Bat in the Begining

Batman and Dr. Crane (Scarecrow)
Last week I saw Batman Begins: The IMAX Experience at the Pacific Science Center IMAX Theater. As far as the whole IMAX experience went, I’m not sure I would recommend it. Lately I’ve been coming to the realization that I like watching movies in my own apartment under my own conditions more than seeing them at a theatre with a huge screen, amazing sound, and lots of people surrounding me… so due to my bias, I don’t feel it’s fair for me to say, one way or the other, whether it’s worth it.

Like the IMAX experience, the movie itself left me with mixed feelings, as well.

Back when the Tim Burton version of Batman came out in 1989, I was really into it. I remember getting a comic book version of the movie and trying to use it to read more into the story (conspiracies about the Joker, etc. etc.) and to give things more depth. It was one of the few “summer blockbuster” movies that I remember as a kid. I even had the promotional tie-in big plastic cup from Burger King.

I don’t remember as much fanfare about Batman Returns, though I do remember liking it. During junior high and high school went through a Tim Burton and Danny Elfman phase so that added to my love of Batman Returns — plus it was really dark and I liked that.

As for Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, I don’t remember any specific details. I just know that I loved U2’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” theme for Batman Forever (and bought the soundtrack, which is totally amazing, by the way, due to that song) and the Smashing Pumpkin’s “The End is the Beginning is the End” for Batman & Robin.

Point of the story: I loved the first Batman movie. I loved the darkness of the first two. I loved the music in the last two. I’m not anywhere near a hardcore Batman fan. But I have seen all of the movies. I guess when I was a kid I did watch quite a few episodes of “Batman: The Animated Series” after school.

My biggest problem with Batman Begins was the lack of Elfman’s dark, brooding “Batman Theme” music. Not that cheesy music from the ’60s show, but the gothic, triumphant theme from the ’90s incarnation of Batman. I honestly cannot remember if they used it in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, but I really felt like Batman Begins needed it. The music for the movie was overall rather unnoticeable — which can be good in some movies, but bad in an epic like Batman.

The pacing of the movie was strange, too. In a way, it was three movies in one: Bruce Wayne’s training in Asia and the whole Ra’s Al Ghul villain, the back story about Wayne’s childhood and his return to Gotham and his eventual transformation into Batman, and the confrontation with Ra’s Al Ghul for the second time via a story with the Scarecrow via a story with Carmine Falcone. Overall, I think the story was rather complex and layered (for a movie like this), and I was really impressed with it.

Personally, I wasn’t very interested in the Asia bit. I loved the back story involving his childhood (because I love that sort of mythology stuff), but I could’ve done without the Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes) love interest. The Scarecrow story was great, and I wish it wouldn’t have been overshadowed at the end by Ra’s Al Ghul.

Also, since I am reading Foucault’s Madness and Civilization, my interest in anything having to do with psychology, psychiatry, insanity, asylums, etc. has been very piqued, so the fact that one of the villains was an evil psychiatrist overseeing a madhouse was totally awesome. I could try to apply some of Foucault’s research into the social implications of madness, but I will wait until I watch the movie again…

As for the acting, I thought Christian Bale did a great job as Batman. Ever since reading‘s “The Magic Christian,” which essentially argues that Bale is the best actor alive today, I’ve been more aware of his range and trusting of his roles.

Finally, I have to say that if the sequel to Batman Begins (presumably continuing this “franchise” of Bale as Batman and Christopher Nolan directing) has the Joker as a villain, I might be really sad. Jack Nicholson was brilliant as the Joker in the 1989 Batman and it would suck to see that iconic idea of the Joker replaced. (Side note: in second grade I dressed up as that version of the Joker for Halloween — that’s how much I loved him.)

One last note (which I’m not sure where to fit anywhere): The coloring of the film threw me off. The whole brownish orange tone was not how I pictured the Batman world. It felt too organic. In fact, the entire palette of the film was rather earthy — from Batman I imagine a world more industrial (probably due to Burton’s influence).

Overall, after seeing five Batman movies now, I really want to take bits and pieces of them to create the ultimate Batman franchise. I would have Burton and Nolan co-directing somehow, I would have Bale play Batman (maybe Keaton could take over one Batman gets a little older?), I would have Danny Elfman do the music, but also have a soundtrack that featured pop music from the likes of U2 and the Smashing Pumpkins, and I would limit each film to one villain so the film could really focus on the intricacies of that villain (since most comic book villains are rather complex, I think?). I know most of these “asks” aren’t possible, but it’s fun to imagine nonetheless.

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