ComicsAlliance Reviews ‘Batman Begins’ (2005), Part Two
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.
Chris: Welcome back to Cinematic Batmanology and our look at 2005’s Batman Begins! In our last installment, we took you through the first act of the movie with Bruce Wayne’s origin and his training at the hands of the League of Shadows. Now it’s time to see what happens when he returns to Gotham City, and I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’m pretty sure he becomes Batman.
David: It’s interesting that a movie so much about Gotham City avoids it so much for its first third. We see it in flashbacks, but only sporadically. But the whole movie — both movies, really — are way more about Gotham City itself than Batman as a character.Chris: Totally agreed. Nolan and Goyer have already set that up a little in what we’ve seen by showing us what Thomas Wayne’s Gotham was like — rough and suffering but in the process of being rebuilt through philanthropy — which is going to be contrasted with how we see it later in this movie, and far more in The Dark Knight. It’s a nice, subtle way of building a world that’s so far gone that it requires Batman, which is something that has to be done in any take on the character. You have to build a world that allows him to exist, and that’s something these movies do very well.
David: “A machine designed to make Batman,” if you will. But before we get to the crisis of conscience in the second flick, Nolan and Goyer have to show how Batman’s presence makes Gotham City better, and they actually pull that off. Gotham City before Batman shows up sucks, and not in an over-the-top, cartoonish way.
Chris: It’s just a really awful place to live, but we’ll get to that in a moment. For now, we have Bruce’s reunion with Alfred, and while it’s not the first time we’ve seen Batman’s faithful butler in the movie, this is really the scene that introduces us to Nolan, Goyer, and Michael Caine’s version of the character.
David: While I think Michael Gough would have actually done justice to this material, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it all comes together to create an almost perfect rendition of the character, which is thoroughly unsurprising considering they have one of the most decorated actors in the world portraying him.
Chris: In a lot of ways, Caine’s Alfred is a little closer to the Alfred of the comics than we saw from Gough. In the flashbacks, he’s very much the proper, tuxedoed Gentleman’s Gentleman when dealing with Thomas, but with Bruce, he seems a little looser. Caine even gives him a less posh accent, and according to interviews, he played him as an ex-SAS soldier who was wounded and took up the Pennyworth family business of domestic service as his second career.
David: We see more about that when he talks about his experiences in Burma in Dark Knight. And most importantly, Alfred is funny. Caine has that wry wit down.
Chris: He really does. He’s great, and it’s telling that one of the few times we see Bruce genuinely smiling in the movie is during his conversation with Alfred. He’s clearly a surrogate father for Bruce, but he’s also someone that he can relate to as an equal. They seem comfortable with each other, and I love the idea of Bruce vanishing for ten years and leaving all the Wayne billions to Alfred.
David: Well, one thing the movie makes clear is that he’s not in this for the salary. He’s raising Bruce and doing all of this because Thomas Wayne was his friend. Like, yeah I guess he employed him, but you get the feeling there was no master/servant relationship going on there, not really. Thomas, as portrayed in this movie, is way too informal.
Chris: Again, something that comes up in The Dark Knight: He cares for Bruce because he’s family, and sticks with him through what would otherwise be an insane scheme because he believes Bruce can pull it off.
David: I was rereading Batman: The Return yesterday, and there’s a line where Alfred says “I couldn’t beg, borrow or steal a finer way to live my life.” Much like Lucius Fox’s lines in the same issue (“This way, Mister Wayne”), I couldn’t help but hear them in Caine’s voice, or Lucius’s in Morgan Freeman’s. But we’ll get to him.
David: Maybe most of all, you get the sense Alfred is having fun. Like, this entire “let’s wage a one-man war on crime” thing? He’s loving it.
Chris: It’s fitting, then, that Alfred’s the first — and really, only — one with whom Bruce discusses his plan: Saving Gotham City by becoming a dramatic example of someone standing up to the cooks in power. And in order to become that dramatic example, he needs to become something more than just one man.
David: One of the interesting things about this take on Batman is that he sets out to become mythology. Like, becoming a symbol against corruption wasn’t a happy accident like it was with the Batman of the comics, as far as I can tell. He doesn’t just put the costume on to strike fear. Bruce approaches this like a businessman.
