*Thoughts and prayers to the families who lost loved ones in the Colorado movie theater tradgedy.*
As stated in my previous post (because Batman is so awesome he needed two!) - Batman, the character, was created in 1939 by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.
Tim Burton's trademark gothic insanity brought Batman to the screen in 1989 and again in 1992 with Batman Returns. Joel Schumacher took over (and ruined the series - just my opinion) with Batman Forever in 1995 and the epic-ly terrible Batman and Robin in 1997. That particular movie left a sour taste in everyone's mouth, and no one was clamouring for a new Batman. In case you had blocked that badness from your memory:
Nolan's Batman Begins is beautifully dark and stunning. It made everyone realize that by casting really good actors and writing a really good story - comic book/superhero movies good be taken seriously as amazing films.
His 2008 follow-up, The Dark Knight, continued this trend, and Heath Ledger's amazing turn as the Joker won him a posthumous Oscar and also redefined acting skill in a comic/superhero movie.
The plot is fairly simple, but with very complicated execution - if that makes any sense! Batman/Bruce Wayne has been somewhat of a recluse after volunteering to take the blame for Harvey "two-face" Dent's murderous spree at the end of Dark Knight. For the past 8 years, he's been holed up in his mansion, limping around on his cane, and brooding over the loss of his love, Rachel Dawes. Gotham has begun to heal itself on Dent's false legacy. Meanwhile, Bane, a large mercenary who may or may not have been born in a hellish prison (location not specified) breaks a doctor out of government captivity on an airplane and comes to Gotham, to rule it (or to just destroy it). Wayne gets moving again, with some influence from the ever-present and faithful Alfred, gadget-maker Lucius Fox, his buddy Commissioner Gordon, new cop John Blake, business (and pleaure) partner Miranda Tate, and slinky jewel theif Selena Kyle. Batman battles Bane, loses bad - the scene on the cover of the graphic novel pictured above is mimicked in the movie. Bane takes over Gotham for about 3 months, Batman heals, comes back, and takes back the city. And that's the simple version - how all of this goes down is very complicated.
- Christian Bale is back to complete his trilogy under the cowl. Yes, the growl is still there when he's the bat, but he does a fantastic job, particularly at the beginning of the movie, when Wayne is still miserable around the house. There is a scene where he catches Anne Hathaway's Kyle pilfering from him, and she kicks the cane out from under him as she escapes. I assumed he was going to pop back up and kick her ass, but no, he continued to lay there, presumably until Alfred shows up to ask why he fell again. Bale feels completely comfortable in the role now, and gets to bring the character full circle, and to a satisfying and justified close. No spoiler there, everyone involved has been very up-front about this being the end of this particular series. Bale has always been an amazing actor. My favorite movie of his is Equilibrium. He's notoriously dedicated and method, and he does get a few powerhouse scenes in this movie. It might not be enough to get an Oscar nom, but he deserves it.
- Hathaway is fine as Catwoman, who can be a difficult character to play. She's good, and slinky, and believable, I think I wanted more from the character, but that might not be her fault. She's tough and ballsy, takes what she wants and never pretends to be completely good, she's really only out for herself.
- Morgan Freeman is very good as Lucius Fox, who gives Batman at least one very cool new toy for this movie. He alwasy seems to be having a very good time in these movies, and for the first time in this one, got a little action scene of his own!
- Gary Oldman is wonderful again as Commissioner Gordon, exactly the way you think he should be. He is paired against Matthew Modine as the captain of police who doesn't want to go the extra step to combat Bane's takeover of the city. Both are good, and their confrontation scenes are fun.
- Marion Cotillard plays Miranda Tate, and she's fine in the role, she and Hathaway are really the only two women in the movie - so I think I needed them to be more powerful, instead they were simply both capable - not bad, just not exceptional, which (sorry to say) is what I was expecting.
- Michael Caine, however, is exceptional as Alfred. I was handling the emotion of the movie just fine until he started crying, then I lost it. If there are any acting awards that go out for this film, he should get nominated for supporting actor. Alfred has always been Batman's heart and soul, and Caine's portrayal of that is fantastic.
- Cillian Murphy is back for his third showing as the Scarecrow in a really fun cameo shot.
- Nestor (I'm not wearing eyeliner) Carbonell shows up briefly as the mayor again, and he has about the same amount of screen time as Heinz Ward (what?).
- Tom Hardy's take on Bane is, well, Tom Hardy's take on Bane. Yes, the mask is difficult to understand him through, and if this is the adjusted version, sheesh, I would hate to have heard it before. He does wear it the entire time (there's one shot in the movie of him without it) and I did find myself straining to understand him from time to time. Aside from that, he is very large, very intimidating and he does a really good job. When he and Batman do encounter each other, he definitely is a match for him...more than a match, really. I think Hardy is excellent all the time, if you didn't catch last year's Warrior, rent it now. He was fabulous in Inception, which is doubtlessly how he got this job, my only issues with him are not really with him, they're with this portrayal of Bane (I liked the one on the animated series!)
- That brings us to the shining star of this movie - Joseph Gordon Levitt as John Blake. He is (as he is in everything) very engaging, very watchable. His young cop figures out who Batman is and seeks him out for help. He's dedicated to the job, but becoming disgusted with the corruption, and the rules. He uses his gun once, then throws it away, repulsed. He asks Batman questions about how and why, and receives guidance on why the mask is important (to protect the ones you care about, and to be a symbol, more than a man). See where this is going? It's pretty clear that his character is heading for something special throughout the film, the more you get to know his character, and quite honestly, I think his character has more screen time than any of the others! He demonstrates to Batman his dedication to the city and to justice, and is rewarded for it by the end of the film.
9 out of 10 (might have gotten higher in a year that didn't have the Avengers in it).
Lost points for the length. At two hours and 45 minutes...come on, a little editing wouldn't have lost anything. Gained points for the Scarecrow cameo - love him! Lost points for the unrealistic way Batman recovers from a broken back. "What's up - my back was totally broken, totally did a bunch of push-ups, I'm fine now, let's go." Gained points for Bale, Freeman, Caine, Oldman, and especially Levitt - all amazing! Simultaneously lost and gained points for Hardy. Why not South American with no luchadore mask? But on the other hand, really big, and probably a more realistic portrayal!
Bonus Video 1: 1966 Batman: the Movie! trailer - so ridiculous - it's hilarous!
Bonus Video 2: The Batman Animated Series "Almost Got Him" episode. The best one. This is just part one, but the other parts are all available on YouTube.
Bonus Video 3: Cast and Crew Interviews...