Giving Batman Begins another shot

9:00 AM

(Warning: major spoilers about Batman Begins.)

I have this weird pattern when it comes to trilogies and I suspect most people do too. It seems impossible to like all three movies in the same way. I usually have no interest in the first movie, then I absolutely love and obsess about the second one, and when the third one comes out I end up having a luke warm reaction to it. It was like this with Indiana Jones, The Lord of the Rings, and X-Men. I'm pretty sure it will happen again with Batman.

I'm afraid I'll be totally indifferent to The Dark Knight Rises despite being super anxious to watch it. Seriously, if I didn't have a job that's all I would think about.

Unable to wait for the next Batman, I decided to give Batman Begins another chance. Maybe I could still save this trilogy before Gotham is ashes. So I watched it again. It turned out to be not so bad. There were many things that bombed in Begins that Christopher Nolan  improved on Dark Knight.

The first one was the miscasting. I believe there were three big miscasting in Batman Begins: Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, Liam Neeson as Ra's Al Ghul and Tom Wilkinson as Falcone.

Don't get me wrong, I like these three actors and think the last two are actually amazing ones. Let's start with Katie Holmes. I still see her as Joey, not as Batman's love interest. Heck, I don't even see her as an adult yet. I was surprised to learn Christian Bale and her are only four years apart  because she looks so much younger than him!

Fortunately, Maggie Gyllenhaall substitutes her in The Dark Knight. To be quite frank, I'm not so crazy about Maggie Gyllenhaall either, but I believe she did a much better job. At least she looks like a district attorney.
She even looks good next to Aaron Eckhart. Katie Holmes, in that movie about cigarettes, didn't.
Secondly, there's Liam Nesson. When you think of Liam Neeson the words classy, smooth, intellectual, scarves come to mind. The words criminal master mind and ninja do not come to mind.

He is Oscar Schindler, he is Jean Valjean, he is the sensitive doctor who helps Nell. I mean, he is Aslan's voice! Granted, he is also the tough will-find-you-will-kill-you father in Taken.

But to this I have two objections: a)Taken was released three years after Batman Begins so until Batman Begins I didn't see him as an action character; b)it's one thing to be a retired CIA agent, it's quite another to be "the leader of a vast organization dedicated to purifying the human race and returning the Earth to a more pristine state and a master of martial arts".

Liam Neeson is in a whole different level alongside the likes of William Hurt and Ralph Fienes. Sure, both of them also played villains, but that doesn't seem right too.

However, I now see that Nolan probably wanted to play with our expectations - which I also don't care for. We all have David Lynch to mess with our minds.

Lastly, there's Tom Willkinson as an Itallian mobster. He did one hell of a job with it, with his Italian accent and all, but it seemed so unnecessary. Luckily, in The Dark Knight, Nolan chose a guy like Eric Roberts who - no offense - has mobster written all over his face.

In case you don't know, Eric Roberts is the one on the left (since both guys here look like mobsters).
This is one of the points where The Dark Knight proves better than Batman Begins. There's no miscating. Heath Ledger obviously stole the show, but all the other supporting characters are amazing. For instance, Comissioner Gordon is a great character but in Begins he has this James Stewart type of voice which is really off-putting. In the sequel, his voice and intonation change completely. It would be impossible to imagine Gordon screaming "Mount the curb!" or "We have to save Dent! I have to save Dent!" in the first movie.

We still have to wait and see how The Dark Knight Rises will go. I don't wan't to make any hasty judgements, in order not to spoil my own fun, but I'm worried about Anne Hathaway and I'm sure you are too. She can't out-do Michelle Pfeiffer, or can she?

After I got pass the miscastings, I remember that I had a problem with Batman's back story. All I could remember from Batman Begins was Christian Bale in some inospite Asian village, fighting Liam Nesson. That's not cutting for me.

During this second watch I paid more attention. I actually cared. So I could follow Bruce's background and motivation. But still - young heir goes to China to become a criminal and is picked up in prison by a secret ninja organization whose mastermind is called Ra's al Ghul. Talk about suspension of disbelief.