Chris: In that he’s building a brand?
Chris: Right: He believes that it’s not just criminals that need to see him as a symbol. It’s everyone. It’s arguable that the theatrics of the Batman persona are there as much for the normal people as they are to scare criminals.
David: So of course he inspires imitators, but we’re a few weeks off from that.
Chris: See, this is what I was getting at when I talked about watching Begins again recently and seeing parts of it in a whole new light. The themes building here are almost inextricable from what goes on in The Dark Knight, and I imagine once The Dark Knight Rises comes out, we might even get yet another perspective on them.
David: What’s remarkable is, the movies work very well as standalones, as well. You don’t really need to have seen Begins to see Dark Knight, but the first one plays like an overture.
Chris: Which brings us back to Gotham, and another connecting thread between the two movies: The introduction of Dr. Jonathan Crane, who will will shortly come to know as the Scarecrow — and who, in the movies, is Gotham City’s first super-criminal.
David: He’s running Arkham Asylum in this incarnation, and being paid off by the mob to declare their enforcers insane so they can be taken there and avoid jail time.
Chris: Except that in reality, he’s actually working for Ra’s and the League of Shadows, because there’s nothing in this movie that doesn’t have at least two layers to it. He’s a pretty obvious fit, too, considering that as we’ve already seen, the overarching theme of the movie is fear and the power thereof, but he also serves as a living embodiment of the corruption that has taken hold of Gotham, and why the capital-G Good and Honest people like Rachel and Gordon can’t do their jobs.
David: Well, keep in mind that he’s not totally down with Ra’s’ plan. Ra’s does later say that he lied to Crane and told him they were going to hold Gotham ransom for money.
Chris: Again: Layers and layers at work here.
David: God, I love the fact that there’s a decent movie out there that involves the phrases “Ra’s al Ghul,” “Jonathan Crane” and “hold Gotham ransom.” I know I was critical of aspects of the first act, and I think the third kind of goes off the rails too (ho ho ho, what a knee-slapper), but the second act of this movie is pretty much f***ing perfect.
Chris: It probably goes without saying at this point, but Cillian Murphy‘s great, too. He plays Crane with this creepy… oiliness, I guess? Like he’d be weird and slippery if you touched him.
David: He’s a greasy bastard, yeah. He plays him as believably crazy, too. I like the idea of not having Crane be an ugly dude, like he usually is. I mean, I know, it’s Hollywood, everyone has to be beautiful, but he just seems way sleazier this way.
Chris: Meanwhile, back at Stately Wayne Manor, Bruce is doing some pre-crimefighting research when he hears that most terrifying of sounds: Squeaking.
David: Shoulda gone through a window. I mean, even if it doesn’t crash through, anything. Not just “oh, turns out we have bats.” I mean, I’m sorry, the bat through the window is super iconic, and on top of that it really wouldn’t have screwed with the movie or its themes or anything.
Chris: For all this movie’s emphasis on Batman embracing the theatrical in order to become a symbol, they sure do give him the least dramatic inspiration of all time.
David: It’s like a Superman movie where he got teleported to Earth.
Chris: For real. As much as I’ve tried to see my way through the choices the filmmakers made with where they deviated from the comics, this one just eludes me. You don’t even get Bruce debating over what sort of symbol he’s going to become. It just sort of shows up and he goes “oh, cool, bats.”
David: Yeah, the others all have a really solid argument. They do sort of lead up to it with the sequence at the beginning where he was afraid of bats, and also the bats being in the fear box while he’s going through his super ninja trial. Like, I get it, he’s using what scares HIM most to inspire fear in others. Weaponized fear, a big theme in the movie.
Chris: Yes, but there’s no dramatic reveal to that. As far as we know, at this point in the movie he stil doesn’t know he’s going to become Batman. If the fear box from the ninja dojo was the inspiration, that would make more sense than him just forgetting about bats and suddenly getting a reminder because Alfred didn’t keep up with the pest control bill.
David: I was actually talking to [CA editor] Andy Khouri about this movie via text message while I was camping, and he brought up that Rachel’s character easily could have been Harvey Dent. And, for the most part, was written like him.
Chris: I think the fact that you’re a guy who sends text messages about Batman movies while camping says a lot about why we do these reviews together.
