Bare-bones Batman |

Bare-bones Batman

Dan Thomas
Post Independent Staff

DC Comics’ Dark Knight has never been darker, scarier, meaner, nastier ” or better ” than in his new beginning with Christopher Nolan.

Kimberly wasn’t the only one cringing at the thought of seeing “Batman” begin again. As much as I liked comic books as a kid, I was always wary of the truth-justice-and-long-underwear types, and maybe because I love Tim Burton’s weirder stuff, his entries into the Batman canon disappointed me a little. Plus, the prequel concept has lost much of its allure for me since about, say, July 1999.

But what “Batman Begins” actually does is what Burton’s first entry ” “Batman” (1989) ” purported to: strip the franchise down for dissection. New beginnings are tricky because they allow tampering with movie icons, sometimes turning them into a few paragraphs of pop psychology text.

It’s probably ludicrous to call “Batman Begins” a serious movie. But it illuminates the difference between the Dark Knight and Burton’s cute facsimile. Not only will Nolan’s hero likely never dance the Batoosie, his villains don’t unleash goofy meter-long revolvers, and their transgressions are much more unsettling than joyfully defacing an art museum to the accompaniment of Prince.

The result in “Batman Begins” is bare-bones Batman. If it’s not a serious movie, it’s at least not a superhero movie, either. Kimberly will accuse me of giving Nolan and Co. far too much credit, but it reminds me of something Norrie Epstein wrote about Franco Zefferelli and Mel Gibson’s 1990 “Hamlet”: It’s an action movie with a main character named Hamlet who just happens to be a Danish prince.

To that end, there is enough talk to reinvent the Batman myth ” and, yes, they do say “fear” a lot ” but it’s not talky or preachy. There are bat-shaped gadgets, but they’re not corny or cute, but rather sharp or blunt and dangerous. And the Batmobile owes more to military Humvees than any sports car. Everything you need for a new franchise, nothing you don’t.

Most important, all the talk, all the gadgetry ” and, yes, all the references to “fear” ” are necessary for a director serious about reinventing Batman, which Nolan is, and he has more of a concept working than Burton. Burton ultimately seemed far more interested in Gotham itself than Batman, and as a result, his caped crusader was a low-key Michael Keaton, who rarely raised his voice, much less any significant hell.

As Nolan’s Batman, Christian Bale is far different ” and a much better match than Keaton, Kilmer or Clooney. Since the concept seems to be that Batman basically either scares or beats the hell out of the bad guys, it makes “Batman Begins” a very simple ” and very satisfying ” reinvention. And one that removed my dread from watching the next installment.

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