Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale take over the reigns of one of DC’s greatest characters, Batman, in the next film to be watched for the Sci-Fi Chronicles book, and the last one to review, as I’ve reviewed Nolan’s latter entries into the trilogy before. On reflection this morning, as much as I like this movie, and its first follow-up, what has really bothered me about all the film versions is that none of them have really focussed on the fact that he’s supposed to be the World’s Greatest Detective. He is never really putting his brains to work on any of this, it’s always about the brawn, and I get the need for action beats, but I’d like to see Bruce puzzling things out once in a while, showing that his brains are as well-trained as his body.
That being said, Nolan’s gritty reboot of the series was a welcome relief after the disastrous Schumacher films, grounding his film in locations, designs and characters. Bale, as Batman/Bruce Wayne is more than able to hold the film on his beefed up shoulders, but Nolan made sure to surround him with an incredibly strong cast including Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Rutger Hauer, Liam Neeson, and yes, even Katie Holmes.
We don’t get to see the outfit until an hour into the film, everything before that is character building as we see Bruce develop through flashbacks, following his training with the League of Shadows, his desire to kill the man who killed his parents, his fear of bats, and his growing desire to do more for his city.
With Chicago standing in for Gotham, Batman looks more epic against the cityscape, and the city becomes as much a character as the performers in the film. It seems Falcone (Tom Wilkinson) is a local gang boss who has been causing problems for all of Gotham, and he’s been working with Dr. Crane (Cillian Murphy) alias the Scarecrow with a plan to bring the city to its knees. But it’s only the opening move in a gambit that is meant to destroy all of Gotham, and only Batman stands in the way.
Everything seems to be working in this film, it’s faithful to its source material, the cast is more than capable, the story is solid, much more so than in the third film, and the design, and direction of the film is excellent. I remember being completely wowed by this one on my first viewing in the theatre, though, as then, so now, my only real complaint is that the Hans Zimmer score doesn’t really lend itself to being very memorable, I mean say what you will about the Burton films (and I enjoyed them), they had that fantastic theme by Danny Elfman, which was then appropriated for the iconic Animated Series.
All in all, though, this is a solid, highly enjoyable film that I do enjoy re-watching, there are shades of Year One, and getting the story back to a more grounded reality, as opposed to the places Schumacher, and Warner Brothers seemed willing to take the Dark Knight in the 90s.