The Dark Knight lives again with Batman Begins, a stunning big-screen reintroduction that resurrects a crippled franchise and does justice to the legacy of the dark Caped Crusader. Director Christopher Nolan and writer David Goyer boldly turn their backs on Burton's inspired gothic styling and Schumacher's gaudy odes to camp and instead weave the character into a convincing modern world that acts as an enticing base for what's to come. Though the design might seem a bit jarring, the pair sells it all thanks to the grounded context they've laid out; it doesn't hurt that the flick is a virtual who's who of Hollywood, with heavyweights lending their credibility to each role as this new universe is established for the crime fighter. Batman himself is one mean, angry machine, played to a hilt by Christian Bale. While the character's voice has its on-and-off moments, for the most part, Bale delivers a solid study of the vigilante billionaire. Supporting him effortlessly in their roles are such stalwarts as Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Liam Neeson, who shine in an abundance of solid performances. And while easily the weakest link the otherwise top-notch cast, the young Katie Holmes surely handles one of the most poignant lines in reference to who and what Bruce Wayne really is; just one moment out of many that nails the core of what makes the mythos tick. In fact, the results are downright frightening at times, adding to the excitement of how different this version feels. For everything it does right, the movie does have a few shortfalls, starting with the furiously edited action scenes. While Nolan tried to capture the criminal's confusion, far too often the close flashes of breathless cuts overload on too much visual chaos for the audience to register. Some have fault with the music as well, with both James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer collaborating on an eclectic score that features no driving superhero theme (though one was originally written). In their defense, this isn't the kind of rousing piece of work that deserves that kind of pageantry, nor should its exclusion take away from their otherwise superlative work. DC Comics finally has a film worthy of Marvel's most successful theatrical outings, and if this and the zinger that's at the end of the movie is any indication, there's plenty more good stuff on the way.
by Jeremy Wheeler review