie season.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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