Begin again

More same old story than something new, Batman Begins is largely a mess

MODERN CAVEMAN<br>Batman returns to the big screen in a new film franchise of the self-made superhero/ creature of the night.

Batman returns to the big screen in a new film franchise of the self-made superhero/ creature of the night.

Rated 2.0

Apparently I didn’t get the memo.

Against seemingly unanimous acclaim, I found this origin story to be nothing more than bombastic noise, with little to say and too much time spent saying it.

I’m not sure what the point is, in that the backstory of Batman is already pretty much scorched into our pop-culture DNA: Young Bruce Wayne sees his fabulously wealthy parents whacked by a street thug, grows up to be a fetishistic vigilante with unlimited resources at hand. Backstory. Snap. Is there really a need to spend an hour of film filling in the blanks here?

Apparently, DC Comics and Warner Bros. felt so. They have handed this apology for Joel Schumacher’s nipple fetish over to director Christopher Nolan (of the trick pony cult fave Memento) and superhero slash-flick scribe David Goyer (the Blade trilogy) with free reign to indulge. And self-indulgence reigns: This is a project so littered with slumberous dialogue that, if spilled from the inkwell of George Lucas, it would give cause for the man to blush. Dialogue so contrived and predictable that everyone gets a chance to play verbal screenwriter and shout out the delivery before the actors.

“Does it come in black?” Please.

Aside from Schwarzenegger-level groaners, Batman Begins moves in polar opposite direction to the tongue-in-cheekiness of the earlier entries and plays it damn straight. Unfortunately, that means the film flirts dangerously with becoming camp.

The premise: Young Bruce Wayne has a bad encounter with bats. Later, during a performance of some bat-themed opera, he freaks and coerces his parents to leave the theater. A tweaker pumps ’em full of lead outside. Bruce feels guilty and grows up to find a way to get thrown into some Asian prison, where he bides his time tossing about his fellow recalcitrants. Professional mentor and former Darkman Liam Neeson drops by and notes with approval Wayne’s vigilante bent and recruits him for, well, some vigilante ninja army.

Bruce ain’t having it and moves on back to Gotham, where absolute corruption feeds like a cancer. He hooks up with Morgan Freeman’s equivalent of James Bond’s Q, and bolstered by his gear begins to lay down with some justice out on the street. The Batmobile pops up looking like a Humvee run through a car compactor. Bad CGI runs rampant in the streets.

Christopher Nolan cannot direct action to save his ass, with uptight camera moves coming across like a blind man trying to film a street riot. Add to that an almost sociopathic approach to the climax: A gas is unleashed upon Gotham that drives everyone mad, and yet the proceedings are only viewed by those inoculated against it. Where’s the empathy here? Not to mention that there is absolutely no valid reason given for the vigilante turnabout.

As Bruce, Christian Bale does his finest but at times looks too much like Superman Christopher Reeve to take seriously (even down to the cowlick at one point). Katie Holmes as the disposable love interest (although at first I thought she was supposed to be his sister … and speaking of kid sisters, doesn’t she look like she could be Tom Cruise’s? Eww…) doesn’t transfer well from the small to the big screen. Gary Oldman is beginning to poach in Harvey Keitel’s territory. With a $150 million dollar budget, couldn’t they have put aside a little something to give Neeson a better-looking fake goatee?

And finally, you thought the last Lord of the Rings entry had too many endings? Here we have the Energizer bunnies of endings—they just keep coming and coming and coming…