ComicsAlliance Reviews ‘Batman Begins,’ Part 3
Each week, Chris Sims and David Uzumeri take a look back at one of the most successful and influential comic book movie franchises of all time, in ComicsAlliance’s in-depth retrospective on the Batman films. Read part one and part two of our extended Batman Begins review, which concludes today with Part 3.
Chris: Welcome back to Cinematic Batmanology! In our last installment, we were introduced to the Scarecrow, heard about the mysterious man he was working for, saw the arrival of the Microwave Emitter and witnessed the murder of Gotham City’s overconfident district attorney and watched as Carmine Falcone was committed to Arkham Asylum, setting the stage for the all-action third act!
David: You could say that this is where the movie… goes off the rails. (dons sunglasses) YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!Chris: I wouldn’t go that far, but the last act is something that fits more in a traditional summer action movie blockbuster. Which, I should point out, is exactly what this movie was.
David: After the intensely strong second act, we get back to all the magic ninja mumbo-jumbo, and it still feels like an awkward fit with the rest of the movie.
Chris: There are awkward elements, but there’s still an awful lot to like. As you’ve said, the execution is what makes this movie so great.
David: Yeah, it is, but Dark Knight managed to transcend that by not having a ridiculous supervillain plot. And I don’t mean Batman supervillain, I mean, like, DC Universe supervillain. It all makes perfect sense within the world established in the first third of the movie, but with some of the reveals coming up, I feel like the movie hews dangerously close to Batman ’89 and having its primary villain kill Bruce’s parents.
Chris: There’s causality there — we talked about it with the first act — but it’s far more complex than just having a guy walk out of the alley, dish up a nonsense catchphrase and put two in the Waynes. But we’ll cross that high-speed elevated monorail when we get to it. For now, Rachel has told Bruce that she’s off to investigate Arkham, which, as Bruce learned from Flass is in the Narrows, the worst area of the city. And in Gotham, that’s saying something.
David: The Narrows were actually introduced in this movie, but it didn’t take very long for it to start getting referenced in the comics. I think it first showed up in Battle for the Cowl? Or it might have been Paul Dini’s Detective Comics, but that was going to show up eventually no matter what.
Chris: Bruce also knows that the shipments of weaponized hallucinogens were also heading to the Narrows, and he knows Dr. Crane is involved after getting dosed by the Scarecrow during his investigation. Throw in Falcone’s presence at Arkham (who, at this point, is probably Bruce’s likely suspect for being behind everything) and the fact that the crooks are still brazen enough to murder a DA during an investigation, and Rachel’s in a lot more danger than she realizes. Thus: It is now Bat-Time.
David: I’m kind of disappointed that they ended up going damsel-in-distress with Rachel in the end.
Chris: It’s a fair criticism, but I didn’t mind it so much because of how well they set up Rachel’s character. She’s so completely devoted to her cause that she goes in to try to bring down the crooks her way, despite the obvious dangers. We’ve talked before about how she’s a mirror of that aspect of Batman himself. I mean, yes, she does end up getting carted off on the hero’s arm, but at least she’s not completely passive throughout the sequence. She’s captured, not kidnapped, if that makes any sense.
David: That’s true, but it’s still kind of a Snoopy Lois story in a sense. I’m probably nitpicking, but I have to wonder if they’d do the same thing if Harvey Dent had been this character, you know? One of the weird things about Nolan’s Batman is how weirdly asexual he is for a dude running around in a rubber fetish suit. I can understand a desire to distance things from the Burton/Schmuacher years, but Bruce and Rachel’s relationship is weirdly chaste. For the most part, women are just tools for Bruce Wayne to use to mask himself.
Chris: I honestly think the same thing would’ve happened to Harvey Dent, because in the Dark Knight, the same thing does happen to Harvey Dent. He’s a victim of his own crusade.
David: Good point.
Chris: There’s a complication with Batman’s planned rescue: It’s Bruce Wayne’s birthday, and he’s throwing a party that’s meant to be his big return to the scene as a Gotham City Socialite. At this point in his career, Bruce sees himself as being able to pop out, kick some ass as Batman, then return to his own party to mingle with his society “friends,” which is a pretty strong piece of hubris.
