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Clint's Review : Batman Begins

Film reviewers are taught never to make their mind up about a movie – yes, even an unappetizing carton of curdling custard from Duff or Pauly – until we’ve seen the film. But yank down my trousers, fetch the wooden spoon and spank me three times silly, because I was already convinced “Batman Begins” was the real deal before I’d even sunk in my seat.

Why? For a number of reasons: They’ve hired a face – not a name to play the Caped Crusader, they’ve hired someone to helm the film that’s not on the payroll of the toy company, they’ve spent years actually writing a script, and predominantly, come up with a screenplay that rocked harder than a heavy metal festival hosted by Rob Zombie. In short, with so many fine, fine, elements in place even before the film had started rolling – the failure to success ratio was always going to weight to the right. Like a planned night-out to your favourite watering hole with your friends – you just know this is going to rattle your rump.

Considering there’s now been five “Batman” movies, and only a couple of those – not excluding the one we’re discussing – have had some sizzle, it’s quite a revelation for a Batman movie to make the grade.

I still remember going to see the first live-action “Batman” movie – No, not that telemovie starring Adam West and Burt Ward, that they released in some territories to theatres – and I still remember the mark left on my head from all the scratching I did on the noggin’ during the film. In short, though a spectacular-looking picture, Tim Burton’s “Batman”, based on a superior script by Sam Hamm, was about as much a Superhero movie as a tin of Pringles is a constituent of the five good groups.

1989. A teenage Clint Morris, eager to see how filmmakers have handled Bob Kane’s iconic superhero’s first theatrical outing, takes his seat at a special preview screening of Tim Burton’s “Batman”. With Prince’s Soundtrack LP tucked under his arm – It was given to those who had won tickets to the event – and a trio of over-enthusiastic radio announcers screaming, shouting and throwing out out-of-date lollies to the audience before the show, it was pretty easy for a 14-year-old to get excited. But the film itself? Dark, gothic, anomalous, a little slow, but well, colourful and creative. Michael Keaton made for an unusual, but effective Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Jack Nicholson made for a great Joker – but the source material was perceptibly forgotten on the dashboard of someone’s RV, because it wasn’t to be found anywhere on the screen.

Was Burton’s “Batman” as near as exciting as simply being at the screening itself though? No – no way. And the next day at school, when sir Morris was asked what he thought of the film, he was a little unsure how to respond. An unsure “Yeah….good” was no doubt uttered, with any indication of discontent shadowed by the mere thought of having seen the film before your school friends.

If heading into work after “Batman Begins” I’m asked the same ‘Any Good’? Question, I’ll at least be able to offer a terser, affirmative, sure response, this time.

First things first, forget that the first four “Batman” movies – I know, it’s hard, many people still blame their Insomnia on Schwarzenegger’s bothersome Mr Freeze from the hour and a half toy commercial that was “Batman and Robin” – ever existed. We’ve got a clean slate now – it’s out with Prince, it’s out with the middle-aged actor wearing a nippled-rubber suit, it’s out with a Gothic-looking backdrop, and it’s back to pure storyline: Bob Kane style.

David Goyer’s script is the most important element here – because it tells a story. The effects, the adventure, the identifiable cast, and iniquitous villains work around that. First and foremost, this is a tale of a man…. turned Bat. A bewildered, troubled soul – the subject of his own psychological thriller. [Full Review]

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