When friendly neighbourhood Spiderman dropped in at a theatre near you a few seasons ago, you could see it. The REAL him, that is.
You met Peter Parker with problems any teenager his age would have. A superhero who realised what a huge responsibility it was to don the role. The film and the sequel turned out to be huge hits and were critically acclaimed too.
Starting June 17, you will, if the creators of ‘Batman Begins’ are to be believed, for the first time ever, meet the REAL Bruce Wayne. For the first time, find out what made Batman. Not in the stylized comic book format, but through a realistic depiction on the transformation of Bruce into Batman.
Barring the Tim Burton versions (Batman and Batman Returns) starring Michael Keaton, none of the other Batman movies really left an impact. But while Burton’s versions were highly stylised with colourful villains stealing the scene from Batman himself, the latest from Warner Bros, ‘Batman Begins’ directed by Christopher Nolan (the thriller specialist who made the path-breaking Memento and Identity) hopes to do justice to the face behind the mask. Viewers can expect to uncover the mystery behind Batman’s past, often limited to voiceovers and quick flashbacks in the previous Batman films.
The latest Batman flick has nothing to do with any of the other films made on the superhero. It’s a whole new beginning, a fresh look at one of the most intriguing superheroes ever. As screenwriter David S.Goyer observes: “You could never be Superman, you could never be The Incredible Hulk, but anybody could conceivably become Batman. If you trained hard enough, if you tried hard enough, maybe, just maybe, you could become Batman.”
Goyer, who had “always dreamed about doing a Batman film,” has said: “It’s absolutely the Batman film that I wish I would’ve seen when I was a kid. It’s everything I always wanted to see in a Batman movie.”
And early reviews seem to indicate that the film does live up to the hype.
“Never has Batman’s origins been so thoroughly fleshed out as it was here… what makes this movie so good is that it totally stays faithful to the comics but at the same time, it makes all the comic elements more plausible and realistic,” writes an online reviewer.
An Internet Movie Database reviewer writes: “I must say that before seeing the film, I felt in my heart this is the ‘Batman’ film we’ve been waiting for. Within ten minutes into the movie, I turned to my date and said to her: This is it! This is the movie.”
That’s probably because the makers clearly wanted to do something refreshingly radical with Batman. They had approached masters like David Fincher, Clint Eastwood and Wolfgang Petersen and even rejected a Frank Miller script to be directed by Darren Aronofsky, before actually zeroing in on Chris Nolan and getting Goyer to fill in the blanks of the Batman story — the part that has never ever been told.
Nolan is surely among the most talented, stylish and most creative filmmakers of our times. The editing style and narrative structure of ‘Memento’ is ample evidence of what he is capable of.
“What’s always been fascinating about Batman is that he is a hero driven by quite negative impulses,” says Christopher Nolan. “Batman is human, he’s flawed. But he’s someone who has taken these very powerful, self-destructive emotions and made something positive from them.”
In an interview to another website, the director adds: “The creative mandate was really to do something fresh and original. And that was coming straight from the studio. And if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten involved with the project because it is pretty rare to have an iconic figure that’s owned and controlled by a studio that’s asking you to do something different with it… For me, what that became was my desire to do something we hadn’t seen before, a superhero story told in a realistic fashion. And step outside itself and acknowledge the form and the medium it’s coming from, but one in which the audience is just immersed in the reality that’s going on.”
Christian Bale (Patrick Bateman of ‘American Pyscho’ is now Batman), was echoing the director’s thoughts during a press conference in San Francisco: “You had to get to a point where the audience would be drawn in enough to believe that this guy has gone through so much pain and anger, and then we have a really nice backstory about how he creates the Batman. And also, there’s a very nice practical backstory to every gadget, and to the Batsuit… Everything is explained in the movie.”
So the creators actually designed a Batmobile that can cruise zero to sixty miles in six seconds, an elaborate Gotham city modeled as an “exaggeration of New York City” (says Nolan) and Chicago (says Caine) and the slums of Kowloon, Hong Kong with licence plates based on Illinois State plates, to lend it a touch of the real world people are acquainted with.
