Sunday, February 9, 2014

Beat on the Bat: 4 Scenes from Batman Begins Part1

Without a doubt The Dark Knight trilogy stands alongside Back to the Future in terms of each film in the series being one of my personal favorites by continuing to astonish me in most aspects of production while never losing my interest during each viewing. Batman Begins is a well of detailed and engrossing character study. Never before was Bruce Wayne treated as sympathetic or heroic in any of the past Burton or Schumacher Batman films as he clearly is in the 2005 reboot. Nolan and crew got it right. No Bat nipples, black ooze spewing Penguin, Alfred letting Vicki into the Batcave, or Batman taking lives! They made sure to keep the focus on Bruce Wayne. As a result they created a great film. Sure it's a great superhero flick, but it didn't really on gimmicks.

I remember purchasing a trade paperback of an assortment of Bat tales at a mall bookstore a couple of years after the film debuted and the elderly cashier woman mentioned that although she never read Batman comics, she quite enjoyed the Batman Begins. So join me as a recollect some of my favorite scenes. I hope they were some of Doris' too. Continue on after the break.

1. Death of the Family

Chill of the Night

Since Frank Miller’s classic reinterpretation of Thomas and Martha Waynes’ murder, countless of depictions have come out and with no end in sight through comics, TV, and prior films. It’s gotten to the point of torture porn addiction in some cases. It’s a sacred scene, and many argue the night Batman was created. You can’t blame writers Post Miller too much for trying a hand at it. How many can say they significantly built or even tried to top it though. An episode from The Animated Series certainly comes immediately to mind of a nightmare scene of a child Bruce watching his parents walking into a dark tunnel which then proceeds to become the barrel of a gun. Scary and imaginative stuff, but that was set in the present with Batman reliving his worst memory as an adult.

Nolan revolutionized the death scene.

Miller be praised. Despite my preference for Morrison, O’Neil and Adams, and Jim Aparo’s more romantic Caped Crusader, Miller wrote two of the best and timeless Bat stories. Prior to him, the death of Ma & Pa Wayne was usually confined to a single panel, or at most three or four. Miller throws so many panels in a slow mo effect at the reader to milk as much horror as he can out of it. But one panel always bothered me. The one with Bruce’s dad making a fist in the direction of an armed gunman. It kinda reads like Tommy, a medical doc and philanthropist, is a little too arrogant and stupid to know how to properly react to a stickup with woman and child in his company. 

No Hope in Crime Alley

Nolan and the actor playing Thomas Wayne give the audience probably the most endearing version of the father of Batman. You watch the scene and it’s so clear Thomas just wants Joe Chill to be 1,000 miles from his family so he’s trying his best to reassure the guy robbing him. There’s no ugly trace of slighted masculinity, but Ra’s al Ghul suggests as much when he tells Bruce his father, “failed to act.”

Rather than seeing a curled fist in defiance to being mugged (subtext… don’t think to hard about any social or economic factors which most likely had a hand in Joe Chill’s crime), Thomas hurls himself in front of the gun only when Chill positions it towards Martha. The suddenness of the act causes Chill to shoot, and the second shot at Martha is like a cocktail of trying to turn off an alarm clock and his guilt. In the scene Joe Chill looks like he’s gone the occasional night or two without a cooked meal. It recalls another panel from The Dark Knight Returns when Bruce returns to Crime Alley and realizes that the man who took the lives of his parents wasn’t evil or sadistic, just desperate.

2.“It was him”

Sir Michael Caine, a man I had only ever really seen previously in the great Muppets Christmas Carol has forever killed the role of Alfred, despite all superficial odds. No mustache, nor thin comb over, or refined gentleman’s accent, but he knows how to make me cry. This is one of two scenes he’s in which make me tear up upon practically every viewing, and that's in the double digits.

Raindrops will hide my teardrops

“It was nothing that you did. I was him… and him alone. You understand that?” If later movie Alfred had a time machine he’d probably want to go back and suggest saying something a little less likely to put Bruce down a path of intense violence, torment, and misery. Or maybe not.

If Year One Al had a time machine I could buy his regret, but Adam West Batman, what misery or violence do you mean? No blood was every spilled over three seasons of fight scenes with henchmen in ridiculous choreography. The Joker wasn’t killing people, Robin was shaping up to be a model civic minded young man, and Batgirl… What could be better? Sure, Women’s Lib and racial tolerance and an end to the Vietnam War, but those were Batman’s Wonder Years.

“That’s not my Batman”, okay, fanboy, relax before I sic Lobo on you. Comics Batman sure gets bloody messed up multiple times a month more often than not, but like Bruce Lee he can recover from a broken back. Just how lonely is a guy with 3 to 5 Robins past and present, Batgirls and Women (Thank you Morrison for bringing Kathy Kane back from the grave), the Justice League, Batman Inc, Batman & the Outsiders, Morgan Freeman, Commissioner Gordon, and the legion of seductresses that either want to bed him, kill him, or just make his life more interesting?

So at the end of the day, the butler did it.

In DKR sometime after his parents died Al read Edgar Allen Poe’s first detective story, The Purloined Letter before bed to the young master. By the end of Bruce says, “with a voice like steel, so frightfully formal, his dark eyes flashing, Master Bruce asked--no, demanded: ‘The killer was caught. And punished.’ Alfred assured him that the villain had met justice. Bruce slept. Like a boy.”

3. "I Shall Become a Bat" (Line not actually spoken in the film)

Batman #682

Nitpickers may be disappointed there wasn't a windowpane shattering Year One homage set in Bruce's study. Instead of trying to replicate the classic scene with the bat perched on the bust of Thomas Wayne (something that works fine in a comic, but for a film?) the filmmakers took inspiration from the religiousness in those panels. I'm not saying it's a straight on Christian allegory, but the Passion Play is more suitable for this film, than the clumsy "He's Jesus! Don't you get it?" scenes of Man of Steel.

There are only two cultures I know of which view bats in a positive religious light; Chinese and some Native American tribes. To Western European civilization Batman is the god of the underworld, a demon who could be in a police lineup with Dracula or the devil, but any 5 year old can tell you he's on the side of the good guys.

Bruce's path in Begins eventually causes him to create his own religion or creed. It's not a story of deities or fate guiding mortals along, but how a man can become an symbol, "incorruptible. I can be everlasting."

Cue for Han Zimmer's music. 

Going to need a rabies vaccination

 4. Push Ups

With all due respect to Adam West, audiences finally got a Batman who could not only act phenomenally, but plausibly looked like he could wage a one man war on crime and corruption in Gotham City. Christian Bale's performance and jacked bod have motivated me many a time to hit the weights. Now my own body is closer to resembling a Carmine Infantino Flash sans the aerodynamically sculpted butt, but Bale really bulked up for the role, and the serious attitude he took for this comic book character shines in the film.

Healthy Homo-Erotica

Part 2 will feature more tears from Alfred, but I won't swear to Gawd... I swear to ME!! Nope, doesn't work.

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