Another summer, another superhero. So what makes this one different from all the other hyped up primary coloured inspired extravaganzas? Well, we've kinda been here before. And the last time we saw The Bat was no fun at all. Remember his nipples? And Schwarzenneger's blue frozen guy? It was pretty horrible. So horrible in fact that Batman retired from the silver screen, while various X-Men and Spidermen stepped up to the plate and took care of the box office. More importantly those films were actually good and made adaptations of comic books something to look forward to again.
Is the new Batman worth getting excited about? Short answer: definitely.
With his previous films (Insomnia, Memento) director Christopher Nolan seems to be an expert in dealing with characters with fractured lifestyles and dark secrets. Pairing him with screenwriter David Goyer, who gave us the Blade trilogy, and putting him in charge of a quality cast has ensured that Batman Begins is more sophisticated and mature than not only comic book adaptations but most other blockbusters as well.
By putting Batman front and centre of the film, the audience, of this and previous incarnations, realises that by looking at how Bruce Wayne deals with guilt and the issues that cause him to dress as a bat and beat up villains, they have never really seen a proper 100% Batman film before, nor seen what Gotham City actually is and how close to hell it's going to become and why it's worth fighting for.
There is a lot to cheer about here - direction, script, design and, especially, acting. Pretty much across the board, the performances from an inspired and experienced cast impress with a calibre that you do not usually find in such mega-budgeted show flicks. Christian Bale gives the definitive performance of the Dark Knight. Lost, angry and lashing out with his fists at whoever is near when we first see him, his gradual and lengthy transformation to masked and hooded vigilante is the most faithful and truthful yet. When we get to see him in action, emerging from the darkness, striking terror into those that use it themselves, he rules, like a lord.
Alfred, the butler, is another character who was given short shrift in the earlier films. Here, he has a more substantial role and Michael Caine gives the second best performance in the film. Whereas before, Alfred was just a dry comic foil, now he is an integral part of Wayne's upbringing and a fellow accomplice to The Caped Crusader, as is Gary Oldman, much quieter than usual, playing Commissioner Gordon.
Unfortunately, it is another character/performance that highlights Batman Begins' weak spot. Katie Holmes, as Rachel Dawes, Assistant DA and Wayne's childhood friend, only seems to be there so that Batman can keep his secret identity a secret from someone. She offers nothing interesting, apart from getting the chance to fall into peril so that Batman can launch a cool rescue attempt.
Weirdly, for a superhero picture, the villains are held in check, as if to make up for the franchise's past sins. Make no mistake, there are villains here, scarier, threatening and more believable than before, but, as the title says, Batman Begins - and that is what the film is about.
When a comic book character, with such a rich and exciting history, is treated with respect and creativity from talent, such as Nolan, Goyer and Bale, the result is well worth shouting about. And when the film's final scene fades to black, you will be even more eager to see how Batman Continues.