Tom Cruise seems to have loved the film, according to girlfriend Katie Holmes, who plays Rachel Dawes, Batman’s childhood friend. Rachel, according to the backstory, “grew up with Bruce, she grew up in that house, her Mom was a servant.” “It was fun to think about different experiences Rachel and Bruce had together growing up and how that came into play as they got older, added to their closeness,” she says.
Michael Caine, who plays Alfred Pennyworth, the butler and father figure to Batman, did his own backstory. “I wanted to be the toughest butler you’ve ever seen, not the normal English, suave butler. And so I made him a SAS Sergeant, which is a very, very tough British army unit. He’s wounded, he didn’t want to leave the army. He became the sergeant in charge of the sergeant’s cantina or sergeant’s mess … And he got found by Bruce’s father, who wanted the toughest butler he could find,” Caine said in an interview.
The bad guys? Screenwriter Goyer went in for Ra’s Al Ghul and Scarecrow as the villains for what could be the beginning of a new series of Batman films. “I felt very strongly that we should use characters that hadn’t been depicted in the films before… fortunately, in the case of Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul, they were two really great villains that hadn’t been used.” Cillian Murphy, who had also auditioned for Batman is said to have impressed Chris Nolan so much, that the director cast him as Scarecrow.
With an exciting cast (including Michael Caine as Alfred, Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard, Katie Holmes as Rachel, Gary Oldman as Lt. Gordon, Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Ken Watanabe as Ra’s Al Ghul and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox), speculations abound on sequels (“They haven’t pulled that set down,” says Caine), an unprecedented marketing spends of 100 million dollars and rave reviews, ‘Batman Begins’ might be the beginning of something big.
The Dark Knight is here. And, it looks like he’s here to stay.
Created for DC Comics by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, Batman made his debut in Detective Comics #27 (May, 1939 issue). The superhero’s 66-year history represents an unprecedented cultural phenomenon spanning radio serials, live action and animated television series, feature films, interactive games, and legions of comic books.
Bob Kane initially had called the character Birdman, Bill finger suggested Batman. In fact, Finger is said to have written the first Batman story but Kane was officially credited as the creator of the series.
Batman is referred to as: Dark Knight, Caped Crusader, Masked Manhunter and the World’s Greatest Detective.
Batman films include Batman (1966) starring Adam West, Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992) starring Michael Keaton, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), Batman Forever (1995) starring Val Kilmer, Batman and Robin (1997) starring George Clooney and now Batman Begins starring Christian Bale.
Guy Pearce, Ashton Kutcher, John Cusack, David Duchovny, Billy Crudup, Cillian Murphy were all considered for the cowl that went to Christian Bale in ‘Batman Begins.’
The Batmobile in ‘Batman Begins’ is equipped with a 5.7 liter, 350 cubic inch, 340-horsepower engine with approximately 400 pounds of torque. 9 feet, 4 inches at its widest point, the vehicle is 15 feet long and weighs 2.5 tons. It accelerates from 0-60 in under 5 seconds and can jump 4-6 feet in height, up to a distance of 60 feet, and then peel off as soon as it hits the ground. One of the most distinctive design features of the Batmobile is that it has no front axel, which enables the vehicle to make extremely tight turns.
A total of eight Batmobiles were created for the production. In addition to the five fully operational, gas-powered models, there was an electric version that featured a sliding top to enable Batman and his passengers to easily enter and exit the car.
Batman Begins contains 400 visual effects shots.
Updated (after watching the movie):
Pretty decent but disappointing given the hype!
Batman fans might like Tim Burton versions better. But this could be the beginning of a refreshingly different series that tries to demystify Batman.
Biggest drawbacks: Too much talking, very little action.
Strongest point: Logic, realism, human touch.
Bale: Damn good.
Holmes: Thums down!
The rest of the star cast: Wasted!