David: But yeah, Bruce finds a bat, then he spelunks down into the Bat-cave, and then he just kind of chills in the middle of some bats because now he’s one with the bats or… something.
David: It’s a cool visual, but it doesn’t really work, in my opinion. It doesn’t sell “I shall become a bat.”
Chris: As much as it might’ve been too melodramatic for a movie that was trying to ground its version of Batman in reality, not getting a “Yes, father” on screen is a damn shame.
David: Batman goes out for the first time just screeching and bumping around walls.
Chris: Crooks all backing away in terror as Bruce stands there shoving mosquitos into his mouth and screeching at them.
David: And he just poops EVERYWHERE.
Chris: Hell, that’d keep me from stealing a car if I saw it. Anyway, we then get a nice scene with Falcone and Crane that explains their working relationship, as well as giving a nice moment when Crane mentions that his boss, Ra’s, is coming to Gotham, and Falcone shows fear for the first time in the entire movie. And Crane just revels in it. It’s also worth noting that he identifies Rachel almost explicitly as being incorruptible — “We’ll buy her off.” “Not this one” — but because she’s just a person, they make plans to kill her. That’s how it goes in Gotham these days.
David: Gotham’s totally corrupt, but not in an overt way. I mean, yeah, the streets look pretty crappy, but it’s not dystopian, all of it’s below the surface and the squeaky clean veneer of respectability.
Chris: Which brings us to the squeaky clean Wayne Enterprises board room, and the discussion of turning the company over to the profitable world of heavy arms manufacturing. That’s one of the things I love about this movie: Your key to showing just how wrong Gotham is before Batman gets there is that Wayne Enterprises is making guns.
David: Earle, played by an aged Roy Batty, is currently running the board and prepping to take Wayne Industries public, effectively screwing over Bruce.
Chris: This is, of course, because the means of production must stay within the hands of a single trusted plutocrat, and not be distributed to the people, because that way lies corruption.
David: Conservatives have interpreted these flicks as very right-wing, and while I don’t know if it’s intentional, there’s certainly something to that argument. These movies are basically about how everything works out for the best if you let the landed gentry just abuse your privacy.
Chris: True, but in this case it’s one rich dude doing it so that he can get even more rich by profiting off the death of others, versus a guy who is super-rich and wants to use his company to make unique, prohibitively expensive military-grade weapons and vehicles so that he can operate outside the bounds of the law. That… That doesn’t really make it sound any better, does it?
David: No, it really doesn’t. There’s definitely an aspect of that here, of the class separation and privilege behind Batman that never really gets explored that much.
Chris: At least there was an attempt in the first act to soften it, as we discussed last week. Either way, I’ll admit to loving that Bruce straight cruises into the office, starts macking on Earle’s hot secretary, and starts to perfect his smarmy playboy act.
David: He strolls in like he owns the place. Which, well, he does.
Chris: Rutger Hauer does this amazing bit of acting in the scene where he talks to Bruce, too. At first, he’s super-defensive about not being able to stop the company from going public, but as soon as Bruce says he doesn’t care, he flips around and warms right up. Especially when Bruce asks to be sent down to Applied Sciences.
David: He figures he can just bury this rich idiot down there, not knowing he’s basically signing his own corporate death warrant.
Chris: Applied Sciences is, for the record, one of the most genius ideas Nolan and Goyer had in making their movie, especially in how it introduces us to Lucius Fox.
Chris: In the comics, Fox was created to explain how Wayne Industries could be a successful company when its owner was always off punching out the Riddler, and while he serves that purpose here as well — he’s the “better men” that Thomas alludes to in the beginning as the people who run the company while he’s practicing medicine at the hospital — the added layer of using him to explain how Batman gets all the stuff that he couldn’t possibly build himself is really clever, and helps tie the company back to Bruce’s identity. It’s even pretty much superseded his previous role in the comics.
David: Well, he’s Q. And the winking relationship they have, where they each pretend that Bruce isn’t Batman despite them both knowing full well it’s the case, is fun to watch.
Chris: Very! I just love that they realized that while you can show Batman sharpening up Batarangs in his cave-basement is fine, it stretches the suspension of belief to say “oh, he also built a plane down there, by himself, with a little help from his 70-year-old butler.”
