Tuesday, June 21, 2005

batman begins

i really loved this movie. finally, a batman adaptation that really gets into batman's head.

when tim burton's first batman movie came out, it was the first time we'd really seen a "dark" batman onscreen. our only points of comparison were the uber-cheesy adam west live tv version and the almost equally cheesy cartoon version who was seen in superfriends and guesting on scooby doo. so this new darker movie batman was totally badass in comparison (especially after joel schumaker took over and completely ruined the franchise). but it was still somewhat campy: i suspect that tim burton is incapable of making a non-campy movie. not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that.

and maybe we needed a semi-campy batman in order to wean us off the adam west days. hell, the villain in that first movie was the joker, whose trademarks are cheesy jokes and maniacal murders. the burton batman was tough, and he was brooding, but he was not the compulsively driven, half-mad man who we knew from the comics.

but the batman in batman begins is. he's emotionally tortured, tormented, unable to emotionally connect to other people (except arguably alfred, who is brilliantly played by michael caine here).

people who cite batman as their favorite superhero often explain their choice by saying that batman "is a normal guy", with no superpowers. and technically this is true, and an important part of his appeal. but thinking of batman as a "normal guy" or that "anyone could become batman" seems to miss a fundamental part of his personality: that he is pathologically driven to to combat what he sees as injustice. and not just that, but to dress up in a costume specifically meant to scare people. the transition from "normal" guy to superhero isn't quick, like with spider-man: he requires years of intensive training to gain his skills, not to mention a large technology budget. if he had been unable to become batman, he very likely would have had a mental breakdown or ended up in prison.

the batman we see in batman begins has had all the camp stripped away. before he starts to find his way, he comes treacherously close to crossing over to the dark side. there are few jokes (batman is not for having a sense of humor) and no prince music videos. what's left is a true gritty crimefighter, pissed off and pathological. some will complain that the movie is slow, but it's not supposed to an explosion-a-minute extravaganza. batman first appeared in detective comics: his stories are about suspense, not beating people up (though he does that too, and very well).

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