A new beginning

Rising from the ashes of the horrid Batman & Robin comes the strongest entry in the franchise, Batman Begins. Refusing to settle simply for special effects and a paper-thin plot, the film challenges summer moviegoers by offering a fresh, intelligent and sharp film.

Christian Bale sets himself apart from Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney by being both a believable Bruce Wayne and a commanding Dark Knight. Assisting Bale is a top-notch cast of veterans including Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine, who propel Batman Begins.

Director Christopher Nolan managed to work more than a few trademarks into the film, all the while making Batman Begins more than the typical comic flick. The film is dark, humorous and sports a cunning screenplay.

Batman Begins chronicles Bruce Wayne’s transition from a boy whose parents were murdered in front of his eyes to a legend bent on saving Gotham from its various menaces. After the death of his parents, Bruce Wayne disappears, leaving privilege behind to delve deep into the underbelly of crime.

A mysterious man named Ducord (Neeson) soon approaches Wayne with an opportunity to become a member of the league of shadows, an organization of elite warriors on a mission to purge society of the corrupt. Wayne begins the intense training and learns the art of invisibility that is a trademark of the league.

He returns determined to transform the city his father once fought so hard to maintain. Wayne establishes a base of operation and begins to craft the identity that would strike fear into the heart of all his enemies.

Nolan beautifully demonstrates his understanding of comic fare by mixing traditional imagery with his unique sense of storytelling. The young director has crafted not only the best Batman film, but also what will arguably become the greatest comic adaptation ever. Unlike the Tim Burton original, Batman Begins’ strong point isn’t its look or style, but a screenplay that finally gives viewers a side of Wayne other than the playboy billionaire prevalent in the previous films.

Bale, best known for his roles in American Psycho and The Machinist, takes a character loved by millions and adds respect and maturity to the already beloved hero. Caine and Morgan Freeman work well together, adding humor. Neeson is amazing, as usual, playing a mentor and nemesis to the caped crusader. Cilian Murphy (28 Days Later) is outstanding as Dr. Jonathan Crane, better known to the comic world as the Scarecrow. Katie Holmes plays Rachel, Wayne’s childhood sweetheart and an assistant district attorney trying to use the law to change the fate of Gotham.

Batman Begins is darker than either of Tim Burton’s films and doesn’t resort to bat nipples, as Batman & Robin did. Instead the film attracts audiences by not doubting their intelligence.

Rating: A-
Action, PG-13, Running time: 142 min.