David: Morrison really almost takes that too far, with both him and Damian constantly making their own Batmobiles with brilliant new gyroscopic innovations. Like, I believe Batman is insanely smart in a lot of fields, but I don’t know if he’s also an award-winning auto mechanic. And engineer.
Chris: I think that’s fine for the comic book Batman, especially considering that the previous Batmobiles were built by a mute hunchback that was later cured of hunchbackism on by a dude who hated Bruce Wayne so much that he gave himself plastic surgery to look just like him. Comics, everybody!
David: Haha, man, I always forget about Harold. He was such a bizarre idea.
Chris: No kidding. But here, in a movie that’s attempting to ground things more in reality, there are limits placed on how much Batman can do by himself. Which goes back to what Morrison called the First Truth of Batman: He can’t do everything himself without building a network of people to help.
David: Speaking of Batman’s skillset, though, I think it’s worth pointing this out now because it’s something we’re going to come back to a lot in this movie and the next: Nolan’s Batman isn’t a detective. He’s a crusader.
Chris: Yeah, this is not a dude who solves a lot of mysteries. The closest he comes is that scene in The Dark Knight with the bullet fragments, and that’s the closest that movie gets to straight up sci-fi nonsense.
David: The thing is, with the story they’re telling, it fits. It’d bother me a lot in a weaker movie, but here they get across Bruce’s humanity and compassion and personality so well, that it’s difficult to complain about the fact that in a three hour movie they didn’t stick in scenes of him doing CSI. But when this Batman needs information, he doesn’t figure or reason it out, he just beats up a thug until he tells him what he needs to know.
Chris: Do you think that’s a flaw in the movie?
David: As an interpretation of Batman, maybe. As a movie, no. It’s perfectly consistent. It’s a hell of a detail to leave out, because that’s always been what he was more than anything. I mean, when he travels the world, he doesn’t train with the world’s greatest detectives, he trains with the world’s greatest fighters. Even Ducard, the character who supposedly was Bruce’s greatest influence as an investigator, basically gets turned into a false face of an evil ninja lord. There’s no Darknight Detective here, it’s all Caped Crusader. And let’s be honest: that’s because dudes getting punched in the face makes for better cinema than sitting in the Batcave running ideas through a computer.
Chris: There’s definitely an emphasis on Batman’s physicality in these movies, which I think is underscored by the fact that both Scarecrow and the Joker — and even Ra’s al-Ghul — are villains who present a very cerebral challenge to Batman. Conquering fear, figuring out a spiraling sequence of consequences, and so on. Was the choice made to lessen the Detective aspect so that the mental stuff would seem like more of a challenge?
David: That’s an excellent question. While this Batman fights more, I dunno if I’d say he’s more physical — there’s an equal amount of focus on the conflict in his mind, and how much his motivations are called into question by the villains. He’s a scrapper, both physically and mentally — a lot of his victories come from pure refusal to give up. Which echoes the entire “why do we fall” line and “The Man Who Falls.” Nolan’s Batman tends to win through stamina and stubbornness rather than ingenuity.
Chris: Stubbornness, or incorruptibility?
David: Ha! Same thing, really.
Chris: So fourteen years after Jack Nicholson asked, we finally have our answer to where Batman gets his stuff, and our next important moment comes when we’re reintroduced to James W. Gordon, GCPD.
David: For all of the laudations we’ve given to actors so far, Gary Oldman might deserve the biggest. He is a fantastic James Gordon.
Chris: He really is, and I was incredibly happy about it, since Gordon might be my second-favorite Batman character. The source material he’s working with here is drawn heavily from Batman: Year One, and we see that Gordon is a good man trapped in an impossbile situation. There’s a great line when Flass is trying to get him to take bribe money where he says that he won’t rat him out, but even if he wanted to, there’s no one to tell. Like Rachel, he’s this island of incorruptibility, but there’s no way for him to operate. All he can do is not take the money himself, an action from which he gains nothing.
David: I almost find early Gordon more interesting than later Gordon, because once he’s become Commissioner, he’s won. Now he’s just directing an awesome police department. There’s way more drama in the good man stuck in the corrupt organization.
Chris: I think that’s why you often see stories where Gordon gets taken down, or fired by the mayor. It puts him back in that position of having to fight an overpowering corruption, which is certainly what’s going on here.