David: Well, he actually comes pretty close to pulling it off, as we’ll see later.
Chris: Yes, but it’s important to keep in mind that his goal isn’t just to hang out at a party, but to keep up both his good deeds as Batman and his good name as Bruce Wayne, mostly at Alfred’s urging. The theme of duality that comes to the forefront in the next movie is already being seeded.
David: That’s very true, but let’s be fair here: he’s still beginning, but this is Batman. How long could his Arkham expedition have taken in all? Like, fifteen minutes?
Chris: Ha, good point. He really doesn’t know that he’s going to be fighting some bad guys, after all. He’s mainly just there as a chaperone, which is a good reminder to the people of Gotham City: You want immediate personal vigilante protection, give Bruce Wayne an arrowhead.
David: I was thinking about that, but she IS an essential part of his investigation as well, which I guess gets the writers neatly around the fact that Batman watches over this lady and not every single person who enters the Narrows. Arrowhead privilege.
Chris: While Bruce is getting geared up for Batmanning, Earle pays a visit to Lucius Fox down in the Wayne Enterprises basement to have a chat about the microwave emitter. Then, when Fox asks him a question, Earle decides to fire him, because a) we need to remind the audience that he’s a massive tool, and b) because he’s an idiot who doesn’t realize that the last thing you want to do before your stolen high-tech weapon is used to terrorize the city is give a guy who knows you lost it a reason to hate you even more than he already does.
David: Yeah, but Earle probably doesn’t realize Fox is Batman’s right-hand tech-man or whatever. Which again makes him look like an idiot, since if he’d ever looked at anything in the Applied Sciences basement, it’d be pretty goddamn obvious where that Bat-Man dude on the news got his crap.
Chris: I did wonder that myself — later, when the Batmobile/Tumbler is tearing ass through downtown, it’s on the news. Surely Lucius Fox is was not the only guy involved in building it, so shouldn’t there be someone who recognize it? Or is black paint the Batman Begins equivalent of Clark Kent’s glasses? Then Rachel heads to Arkham where we find out that Falcone has been driven insane by the Scarecrow, giving Cillian Murphy an amazing opportunity to smarm all over her.
David: Not that Murphy needs an incentive to smarm, but yeah, he’s pretty excellent in… well, in this entire movie, really. But still, I don’t understand at all why Rachel agrees to go with him as soon as it’s obvious he’s completely full of it. Like, that’s when she should have just brained him with a briefcase or something. “This evil crime doctor employed by the mafia wants to show me something! Sure, I’ll come right along!”
Chris: It’s one of the weaker moments in the script that he just straight up takes her to his Sinister Master Plan and shows her exactly what’s going on while gloating, but again, Murphy pulls it off by playing Crane to the hilt as this sinister egomaniac.
David: I love how they’ve just straight-up blasted a hole in the water pipe and are throwing the fear chemical in it, too.
Chris: It’s also great how excited Crane is when Batman shuts the lights down and starts being people up. He’s so giddy! He even gives his voice this grandiose inflection when he says “Batman.” It’s fantastic.
David: I stated last week that I’m really a pretty big fan of this Eurotrash Scarecrow, and no scene in the movie makes me think otherwise. I find this version of him way more interesting than the comics one, although I can’t rmemeber the last time there was a halfway decent Scarecrow comic. I mean, like, for decades.
Chris: Crane’s plan is to have the cops take care of Batman since it’s too late to stop him — they’ve dumped a whole bucket into an open water main, after all — and Batman ends up dosing him with his own gas, causing him to hallucinate a big ol’ angry demon yelling at him.
David: I was really hoping Crane would have a more twisted fear hallucination or something, and the CGI seemed pretty cheesy to me in this sequence. Murphy totally sells that he’s practically sh–ing himself, though.
Chris: And while he’s doing it, he reveals that he’s working for — wait for it — Ra’s al-Ghul!
David: I wonder how many audiences saw Ra’s’s resurgence coming. I mean, he was advertised as a big part of the movie, and for him to just be there for the first act would be weird. And there were clues before, like Bruce mentioning that the fear gas was similar to the blue flower.
