Saturday, August 04, 2012

The Fear


          With "The Dark Knight Rises" currently in theaters I decided to revisit first two parts of Nolan's trilogy before watching the final one. Naturally I began with "Batman Begins", watching it for at least fifth time (I can't remember the exact number, but it's one of those movies I feel a need to watch every now and then).

The story of Batman was told countless times since his first appearance in a comic book in 1939 and I'll assume you all know it, at least the most important parts of it, so I won't talk about it here. It'll suffice to say the first movie of Nolan's trilogy talks about how Bruce Wayne became Batman, and more importantly - why. It tells a story of a man filled with anger and insatiable need for revenge and deciding to let it all out on the criminals. But nevertheless he draws a line he's not willing to cross. Bruce Wayne/Batman believes salvation of human race can be achieved without destroying it and isn't willing to punish the good for the sins of the bad. Which doesn't mean he's playing by the rules, of course. He's just slightly bending them to fit his moral code. Unlike him his enemies, a group known as The League of Shadows and led by Ra's Al Ghul, claim to have the same cause, getting the world rid of all the evil, but are willing to do whatever it takes and sacrifice whoever stands in their way. It's interesting to notice how those criminals he fights directly helped shape Bruce into who he becomes and therefore helped create what's to become their greatest fear, Batman. Bruce leaves Gotham to "taste desperate" immediately after talking with crime boss Carmine Falcone, driven by his speech, and he gets inspired to become Batman after spending time with The League of Shadows and learning their ways. In a way it raises the question of the necessity of evil so we could know what is good.

The question of what is justified to do in the pursuit of a greater cause is one not often talked about in superhero movies. At least not with an approach this serious. Being so, I must admit I'm a little disappointed (just a little) by Nolan's decision to define things in a (almost) standard good vs. evil way in the end. The beliefs of Ra's Al Ghul and his followers are too ambiguous to be easily marked and they are fighting for the same cause however different their methods are. In my opinion it's a theme deserving of a greater, more detailed look.

Fortunately, it isn't the only interesting issue approached in this movie. The main obstacle Bruce Wayne had to overcome on its way to, not only become Batman, but make peace with his past, was one of basic human emotions. Fear. It's an emotion explored throughout the whole movie, being also the main weapon in planned destruction of Gotham City. All the main characters have a special relation to it. Carmine Falcone rules by it, psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Crane explores it, Ducard conquered it and Bruce learns to embrace it, which is shown in an exhilarating scene when he turns on the flashlight in a cave and gets surrounded by bats. There are also some thoughts about fear that are very insightful such as Falcone's "This is a world you'll never understand. And you always fear what you don't understand" and even more Ducard's lesson to Bruce:

"...what you really fear is inside yourself. You fear your own power, you fear your anger, the drive to do great or terrible things."

I don't know when something resonated more with me and so openly exposed the truth we keep hidden from ourselves.

So it's a movie about overcoming your fears, learning to forgive yourself and carry on, finding that fine line which divides right from wrong, devoting yourself to an idea, losing yourself in one (the end of the movie questions what became Bruce's true identity and what the mask) and so many more, and it still manages to be a thrilling action ride and a visually stunning blockbuster. The movie is technically flawless, the acting as good as you expect from the talent involved (Bale, Neeson, Caine, Freeman, Hauer, Wilkinson, Murphy) and the soundtrack wonderfully complements the atmosphere created by great direction and fantastic screenplay. Still, it has some minor flaws. Gus Lewis, who plays young Bruce Wayne, isn't that convincing, and the love story between Bruce and Rachel ends up superficial. But, overall, those flaws are practically negligible.

"Batman Begins" is as realistic as a superhero movie gets to be. All that appears and happens in the movie is based on human skill, technology and human psyche, excluding all forms of supernatural. It isn't necessarily a good thing but here it helped create the greatest origin story I've ever seen and set a standard for superhero movies matched only by it's sequel. So whether you are a movie lover, a fan of the comics, interested in human psyche and basic emotions, troubled by ethical questions, or just want to have fun, you should watch this movie as soon as possible. That is, if you haven't already seen it. And if you have, you probably don't need me to tell you to watch it again.


  1. is it just me or burton's 'batman' easily outscores any nolan's bat attempt? funny thing is, neither is batman the best nolan's work (memento) nor any of them are the best batman out there (burton). and both categories cover less than ten movies, i don't feel like counting precisely right now...

    i do like the way you present your impressions, though. i could never write more than two lines - any more than that i would consider as spoiler of some sort.

    poz, zoran (flyer99)

    1. I must admit I watched Burton's movies a long time ago so I can't compare. I'll consider watching them again soon while I'm in a "Batman" mood, and I'll write a few words. Same goes for "Memento". Only thing I can remember is I was impressed. But I like Nolan's Batman movies a lot. I think they represent the most serious approach to the character (in movies, at least).

      As far as my impressions/spoilers, it really doesn't make any sense. I always read reviews after watching the movie to avoid spoilers and so I write as the others do it that way too. And yet I always write some sort of recommendation for those who haven't seen it in the end. I really can't explain myself. Even I don't get it. :D

  2. haha, blame 2am in the morning, i forgot to put smiley or something like that in the end, i noticed no spoiler(s) of any kind...even more, i'm not particularly touchy about the spoilers (at least if you don't write that kevin spacey is keyzer soze :)), perhaps its because the movies i like the most cannot even be 'spoiled' beyond joy of watching, they just needed to be seen.

    keep writing, good things you've done here so far.

    1. And what if I didn't watch "The Usual Suspects"? ;) I agree that good movies can't be spoiled. If it wasn't so, there would be no sense in watching some good movies more than once. And that would really be a shame.

      Thanks for that last comment. It means a lot to me. :)

      "The Dark Knight" and "The Dark Knight Rises" coming up. ;)