David: Then again, I shouldn’t say that, since I just finished reading one of the best Gordon stories I’ve ever read, and it didn’t do that at all. Thank you, Scott Snyder.
Chris: Batman ambushes Gordon in his office and asks for the three things he needs to bring down Falcone, because at this point, Falcone is the living representation of organized crime in Gotham. If Batman proves that even he can be brought down, the rest of the City sees that the crooks aren’t as untouchable as they’ve been led to believe.
David: Let’s be clear here: by “Batman,” we mean “Bruce Wayne in combat gear and a ski mask.” And by “ambushes,” we mean “holds him at staplerpoint.” And my absolute favorite part of this scene: this very first, early occurrence, Batman TOTALLY F***S UP the sudden disappearance.
Chris: Ha! He does. Gordon ends up chasing him to the roof and he hurts himself trying to jump to a fire escape. He totally botches his signature move! But not before we get one of the best exchanges in the movie:
GORDON: You’re just one man?
BATMAN: Now we’re two.
David: It’s a great scene. Batman also recommends that Gordon link up with Rachel Dawes (professionally, I mean).
Chris: It’s all part of the learning process of becoming Batman.
David: They really build this stuff up excellently. God, going through this movie again has made me so excited for The Dark Knight Rises.
Chris: What follows is another great scene with Bruce and Lucius that plays with the idea of Lucius as a willing accomplice to Batman’s activities, and then introduces the Tumbler, Batman’s blogging platform of choice.
Chris: Sorry, I meant “the new Batmobile.” Got my notes mixed up.
David: Freeman’s delivery when Bruce asks about the Tumbler is great, too. “Oh, Mr. Wayne, you wouldn’t be interested in THAT.”
Chris: I hadn’t thought about this at all, but my pal Jay Pinkerton pointed out that Wayne Enterprises made a vehicle designed for jumping over rivers and then painted it in desert camo.
David: The Nile is in the desert! Isn’t it? There were parts of SNES JRPGs with deserts with water in them, so I’m sure it exists in real life.
Chris: “Oh, the Airship, Mr. Wayne? It was designed to take soldiers to the Ice Palace. Bean-counters didn’t think getting the 7th Crystal Shard was worth 300,000 gold pieces.”
David: “Does it come in black?”
Chris: So at this point, we have Batman’s costume, his utility belt, his car, his cape, and his symbol. And a bunch of tiny little sharp pieces of metal shaped like bats. Time to put them all together! Finally, exactly one hour into the movie, we get Batman’s first outing as Batman.
David: A lot of people hate on this scene for all the shaky-cam, but I think it actually works really well to show how Batman uses fear as a weapon (there’s that again).
Chris: Yeah, I think a lot of people were let down by the fact that you don’t get to see Batman kick ass, and while I do think there’s some legitimacy to that complaint, I think it’s just as much of an answer to say that this is how Batman fights. It’s confusing and terrifying. The same thing goes for Bale’s Batman voice — a lot of people hate it, but I love it, because if you were suddenly yanked upside-down and some dude was punching you in the face and yelling at you in that voice, it would scare the living sh** out of you.
David: Much like he consciously goes after becoming an ideal, he also goes for the theatricality with gusto. It’s a very calculated attempt to frighten people.
Chris: And it works. I almost wish they’d opted out of using “I’m Batman,” since it seems like such a throwback to Batman ’89, but I guess there was really no way around that. Like it not, that IS the iconic moment of Batman on film, and Tom Wilkinson as Falcone sells the hell out of it.
David: To be fair, we aren’t really recapping the scene: Flass shows up at a site, as directed by Falcone since he’s a dirty cop, to help run security on the dropping off of a drug shipment, half of which is going to the dealers (probably heroin/cocaine) and the other half of which is going to someone in the Narrows, because it’s a weaponized version of the fear drug that Scarecrow uses, derived from the hallucinogenic blue flowers we saw Ra’s use in the first act. This movie has a very, very tight plot.
Chris: Then Batman shows up and takes the crooks down one-by-one, terrorizing them as he goes. Seriously, whoever designed the stealth levels in Arkham Asylum must have loved this scene. The game even has the moment where the last dude left starts freaking out and shooting his gun at any noise.