Chris: It’s really weird trying to imagine going into this movie without knowing that coming back from the dead is Ra’s al-Ghul’s entire deal, but it’s not exactly a huge mystery even if you don’t. Bruce’s line about the chemicals, the fact that Crane’s working for some mysterious Higher Power, the whole setup with the League trying to destroy Gotham. It’s not subtle. The real twist isn’t that it’s Ra’s, but who Ra’s actually is. In that respect, setting up his comeback as the fake “mystery” is a nice way to trick the established Batman fans (i.e., us) into thinking they’ve got it all figured out.
David: Very true, that it’s just going to be Ken Watanabe again after a dip in the Lazarus Pit. This twist really was really well-executed, and I believe that we’re about to get to the payoff.
Chris: I love this next bit, where the cops show up and even though there’s like forty of them with shotguns, they’re still waiting for backup because it’s Batman. And it gets even better when Gordon is the only man willing to go in alone — although it’s less about Gordon being brave and more that he thinks Batman’s a good guy. Batman fills Gordon in about Crane’s plan, and what follows is a gigantic homage to Frank Miller and Dave Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One.
David: As if what preceded was any different! But yeah, this recreates the classic “calling the bats with supersonics to freak out the cops” sequence from Year One.
Chris: Two things about this part: One, I love that Batman just hits the floor and smooth walks out of the building through his bat-nado like it ain’t no thing. Two, while every other bit of eqipment in this movie is justified as having some kind of military application, this one has no explanation whatsoever. It’s just hey, Batman likes bats!
David: What about military expeditions into bat country?! You need sonics, you can’t stop there.
Chris: Batman then gets Rachel from Gordon, then puts her in the Tumbler and proceeds to tear ass around Gotham City, because what you want to do with someone who has been dosed with a weaponized hallucinogen is put them in a situation that is completely terrifying even if you’re stone cold sober. Like, say, a high-speed car chase across rooftops.
David: That ends in a gigantic booster jump through a waterfall. I love how Batman’s entire cave security system is basically “you need to have a Tumbler.”
Chris: Also, are waterfalls so common in Gotham that he doesn’t think Rachel, who used to hang out at his house all the time, won’t recognize it? I mean, I guess she’s drugged.
David: Maybe Batman financed TLC’s 1995 smash “Waterfalls” in an attempt to brainwash the public into not chasing a waterfall and finding the Batcave. Unfortunately, the efforts proved fruitless with the rise of the SNES RPG, which trained an entire generation of nerdy children to check behind waterfalls for treasure.
Chris: I heard there’s a Mew in Bruce Wayne’s basement. It’s also worth noting that the big car chase is really the first actual action sequence that we’ve had since the dojo burned down way earlier in the movie, and probably the biggest in the entire movie. Also, in fairness, Batman bringing his love interest back to his cave to give her the antidote for the villain’s toxins, then knocking her out and sending her home is pretty much exactly what happens in Batman ’89.
David: Yeah, but in ’89 we didn’t get to see Alfred awkwardly trying to place her in the back of a car.
Chris: And telling the caterers she was a drunk. Classic Alfred. Speaking of, we get another excellent exchange:
ALFRED: When you told me your grand plan for saving Gotham, the only thing that stopped me from calling the men in white coats was when you said it wasn’t about thrillseeking.
BRUCE: It’s not.
ALFRED: Then what would you call that?
[Alfred Points to a TV newscast showing “Chaos on the Freeway” as the Batmobile is chased by police cars]
BRUCE: Damn good television.
David: Honestly, that’s just the beginning of what’s pretty much Bale-as-Bruce’s finest moment in the movie, which goes on for quite a while.
Chris: It also establishes that no one was killed when all those police cars smashed into guardrails and exploded, which is nice. Alfred gets pretty livid at Bruce for not caring about his father’s good name, setting up the next scene. Which, as you said, is fantastic.
David: Bruce comes down and hobnobs for a few minutes before being introduced by an elderly lady to “Mister… Rays Al Ghool? Did I say that right?” And this is when we discover that Ducard was Ra’s all along, using, as Bruce calls them, “cheap parlor tricks.”
