Putting the Batman hype in context: Batman Begins
If this earnest kind of thing sounds like your cup of tea, there is plenty of tea to drink. The movie clocks in at almost 2 and a half of hours of overly close-up murky fight scenes, loud metallic crunching noises, sets exploding into flames, computer-generated bats, Katie Holmes looking concerned as the assistant prosecutor, Christian Bale acting sullen, and lots of welcome celebrity cameos from the likes of Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman (who seems to wear a red Groucho Marx mask as policeman Gordon). The neo-expressionist design is reminiscent of Metropolis with subways speeding high up in the air over to the big
The film has some pleasures in the way the Batman fan can see things coming. Bruce Wayne stumbles across a batcave under his mansion and returns to install a crude freight elevator system. Later, the fledgling Batman has to experiment for awhile with his batgear, and at first he has difficulty jumping around the city buildings at night. The new Batmobile looks more abstractly militaristic, like a cross between a stealth bomber and a tank, and Batman pilots it over a series of rooftops under helicopter searchlights as he shows flamboyant disregard for the cops getting in car wrecks. I also liked the occasional calm moment when Batman would stand and brood over the skyline like a large gargoyle.
But the moments of calm don’t last long. Batman has to save the drugged Katie Holmes from Uzi-wielding bad guys and a SWAT team by calling in a bunch of computer-generated back-up bats before the final chase/fight scene on an out-on-control subway train takes an enormously long time to crash through a high-rise parking lot with a lot of tearing metal and grandiose explosions. With all the thuds and bangs, I could sense a studio endlessly beating a good idea into the ground.