Batman Begins - DVD Review

With The Dark Knight’s summer release date rapidly approaching it seems a good time to have a look at its successful precursor Batman Begins. The Dark Knight looks good from everything that we’ve seen so far but can it do enough to beat the film which re-invented the franchise after the disappointing Batman Forever and the frankly criminal Batman and Robin.

Batman Begins’ first major success is in the fact that the people behind it recognised that the series needed to completely start over. The Burton films weren’t bad but that directors day-glow style looks increasingly dated these days and the best material from the comics is from Batman’s early days when the hero comes into being.

As a character Batman’s appeal has always been that he has no super powers. He is simply a man on a mission. Therefore it is extremely important to craft a believable Bruce Wayne before Batman emerges. It is something which Begins absolutely excels at, devoting almost the entire first hour of the film over to Wayne’s development as a human being before his development as a hero begins. Casting Christian Bale to fulfil this role was also inspired, morphing, as he does, from distant and troubled young man to clinical and inspired bachelor. It is also important that the film rarely dips into forcing this development on us. Only in Wayne’s interactions with Katie Holmes’ Rachel does the film teeter towards preachy as conversations range from the responsibility of millionaires to the reasons behind society’s disaffection.

The technical aspects of the film, most notably the cinematography and the music are also faultless. A brooding new theme coupled with dark undercurrents from James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer is fantastic and makes a real difference to how you watch the piece. Similarly the framing of scenes, overlooked by Wally Pfister, is impressive and creates a suitably sombre, yet inspiring look.

The result of all these aspects combining is the production of a film which feels sombre in tone yet as uplifting and inspiring as any superhero film should be. Bale is fantastic, successfully separating the roles of Bruce Wayne and Batman into distinct entities as they really should be. A strong supporting cast of Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Rutger Hauer, Morgan Freeman, Tom Wilkinson and Liam Neeson ensures that even when the focus is off Bale we are still glued to the screen with the only minor complaint being the under-use of Ken Wantanabe as Ra’s Al Ghul. Hard if not impossible for Dark Knight to beat what is probably the best superhero film to date but it does look like its going to put up a hell of a fight!

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