Chris: The only thing that would’ve made that a better setup is if it had been the return of Gossip Gertie.
David: I honestly thought it was for a second!
Chris: Liam Neeson and Christian Bale then have this amazing exchange about dual identities and theatrics that ties in everything we saw in the first act to everything Bruce is doing now as Batman — including Ra’s reprising his lecture on the dangers of compassion, which will come up again at the end of the film — and when Bruce tries to get him to let the partygoers go, he tells him he’s welcome to explain the situation to them.
David: This leads Bruce to a command performance as a total drunkard, pretending that he’s sick and tired of sycophants and he just wants everybody to leave his party. Which pretty much thoroughly pisses on his father’s name, by the way.
Chris: It’s a really great scene, for more than just the comedy of Bruce Wayne acting like a drunken jackass. It shows us — and more importantly for the story, Ra’s — how far Bruce is willing to go to protect people. It also clearly draws the line between Bruce’s two halves: He’s completely willing to throw “Bruce Wayne” and the entire Wayne family under the bus in service of his mission as Batman.
David: There’s absolutely no ego in what he does.
Chris: Exactly. There’s a guy in the crowd who takes a cheap shot at Bruce as he’s leaving by saying “the apple has fallen very far from the tree,” and you know that has to sting a guy who has devoted his entire life to fighting crime after what happened to his father.
David: That’s the situation he’s placed himself in, though, and he should have known situations like these were going to come up. I do love how amused Ra’s is by the entire thing, because he just loves the fact that he’s putting Wayne through emotional hell over this.
Chris: This is where Ra’s also reveals that it was the League that created the depression that drove Joe Chill to become a criminal and kill the Waynes, which is what drove Bruce to the League, and then to become Batman. So there’s that.
David: Yeah, and I’m not sure why they created the depression in the first place. I thought the crime was there because of the depression, but I thought their whole schtick was wiping out corrupt civilizations.
Chris: Their goal was to make an entire city of criminals that would turn against itself, but the murder of the Waynes shocked the city into cleaning itself up, and, as Ra’s says, it has “limped along ever since.” If nothing else, that gives them a nice excuse for doing away with complex stuff like economics and just going back to “f— it, let’s use fear gas.”
David: I’m still unclear on why they wanted to destroy Gotham in the first place if they basically created the criminals. What was their long-distance plan here, other than “let’s just totally f— over this city?”
Chris: In their view, it was already corrupt. They just accelerated a natural process. According to Ra’s, they had “sacked Rome” and “loaded trade ships with plague rats,” so in this case, they wanted to force the city to tear itself apart, rather than go in with an outside force. Which is what they’re doing now, in a much more comic book sci-fi super-villain way, which I’ll admit that I like more every time I watch this movie.
David: The plan is so amazingly complex. How did they even know about the microwave emitter in the first place to know to steal it and use it in their master plan with the fear gas they’ve been sending to Gotham for months? Unless they have spies in Wayne Industries?
Chris: Well, Ra’s also points out that Gotham is so corrupt that the League has infiltrated every level of the city’s infrastructure. So presumably they do.
David: I guess, except that they actually wanted Bruce in the first place so he could infiltrate Wayne Industries for them. Although I guess a senior researcher is different from, well, Bruce Wayne.
Chris: He certainly would’ve made things easier than just having Chet in the Mailroom snooping around Lucius’s basement. The important thing in this scene is that it establishes that, according to Ra’s at least, Gotham City is so unbelievably corrupt that it’s beyond saving. This is exactly what we’ve seen from characters like Rachel (who would’ve been killed two or three times already just for being an honest DA) and Gordon (who has no one to report police corruption to), so we have every reason to believe Ra’s. The only thing is, Batman thinks he can do the impossible and save the City even from itself.
David: Still, Rachel and Gordon might show that but they don’t REPRESENT that. And it’s because of those characters that the city stays together, really, not just Batman. That said, I think it’s worth mentioning how the upcoming action sequence is actually pretty similar to the pandemonium at the end of Batman ’89.
Chris: That’s a good point that I hadn’t thought of. And now I’m actually a little sad that we don’t get to see Liam Neeson dancing to Prince on a giant cake yelling “money money money, who do you ya truuuuusssst?”