David: There’s basically no wasted time in this flick, even though it’s long. Every part of the movie fits together.
Chris: The last to go is Falcone, who for some reason sticks around even when Flass tells him to bail, possibly because his driver gets knocked out when he looks away for thirty seconds. And that is a great Batman moment.
David: Tying him to the spotlight makes for a nice ‘realistic’ origin story of the Bat-signal, too.
Chris: At the same time across town, two of Falcone’s thugs are waiting to kill Rachel, and we get a great visual of the subway that contrasts with how it is during Thomas Wayne’s time.
David: Yeah, Gotham’s subway system sucks. Which isn’t unexpected.
Chris: Batman rescues her and provides her with the “leverage” she needs on Judge Fayden — blackmail photos, which is another example of Batman turning the criminals’ methods against them. It does put him into some pretty dubious moral territory, though, which is something Nolan deals with again later. Basically, it operates on the mantra that it’s okay as long as it’s Batman, because he only does it when it needs to.
David: It works because he’s incorruptible, but will he beable to stay incorruptible? And what if he stays incorruptible but has to LOOK corruptible? But we’ll get to that in a few weeks. It’s really difficult not to point out just what a consistent thematic arc the two films have, despite being almost completely unrelated in plot.
Chris: It’s addressed in a very minor way in the next scene when the current police commissioner is freaking out about Batman’s very high-profile vigilantism and Gordon points out that Batman just gave them Falcone, literally tied to the scene of a crime. The commissioner says that no one can take the law into their own hands, but as we’ve seen, Falcone’s been existing outside the law for quite some time now.
David: The law is useless in Gotham right now, because it’s so publicly known how corrupt it is. I mean, I get the impression it’s not even a remote secret, even to children.
Chris: More importantly than the moral aspects, however, is the fact that we are now treated to Shirtless Batman Doing Pushups.
Chris: You’re welcome, ladies. And gentlemen.
David: Right out of bed, too. I think Alfred even makes fun of him later for his push-up obsession.
Chris: Alfred also prompts Bruce to create his playboy persona in order to throw off suspicion, which is another thing that this movie does that we don’t really see in any other film. Even in Batman ’66, where Bruce (as Bruce) gets a pretty fair amount of screentime, he’s an intelligent philanthropist, not a sinner and a wastrel.
David: There’s a real sense of sacrifice that Bruce is making here, that he’s basically completely ruining his good name for what he perceives is the greater good. Which, now that I think about it, is the end of The Dark Knight.
Chris: Exactly: He does it as both Bruce Wayne and as Batman, which is a really interesting take on the character. Even though it mirrors what he does in the comics, we’ve never really seen any negative consequences to Bruce Wayne’s playboy lifestyle of driving around in sports cars with supermodels stacked two deep.
David: You can tell it really weights on Alfred, too, especially with the birthday scene later. Alfred understands why Bruce is doing what he’s doing, but he’s also basically pissing on his dad’s name at the same time.
Chris: The next piece of the plot arrives in the form of a Wayne Enterprises ship found adrift in the Atlantic, with all the crew missing and presumed dead.
David: My good buddy Matt Singleton pointed out the similarity between this and the empty boat showing up ashore in Dracula, which is a great genre call-out.
Chris: It’s something I hadn’t thought about, but I think he’s onto something. The difference is, of course, that instead of Dracula, the ship is carrying the first item produced by Wayne Enterprises’ brand new Heavy Arms division: the microwave emitter.
David: A.K.A. the Obvious Plot Device. The microwave emitter might be the most ridiculous thing about this movie.
Chris: Didn’t you say that last week about the secret super ninjas who use fear flowers?
David: The entire plot with the fear gas and the microwave emitter just veers too close to rocket penguins for me.
Chris: I don’t dislike it nearly as much as you do, mostly because — as we’ve talked about — it’s executed so well. It does seem a little out of place with what the rest of the movie is trying to build, but at the same time, it’s a challenge as over-the-top and theatrical as Batman himself.
David: Yeah, I realize I’m nitpicking here, and the movie already went out of its way in the first act to unground itself enough to have drug-fueled ninja assassins on the scene. The microwave emitter being used to disperse it in the city isn’t completely ridiculous, and it does make for some incredibly effective action setpieces.