The last thing that bothered me was Scarecrow. When is he going to have his big break? He is given a fair amount of on-screen time in Batman Begins and only slightly appears in the beginning of The Dark Knight. Will he be on The Dark Knight Rises? Probably not, which is a shame because I would like to see his character become more developed. The scene where he goes all crazy - on his horse, mind you - and Joey, I mean Rachel, scares him away with an eletroshock weapon was just pathethic. This town does deserve a better class of criminals. Nolan (and of course Heath Ledger) sure gave it to us.

This is yet another point where The Dark Knight Rises worries me. Will we have great villains? No one will ever surpass Heath Ledger's Joker, but Bane just seems creepy and I can't really make out what he says sometimes. So, we have Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, a guy with a breathing mask and nothing to say and... Liam Neeson again.

However, I can rest assured that I learned how to like Batman Begins and overlook what bothers me about it - it gets better in the sequel. Morevoer, Nolan did something none of the previous Batman directors seemed to do: think of the Batman movies as whole.

When you watch both movies in sequence you can see the continuity of  supporting characters, of the plot, the development of Batman and Gotham. I would venture to say Nolan knew what he was doing when he began the first of his Batmans. If he didn't, he at least managed to make them cohesive.

Besides, Nolan made the movies not totally dark (Burton's Batmans) and not totally comic (Schumacher's Batmans). He used elements of our own current historic period. In Begins we have a terrorist organization who thinks Gotham has reached total decadence and, therefore, must be destroyed. In Dark Knight, we have Batman abusing people's privacy when he uses their cellphones to locate the Joker. In Rises there are traces of Occupy Wall Street and (the same?) terrorist organizations.

Maybe the last movie of the trilogy won't bomb. All we can do is wait for The Dark Night Rises and stop worrying about Liam Neeson.

Have you seen Batman Begins? Which is your favorite Batman?

Images via  1, 3,

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  1. controversially i actually prefer batman begins! i know that technically dark knight is a better film on many levels, but im a sucker for a bildungsroman and really enjoy the character development of Bruce to Batman. obviously the dark knight is more focussed the jokers character and i just didnt connect with it properly. still excited to se dark knight rises though!

    1. Oh my, I can never like the first movies in trilogies! It must be great, because then you are a fan since the beginning.

      But The Dark Knight is a bit disturbing in some ways, so it's harder to watch too. Have a great weekend! xx

  2. I also have conflicting feelings about this newest Batman coming out. My husband LOVES the series, so he's super excited. I just hope it lives up to all the hype!

    P.S. I just found your blog, and I'm your newest follower :)


    1. Welcome, Brooke! I can't wait for the new Batman - but at the same time I'm trying not to expect too much, in order not to be disapointed... Who knows what will happen?! Thanks for following! xx

  3. I agree about Katie Holmes, but I actually like Liam Neeson. The Dark Knight is my favourite, but when I rewatched Batman Begins and then watched the Dark Knight, I enjoyed it a lot more. As you say, they work well as a series. I think The Dark Knight Rises is going to be pretty brilliant. Also, Nolan has redone sound on all of Bane's scenes because he realised he was too difficult to understand, so I don't think that will be a problem in the final film. Oh, I can't wait. I'm going to the London imax cinema to watch it on opening weekend. :)

  4. I hope you're right, I wish I could be more optimistic about The Dark Knight Rises. It's good to know Nolan fixed Bane's lines tough.

    I can't wait either! Have a great Saturday xx

  5. The Dark Knight has to be my favorite despite my love for Batman Begins. Heath Ledger became my favorite Joker ever (considering how much I adore Nicholson, that is a big thing) and Gary Oldman was just delicious.

    And my thing about the trilogies; no matter how crappy is one of them, I tend to love each one equally. I don't know why. I have my favorites of course. (Fellowship of the Ring in LotR, first movie in Jurassic Park etc. I can't pick one in X-Men because I'm a huge sucker for all of the movies. Anyhoo...) I have HIGH hopes for Dark Knight Rises which makes me a little tense because whenever I'm this boosted about a movie, I end up being frustrated. But including my lady crush Marion Cotillard in it and Tom Hardy being the second most badass Batman villain; I'll keep hoping for the best.

  6. Exactly, Heath Ledger is just amazing in that movie. He made me hope for big villains in Batman Begins as well, which doesn't happen - it's much more Bruce Wayne focused.

    Oh, how I wish I could enjoy each movie from a trilogy without making comparisons!

    It's good to know I'm not the only one excited about Rises! xx


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