David: The gas fumes, everyone acting crazy, the love interesting having to defend herself… the difference here is that Rachel Dawes, unlike Vicki Vale, doesn’t hide in a car. And as good as this movie is, it doesn’t have any characters as cool as Alexander Knox.
Chris: Alfred’s pretty close. Especially when he rescues Bruce by making fun of his push-ups.
David: Alfred is pretty great, but there’s no “Helloooooooo legs!” I still hold out hope that Scott Snyder will bring back Knox in the New 52.
Chris: Ra’s also releases every criminal from Arkham’s maximum security wing, and while that would normally be a villain’s entire plan, it’s just a piece here, which is what makes it so great. With all the dangerous criminals isolated in the Narrows, the cops send in the bulk of their force to calm things down, leaving the rest of the city unprotected for when his gas turns all the ordinary citizens into fear-crazed murderers.
David: I’m hoping we get more focus back on Arkham in the upcoming Batman Rises, because I think it was almost completely absent from Dark Knight. The Narrows was just this thing they kept mentioning as, like, hey, it still sucks since that prison breakout! This is a town that’s had a mini No Man’s Land in it for OVER A YEAR.
Chris: That kid with the periscope is a warlord on a throne of skulls in there now. “I HAVE THE SIGHT FROM THE BAT-GOD. BRING ME MORE TASTYKAKES.”
David: Like, at some point don’t you just send in the SWAT Teams to take down the Zsasz Gang or whatever?
Chris: Rachel heads to the Narrows to give Gordon the fear toxin antidote, and manages to do so must in time for Ra’s to activate the Microwave Emitter, vaporizing the water underneath the mains and turning the entire center of the city into Silent Hill.
David: I really have to wonder how Ra’s decided who did and who didn’t get gas masks.
Chris: Gordon calls for backup, but the current Commissioner tells him that all the riot police are already in the Narrows and the bridges are raised. And just as he says “there’s nobody left to send in,” the Tumbler jumps over the river and crashes down right next to Gordon. That’s about as simple and easy as a “f— yeah!” moment can get in a script, but I’ll be damned if it’s not pretty awesome.
David: Commissioner Loeb, also from Year One!
Chris: Batman also outlines Ra’s plan: Use the train to send the Microwave Emitter to the heart of Gotham City, Wayne Tower, where the water lines and the train tracks have a convenient hub.
David: Which was carefully seeded at the beginning by the writers in the flashback to Thomas and Bruce on the train, because this movie actually is very tightly plotted. Mysterious Wayne Industries Mole aside.
Chris: But even that gets explained by Ra’s line about infiltrating the city. I can’t think of any major plot holes, and there are very few minor ones that aren’t at least addressed.
David: That’s one thing I really appreciate about this flick: It completely plays fair with the viewer. Even the Ducard/Ra’s thing is totally obvious when you rewatch the first third. As much as people praise the execution, if this had been an OGN drawn by someone appropriate for the material — I dunno, maybe Sean Phillips — it’d still be pretty praised. The script really does have a lot to recommend it.
Chris: Batman gives the keys to the Tumbler to Gordon and tells him to take down the tracks, and goes off to stop Ra’s himself, which inolves more pithy banter and an awful lot of ninja fighting. It is everything I want from a movie. Unfortunately, Batman and Ra’s duking it out on an elevated train car leads to what’s commonly regarded as the biggest flaw in the movie.
David: After a genuinely good fight scene, where Ra’s taunts Bruce for taking his advice regarding theatricality too literally, Gordon uses the Tumbler to blow up a railway section, sending Batman and Ra’s on a collision course with the ground. And for what it’s worth, Oldman does some great subtle acting with Gordon in the Tumbler, the way he approaches all the controls so tentatively. In a way that doesn’t come across as pratfall humor.
Chris: But it’s still funny. I was about to say that Oldman was an underrated comedic actor, but I’m not sure that’s accurate. I mean, he ain’t exactly a laugh riot in The Professional, but he’s pretty hilarious with Tim roth in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. But that’s getting us away from the big point, which is that when Ra’s congratulates Batman on finally embracing more ruthlesss methods, Batman says “I won’t kill you… but I don’t have to save you.” Then he leaves him to die.