Chris: Bruce does some cavorting and runs into Rachel, and almost drops his act because he can see how disappointed she is in him, and as disenchanted as I am with Katie Holmes in this movie, I wish there would’ve been a little more on their relationship. This is the first time she’s seen him in years, and she literally thought he was dead.
David: I don’t get why he didn’t introduce himself, first of all, and second, yeah, Katie Holmes isn’t very good at… showing emotion.
Chris: She gives him a line about how his actions define him, and don’t worry, we’ll be hearing it again later. But now, it’s time for super-villainy, as we cut to the city jail and Dr. Crane’s visit with Falcone. This scene is amazing.
David: Murphy is so good at crazy. It’s great. Falcone is basically completely out of the picture after this scene, where Crane just drives him completely insane with an overdose of fear gas. And then justifies it to an orderly as a major accomplishment.
Chris: The setup for it is great, though: Falcone tries to lean on Crane to get him out of prison by blackmailing him, putting on this huge tough guy act because that’s how he operates. He’s strongarming him, and Crane just no-sells it. He isn’t intimidated at all, and then Falcone puts an ultimatum down and Crane… The look he gives him is perfect.
Chris: It’s this great combination of “Do you have any idea who you’re messing with?” and “I cannot wait to destroy you,” filtered through this sheer madness this guy has beneath the surface. I really want to know what the people who weren’t familiar with Batman thought of this scene, when a guy who has been such a minor player in Falcone’s crimes suddenly goes full-on villain.
David: The mask is legitimately kind of freaky, too, and it works well with the vocoder he’s got on. One of the interesting things the Scarecrow’s presence signifies is that Bruce himself didn’t cause, per se, the rise of the supervillain in Gotham.
Chris: I hadn’t thought about that!
David: Yeah, it sort of debunks the entire escalation premise. I dunno if that’s intentional or not, though.
Chris: Well, it’d be hard to argue that the Joker isn’t a pretty big step up from Scarecrow, especially given how efficiently Batman deals with Scarecrow in the opening of Dark Knight.
David: True, but that proliferation of crazy was going on before Batman got there.
Chris: I think it’s key that Crane has this supervillainy under the surface, rather than out there in the open dosing people with fear gas as his standard MO.
David: But we digress.
Chris: Batman visits Gordon at home and finds out that Flass knows why the drugs were being divvied up. This, of course, leads to Batman hanging Flass upside down from a rope and yelling at him, and I love this scene so much, you guys.
David: This one seriously has the best exchange in the entire movie. And one of the most badass Batman lines, like, ever.
FLASS: I don’t know! I swear to God!
BATMAN: SWEAR TO ME.
David: I was so, so happy the first time I saw that scene.
Chris: Oh man, and he is just SHAKING with rage when he says it. I seriously love it. Just completely terrorizing this guy. And it’s great, because the first part of this scene is Flass shaking down a falafel cart down for cash even though the guy tells him he has kids to feed. So you want to see him get what’s coming to him, and even then, you almost start to feel bad for him. Almost.
David: Flass gets a great dick line in, too. “What, they don’t like falafel?”
Chris: And then the total humiliating drop at the end. So great. Flass tells him that the drugs go to the Narrows, a place where the Gotham cops never go unless they have to and there’s a lot of them. Then, we get a look at the DA, Rachel’s boss, checking out a crate on one of Falcone’s ships, only to find the missing microwave emitter. He’s then immediately shot by a crooked cop, and while the assumption is that these are Falcone’s men, the reality is that they’re working for Ra’s. The plot threads we’ve seen from Ra’s, Falcone and Crane are starting to come together, centered on the microwave emitter.
David: As I said, this movie is meticulously plotted. Every single subplot comes together in the end, and every single theme. It’s not a very subtle movie, but it’s well-crafted.
Chris: Batman heads to the Narrows, and in one of the Goofiest-But-Still-Kind-Of-Great scenes in the movie, he’s looking through a window with this crazy night vision periscope when a kid comes out onto the fire escape to get away from his parents fighting, sees Batman, and starts talking about how nobody’s going to believe that he saw him. So Batman gives the kid his periscope.
David: I didn’t think that scene was goofy at all. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the whole movie.
