8:00 PM, 3rd September, 2005
Most of us by now have encountered Batman in some shape or form. The movies have seen the 60's "quick, pass the Bat Shark Repellent" version, the Tim Burton "just how many psychological issues can one superhero have" persona, and the Joel Schumacher "gosh, isn't neon fun" incarnation (plus the "only cinematically released in the US but nevertheless really cool" animated version in Mask of the Phantasm - yes, I am a sad completist...).
None of these, however, addressed one key question - how did Bruce Wayne
(Bale) acquire his skills? So here's "Batman Begins", to give us glimpses of his training with ninja cult leader Ra's Al-Ghul (The Last Samurai's Watanabe) and the beginning of his battles against crime in Gotham city, including the fear-inducing Scarecrow (28 Days Later's Murphy).
Shining up the slightly tarnished reputation of the Bat is Memento helmer Nolan, with an impressive cast list and a screenplay from the writer of Dark City and Blade. One of the year's most anticipated films, this should return the Bat-series to the forefront of comic-book movies, while deepening and strengthening the Bat-mythos for a new generation of films.
10:00 PM, 3rd September, 2005
It is quite fitting and personally satisfying that the new Batman movie is immediately followed by the film that I believe to be the best of the recent series.
In Batman Returns, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Keaton) has to deal with The Penguin (DeVito), a physically deformed man driven to enact revenge for his former mistreatment. Helping Penguin gain the love of the rather gullible Gotham City residents is Max Shreck (Walken), an industrialist driven by power and money. Thrown into the mix is Selina Kyle (Pfeiffer), Shreck's secretary, who's alter ego Catwoman becomes another threat.
The four lead actors are fantastic in their respective roles and for Keaton, DeVito and Pfeiffer Batman Returns sees quite possibly their best performances. As comic book characters they ham things up just the right amount (before this sort of thing was completely spoiled by Jim Carrey etc) and the relationships between the characters is complex enough to keep the film interesting and elevated above recent superhero CG-driven blockbusters. All four have complex relationships with each other as allies, enemies, friends and lovers.
Plus there's Tim Burton's quirkiness giving us killer penguins, psychotic clowns and the villain's rubber duckie getaway vehicle!