David: I think I kind of get what they’re trying to do here, that if Batman hadn’t gone out of his way to save Ra’s in the first act this wouldn’t have happened, so this time he isn’t. And that time it was a dojo set on fire by Bruce, and this time it’s a railway that’s about to crash. But back at the dojo, Ra’s was, like, one of hundreds of dudes who were about to die, and Bruce went straight out of his way to save him. Here, it’s just him and Ra’s on a train. It pretty much feels like an execution.
Chris: I think in isolation, this is an absolutely terrible line, and really goes against the understanding of the character that Nolan and Goyer show throughout the rest of the movie. That said, there is a lot — both here and in The Dark Knight — that contextualizes it.
David: I think it’s a bad choice, but it’s one that they at least backed up in the story.
Chris: Oh, I think it’s a godawful choice. There are much better ways that it could’ve played out. If you look at it as setting up the chance in Batman’s attitude when he does save the Joker — who is arguably as bad or worse than Ra’s — at the end of The Dark Knight, it’s easier to take. But like I said, it’s hard to reconcile it with the understanding they show in the rest of the movie.
David: I’d even have accepted it if Bruce knew about the Lazarus Pit, but then it’d be even stupider, actually. Yeah, he’d know Ra’s would come back, but then he’d be out plotting with his power base again, instead of, you know, in GCPD custody. Which would be hilariously demeaning to Ra’s. But most likely, they just had to have his body disappear so he could return in the third movie.
Chris: You can do a lot of mental gymnastics to justify it, too. Ra’s is as much of a badass ninja as Bruce is, so maybe he was saying that it wasn’t his role to save him, but Ra’s could save himself, meaning that Ra’s chooses his fate, dying along with his shattered plans.
David: Either way, it happens, and just to complete the cartoon villain cliche, they can’t find the body.
Chris: It does seem like a set-up, which is what led a lot of people to assume that Anne Hathaway had been cast as Talia in The Dark Knight Rises, instead of as Selina Kyle. Personally, I had my hopes up because I wanted them to reveal that Genovia, the country from The Princess Diaries, was actually under the control of the League of Assassins.
David: Well, we still have Marion Cotillard as “Miranda Tate.” Who even has a sexy accent. I mean, maybe they actually are just the characters they’re claimed to be, but after the Batman Begins casting fakeouts..
Chris: If Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Talia, that will be the most shocking reveal in comic book movie history.
David: Maybe he gets literally rejuvenated by the Lazarus Pit and he’s Ra’s al Ghul infiltrating the GCPD! That might be too comic-booky even for this. Although I don’t know.
Chris: For now, though, Ra’s is “dead,” Gotham is saved, and as his final triumph, Bruce buys all the shares of Wayne Enterprises that were put up for sale, regaining control of his family legacy, firing Rutger Hauer, and putting Lucius back in charge.
David: And Lucius even gets his moment to turn Earle’s “Didn’t you get the memo?” dick line back on him. They are awfully smug about this, but, well, Earle WAS a huge dick.
Chris: Then, as Bruce is apparently attempting to rebuild Wayne Manor one plank at a time while wearing a polo shirt and khakis, Rachel shows up to talk about how they now both know that he’s Batman.
David: And then she kisses him and says, you know, it’s totally cool that you’re doing something good for the world, but now I’m somehow actually LESS attracted to you. And… what. Rachel, you are the worst. I recognize that this sets up her choosing the white knight over the dark knight in the next movie, but… I mean, maybe it’s just that Katie Holmes is a terrible actress. Are we at Low Points yet? Because I swear to god, Katie Holmes.
Chris: Batman only has room for one lady in his heart, David. Lady Justice. Finally, we get a scene with Gordon and Batman on a rooftop, where they discuss the theme of the next movie: Escalation. If Bruce Wayne becomes Batman to respond to how bad Gotham City is, what will Gotham City become to fight against Batman?