Chris: Oh dude, I love it, but I think it’s goofy as hell.
David: It’s incredibly refreshing to see them do a sort of dark avenger Batman who isn’t also an inhuman dick.
Chris: Yes. That part I love. The part that cracks me up is that periscope, and trying to imagine the kid explaining it to all the other poor Narrows kids as proof that he met Batman.
In my head, that scene was clearly written to involve a Batarang, but then someone realized that Batman should not be giving this nine-year-old a sharp piece of jagged metal.
David: Yeah, that actually does make a lot more sense.
Chris: You know that kid totally called it the Bat-Scope, too.
David: We see this little kid later in the movie, too. He also grows up to be Joffrey on Game of Thrones, so it’s weird watching him on something and not wanting to slap him on his face.
Chris: Interestingly enough, Nolan’s notes on the script clearly identify him as “Jason Todd.”
David: Haha, what? Are you serious?
Chris: No, I made that up. I just wanted to see if you’d buy it. Anyway, Batman, sans periscope, sneaks into the room that Crane’s been using to extract the fear drug from the other product that Falcone’s been bringing in, but Crane and some goons show up to torch the place. Batman smashes one of their faces up against a mirror, which is pretty great, but then he gets dosed by Dr. Crane’s fear dust.
David: Batman totally trips out on the fear dust, too, leaving him basically totally at Scarecrow’s mercy. This is apparently before he built his huge tolerances for hallucinogens.
Chris: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” — T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land, 1922. Or possibly DC Comics, House Ads For Sandman, 1989.
David: Ha! So yeah, Crane even goes for a terrible pun — “I think you need to lighten up” — before using the gasoline and matches that he was going to use to destroy the drugs for the purposes of destroying the evidence to light Batman on fire.
David: Batman then gets a total Michael Keaton moment as he falls out of a building and starts flapping around wildly in the street.
Chris: He stumbles around but manages to pul himself up to a rooftop, where he calls for help from Alfred on his cell phone. And no joke, Batman having a cell phone is hilarious.
David: “Batman, why does the Bat-Communicator say ‘Samsung’ on it?”
Chris: I do wonder how Alfred, in his tux, got the Wayne Family Rolls into the Narrows, located Batman on a rooftop, got him down from there and into the car, and then left without getting murdered, carjacked, or having any sort of help. Or at least losing the hubcaps. Presumably Alfred is a badass.
David: Well, he is ex-SAS.
Chris: I almost wish there was a scene involved with Alfred yelling at him for thinking it was a good idea to go up on a roof before calling the guy without the electro-fabric glider cape. Fear dust is a hell of a drug.
David: Alfred drives him back to Wayne Manor, and when Bruce wakes up he’d already called Lucius Fox to get him to synthesize an antidote to the fear toxin.
Chris: Bruce also relizes, just by being dosed with the fear dust, that it’s the same chemical found in the flowers the League of Shadows uses, and while we talked about him not being a great detective, that’s a pretty awesome bit of logic right there.
David: Giving Bruce, and the audience, the first really concrete link to Ra’s and the first third of the movie. The entire second bit seems totally disconnected until about this moment.
Chris: It’s also pretty great that as soon as he realizes Lucius is in the room, he goes right back into the dumb playboy act. It’s weird, Bale doesn’t often get mentioned because everyone’s so great in these movies, but he’s really phenomenal.
David: “You know how it is, standing outside a club, someone’s passing around the weaponized hallucinogen…”
Chris: Such a great line.
David: It’s almost, but not quite, the height of Bruce’s acting-like-a-drunken-playboy antics, but unfortunately we’ll have to save that for next time.
Chris: It’s also revealed that it’s Bruce’s 30th Birthday, as Rachel shows up to give him a present before taking a cell phone call that reveals Falcone’s been moved to Arkham. Rachel’s going to charge in and, in all likelihood, get herself killed, which puts a crimp in Batman’s birthday plans. With that, both Batman and his Bruce Wayne persona are fully formed, the villains are coming together, Rachel’s in danger and we’re getting ready to head into the all-action third act, which takes place entirely in one night.
David: I can’t wait!
Chris: Join us next week for the finale of Batman Begins, right here at ComicsAlliance’s Cinematic Batmanology!