Christopher Nolan’s Batman Films

Batman Begins (♦♦♦♦)

Haunted by the killing of his parents and the subsequent targeted execution of the culprit by a Mafioso, millionaire Bruce Wayne roams the four corners of the earth in search for something. He fights criminals, he steals to eat but when he is released from a prison in a far-away land, he learns to face his greatest fears and trains to become a fighter for justice. Only his trainers have other intentions for when Wayne is fully trained, they order him to return to Gotham city and rid it of evil by killing criminals.

Leave it to the creative genius of Christopher Nolan to reinvigorate a franchise that was in decadence. I never liked characters from the first movies such as the Penguin-man, who I consider ludicrous, while Michael Keaton’s Batman presence lacked raw appeal and larger-than-life allure. Val Kilmer was better looking than Michael Keaton but not better in the stance department. Under the steady guidance of Christopher Nolan, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay of Batman Begins, we embark on a journey with a character whose life story we know, but who appears to have fresh, new things to offer yet.

Christian Bale embodies the Batman we know and love, muscles and all, and his great performance is magnified by a superb supporting cast. No character is too small or superfluous; this Batman film gives new meaning to the phrase star-studded cast. Michael Caine stars as Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler; Morgan Freeman is Lucius Fox, a relegated genial inventor with Wayne Enterprises; equally stunning is Liam Neeson in a performance charged with power and villainy as Ducard, who by the end of the movie turns out to be someone else entirely. Ken Watanabe has a minor role, full of mystery and deceit as Ra’s Al Ghul. Another main player in the story is Gary Oldman as Lt. James Gordon, an honest cop, maybe the only one left in Gotham city. Katie Holmes stars as Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend and Wayne’s love interest; Tom Wilkinson--always a pleasure to see him!—stars as Mafioso Carmine Falcone, the man who rules Gotham’s underbelly. Rutger Hauer also co-stars.

There’re plenty of explosions and climatic musical score to enhance the story, but even the explosions are justified and welcome. Batman’s mission is supported by the coolest gadgets anyone could wish for. The screenplay ties all ends, nothing is left to the viewer’s imagination. Great special effects give the city of Gotham its otherworldly charm, and help greatly to convey what Gotham’s population experiences when they’re under the influence of the vaporized hallucinogenic.

In summary, Batman Begins is a winner, from its stellar cast to its great director. Great film to enjoy anytime!

Dark Knight (♦♦♦½)

Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman, is busy ridding Gotham city of dirty criminals, but a new character who calls himself the Joker, shakes up Gotham’s criminal underworld and brings chaos to the city. Bruce Wayne, his alter ego and Lt. Jim Gordon join forces to pin Mafia bosses to money laundering and other crimes, but the Joker convinces the Mafia bosses to wage a war against Batman and begin killing Gotham’s citizens until Batman reveals his identity.

This sequel to Batman Begins, also directed by Christopher Nolan, brings back some characters that we got to know in the previous film such as Alfred, Lucius Fox and Lt. James Gordon; Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman, respectively, reprise their roles in Dark Knight. Christian Bale, also reprises his role as Batman. Three key characters are new to the story: Rachel Dawes (not new but interpreted here by the alluring Maggie Gyllenhaal), Harvey Dent--interpreted by Aaron Eackart-- Gotham’s District Attorney and “white knight in shining armor”, and the Joker (also not a new character in the franchise, previously interpreted by Jack Nicholson and this time portrayed by Heath Ledger in his last role before his death).

Heath Ledger impregnated the Joker with depravity and excess, traits that made this character memorable yet difficult to swallow. Despite Heath Ledger’s award winning performance and the presence of more known actors in this sequel, Dark Knight suffers in comparison to Batman Begins. The latter was cool, but the former feels heavy, too dark and way longer than its 152 minutes of running time.

The explosions and general destruction in Gotham feel more like tricks than needed elements to enhance the plot.

In summary, Dark Knight is longer, darker and less cool than its predecessor, but paves the way for a rather grand finale to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.