Christian Bale plays Bruce Wayne as the Batman film saga turns back to the clock to explore the origins of this superhero based on the characters created by Bob Kane. Director Christopher Nolan (Insomnia, Memento) co-wrote the screenplay with David S. Goyer who is also quickly becoming an expert filmmaker in the superhero realm. Filmmakers do an amazing job with great stunt work and minimal special effects to create an authentic, character driven plot which constant action and intense thrills without the campy, colorful antics of the last two Batman movies. The realism hits you hard as Nolan uses several masterful filmmaking techniques including a very effective technique that alters backgrounds for dramatic effect. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard collaborate to create a fantastic musical score.
Michael Caine plays Bruce’s butler/surrogate father Alfred while Rutger Hauer plays the head executive at Wayne Enterprises as Bruce seeks to find his way in life. “We’ll watch the empire. When you grow up, it will be waiting for you,” he tells young Bruce at his parents’ funeral. Bruce’s adult journey has many trials including his experience with the League of Shadows, a group seeking commitments to justice and balance housed deep in the Himalayan Mountains. Liam Neeson adds to this setting as Ducard and Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) plays Ra’s Al Ghul (Arabic for the Demon’s Head).
Once Bruce returns to Gotham, he finds a different world that’s almost erased his father’s legacy of philanthropy. Katie Holmes co-stars as Bruce’s childhood friend Rachel Dawes who becomes a legal prosecutor seeking to rid Gotham of crime. Gary Oldman also stars as Jim Gordon, one of the few good cops left in the city fighting crime lord Carmine Falcone played by Tom Wilkinson. Batman relies heavily on Alfred who know him best personally and Gordon out in the field, even letting him drive the revamped “black tank” Bat mobile. “We need dramatic examples of justice to shake them out of apathy,” says Bruce as he seeks to lead Gotham’s people as a symbol of goodness and just causes.
Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) plays Dr. Jonathan Crane who’s involved in some mysterious operations at an asylum related to a contamination scheme which is not revealed until well into the plot. A great example of how the characters drive the plot over the actions and situations. Morgan Freeman rounds out an amazing cast as Lucius Fox, head of applied sciences at Wayne Enterprises.
After great action/drama and a plot twist, the satisfying climax emits Bruce’s deep convictions of compassion and harmony win over revenge and self gratification. Batman successfully strikes “fear against those who prey on the fearful.” Filmmakers even set up a sequel as Gordon foreshadows further crime escalation and describes the next antagonist’s profile to Batman. Highly recommended (***1/2 out of four stars).
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler