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PCR # 273  (Vol. 6, No. 24)  This edition is for the week of June 13--19, 2005.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Batman Begins"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Three and a half stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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"Batman Begins"
 by Mike Smith
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"The Longest Yard"...."Mr. And Mrs. Smith"
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MJ....Passing On....Jaws: The Story, Part 21
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Warner Brothers     
Starring: Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Ken Wanatabe and Gary Oldman
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 2 hours 21 mins

Hollywood has had a hit or miss history when pairing great directors with the comic book genre. For every Richard Donner and Superman you have Ang Lee and HULK. So it was with some trepidation that I went to see Batman Begins, which was directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Insomnia). In a nut shell, my fears were unnecessary as Nolan has returned the once proud franchise to its glory.

Anyone under the age of 75 is probably familiar with the origins of Batman. 12-year-old Bruce Wayne and his millionaire parents are out on the town one evening when a mugger robs them and then kills Mr.and Mrs. Wayne. When he grows into adulthood, Bruce dedicates his life to fighting crime and avenging his parents' memory. He dons a costume destined to spread fear in the hearts of evil doers everywhere and becomes Batman. 1989's Batman briefly touched on the origins of the character. Michael Keaton was the Caped Crusader in that film and its sequel, Batman Returns. Val Kilmer took over the cape and cowl for Batman Forever, replaced by George Clooney in Batman and Robin. Sadly, the director of the last two films, Joel Schumacher, seemed to be more concerned with the nipples on the Bat-suit then plot development and the series pretty much died. With "Batman Begins," a new cast and director take the reins in fine fashion.

After a childhood accident in which he fell into an abandoned shaft and was surrounded by hundreds of bats, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has been haunted by the memory. Desperate to unleash the anger he feels at the death of his parents Bruce finds himself traveling the world, giving up his lavish lifestyle and studying the criminal mind by becoming one. In prison, he is constantly challenged but always holds his own, no matter the odds. One day he is visited by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), who explains that he can help him channel his anger and right the many wrongs committed by criminals by becoming a member of a secret society, called the Legion of Shadows. This group is responsible for making sure the wrongs of the world are righted. The leader, Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Wanatabe) continually reminds you that he, like others, is a victim of crime and must do whatever is necessary to battle it. With this in mind, young Bruce returns to Gotham City (here played, I believe, by the city of Chicago) like the title tells you, and begins his cape-wearing adventures.

Well made all around, the highlight of this film is the cast. There are thirteen Academy Award nominations among the main players and three Oscars. Bale slips easily into the role and does a fine job as both Wayne and Batman. Oscar winners Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are the adult influences in Bruce Wayne's life, and both do a great job keeping the humor of the film going strong while showing their obvious affection for Bruce. Neeson brings a regal dignity to his part and, in the early going, he is very reminiscent of his Star Wars character, Qui-gon Jinn. Gary Oldman, in a rare "good guy" role, is Jim Gordon, one of the few "good" cops in Gotham, who will one day rise to be commissioner. But "Batman" is the name of the film and Batman is the character that will determine whether or not a sequel to the prequel is made (the film does end with a great premise that begs for continuation). Bale is a combination of the best that came before him., and delivers his lines in a way guaranteed to make even the occasional fan stand up and take notice. As Mrs. Lohman once said in Death of a Salesman, "attention must be paid!"

The best action film of the summer, so far, on a scale of zero to four stars, I'm giving Batman Begins  Three and a half stars

This week's movie review of "Batman Begins" is ©2005 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2005, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.