David: It’s really amazing how this final scene is like an academic abstract for the second movie. Not only does it lay out the theme of escalation, but it also reinforces Bruce’s lack of ego when he tells Gordon he’ll never have to thank him, which foreshadows when he commits character suicide with his Batman personality at the end of Dark Knight much as he did with Bruce Wayne at the party here. Bruce constantly displays self-destructive tendencies, and when he loses Rachel he basically takes the next step into turning the mission into a suicide run.
Chris: That exchange — “I never go to thank you.” “And you’ll never have to.” — is the perfect summary of Batman and Gordon’s relationship, and it makes a fantastic cap for a prety great movie.
David: Every actor except Katie Holmes. I’m serious, no exceptions. Even Bobby Elvis from Sons of Anarchy as Flass is perfect.
Chris: It’s seriously an amazing cast. There aren’t any standouts, for the simple reason that everyone is amazing. Bale gives an incredible performance, but next to Oldman and Neeson, they have this completely uniform excellence to them. Even when Cillian Murphy’s coming as close as this movie gets to chewing scenery, there’s a slow build to it that makes perfect sense.
David: What’s crazy about this movie is that it didn’t just have, you know, a good cast. Like, most superhero movies have talented casts, but on paper if you just listed the actors and blocked out the title, you’d think it was Oscar bait. It’s why I don’t understand when people criticize Nolan’s casting choices, since seriously, when has he ever been wrong? This is a guy who somehow has managed to get Michael Caine to appear in every single one of his movies.
Chris: I’ve been trying to think of a particular favorite scene for a high point of the actual film, but there are so many. Bruce telling the thugs in the prison that they’re practice, the whole dueling narratives sequence during his training, Bruce playing drunk at the party… They’re all great.
David: I think “SWEAR TO ME!” is still the quintissential moment of this film.
Chris: Remember when you asked when has Christopher Nolan been wrong about casting? I give you Katie Holmes.
David: Dammit, Katie Holmes. You aren’t even bad, you’re just not as good as everybody else. All of Holmes’s scenes should be pretty easy to reshoot with Gyllenhaal for the box set, right?
Chris: She has a few really good moments, like when she slaps Bruce outside of Falcone’s bar and… well, that might be the only one. She’s watchable, and in a movie where every other person in the cast is excellent, that makes her a weak link.
David: There’s just… Rachel is supposed to be very intelligent and passionate, and Holmes comes across as a cold, dumb fish.
Chris: I wouldn’t say dumb, but not the smart, sharp DA that Gyllenhall plays her as later.
Also, even knowing where it goes in The Dark Knight — which makes it immeasurably better — the “I don’t have to save you” scene is still pretty rough. Maybe Rises will provide even more context, but on its own, in this movie, it sticks out like a sore thumb as a massive misstep.
David: It’s not enough to kill my enjoyment of the movie, but it would have bugged me more if the rest of it hadn’t been so damn good.
Chris: That’s the thing: Like Holmes and the rest of the cast, I like everything else about this movie, even the big dumb action movie microwave emitter. That line just seems ridiculous when compared with the rest of it. And as much as I talk about Dark Knight providing context and how much better this movie is if you look at it as part of a longer storyline, it should still stand on its own. And for the most part, it does.
David: Well, it does, but only not as a Batman story that satisfies our view of the character. As a movie by itself, it’s just fine.
David: Recommended, as if you haven’t seen this thing already.
Chris: From the way you were talking about the script, am I right in thinking you liked it a little more than expected?
David: Yeah, it’s a funny script with a really tight plot. Every element comes together really well, nothing feels extraneous.
Chris: I was talking to Chad Bowers the other day, and he made the pretty accurate comment that if The Dark Knight had never come out, we’d probably still be talking about how Batman Begins was the greatest super-hero movie ever made.
David: Yeah, that’s the thing, it’s definitely got a bit of little brother syndrome. It’s really good, but Dark Knight is…
Chris: Next week’s subject for Cinematic Batmanology? Cool segue, bro!
David: I was going to say a step beyond, but that too!
Chris: That’s right, everyone: Our series on the Batman movies is finally coming to a close — and before you ask, Mask of the Phantasm goes with the Animated Series. So join us next week as we begin our discussion of 2008’s Academy Award-winning The Dark Knight!