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Batman Begins
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Saw it last night...wasn't overly impressed. It was all right. The first Tim Burton Batman was better in most ways.

Some observations:

Christopher Nolan can't direct action worth a squat. I liked the directing in Memento, if not the postmodern, gimmicky quasi-plot. I thought, if nothing else, it was stylish. And I liked his work on Insomnia too. Those were both slowly-paced thrillers. Not a lot of hand-to-hand combat. You know a director can't direct action when a fight scene basically consists of half-second cuts and a lot of camera shaking.

Bleh...might be spoilers in some of the other stuff I want to talk about:

[obligatory spoiler warning!]

The Scarecrow was lame, although to be fair he was pretty lame in the comics, too. Here he was sort of the proto-Scarecrow, so he wore the mask, but kept his psychiatrist suit on. Maybe in the next one he'll get a shirt and pants to match.

Batman's origins are the patience and stealth of a ninja-like warrior. So of course his first Batmobile is a noisy-ass offroad jeep-tank that he proceeds to smash through concrete barriers, plow over manned police cars (were any of those guys hurt?), and tear up a dozen rooftops with. Nice.

So we've got an organization called The League of Shadows, and their sworn mission is...what exactly? To fight crime, but in those places where it's gotten really bad, they just nuke the place? Sorry, but I had a really hard time understanding this frame of mind. Up to a point we're gonna protect the weak and young and elderly. But if things get too bad we're gonna just say "fuck it" and burn the place down, with all the children and old people still in there. I just didn't buy Ra's Al Ghul's motivations, cause frankly they didn't seem to make any damned sense. The Joker I get. He's a homicidal maniac. Ra's Al Ghul I just don't.

And finally my main problem with the film was the development of Batman's character and motivations. As a young man, he actively plans to kill the man who murdered his parents. He is basically a vigilante. Rachel slaps him and calls him a huge disappointment when she finds this out. When he is training with Ra's Al Ghul, he tells him that it was his father's fault that his parents were murdered, because his father was soft and compassionate.

Bruce Wayne ultimately rejects this idea. For his graduation from League of Shadows school, he's supposed to kill a known murderer from a nearby village. "No," he says. "I'm not an executioner. This man should be tried in a court." At which point he proceeds to burn down the training school and presumably kill most of the people inside. Okay.

During the climax of the film, Batman and Ra's Al Ghul are on a speeding train about to go off the tracks. "I'm not going to kill you," Batman says to him. "But I don't have to save you." Wha-huh? If it's reasonably easy to save someone and you let them die, isn't this pretty functionally equivalent to killing them? I'd say he pretty much kills Ra's Al Ghul by not saving him.

This whole development of Batman was supposedly that he wasn't just a vigilante. He worked with Gordon and Rachel. He still believed in due process and the rule of law...supposedly. "Justice isn't the same thing as revenge," Rachel tells him. And that's supposed to be the development of Batman...not a hate-filled vigilante who kills bad guys (or lets them die), but someone fundamentally pissed off at criminals, but still with a compassionate human core. In the comics, Batman had ample opportunity to kill the villains, but he never did. He thought this was what kept him from crossing the line...from being like them. So at the critical moment in this film, he actually behaves just like them, despite all the setup to the contrary.


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