‘Batman Begins’ again and for the first time

Christopher Nolan reenvisionsthe rise of thecaped crusader

by Steven Snyder

.This is not a superhero epic caught up in tricks, chases and gadgets. But, rather, it sees through to a larger world, providing context and explaining the impetus behind one man’s quest to redeem and restore a city rotten to the core.

Unlike Superman or Spider-Man, he has thrown all else by the wayside, rejecting a life of wealth to wage a war against evil and corruption. And in “Batman Begins,” the only Batman film to get it right, we start to finally understand why.

All five previous Batman films have suffered from the same problems hindering most superhero entries: superficiality, homogeneity and proximity.

The kitschy, ’60s Batman was superficial, interested more in surface pleasures than anything substantive. Tim Burton’s attempts were by far the better ones, but even they suffered from a homogenous universe: a monotone of drab and dark.

And the two deplorable Joel Schumacher versions were not only films built too closely around the hero and his nemeses, but bad and campy acting made this decision a disastrous one.

Given all this baggage, and all these expectations in the series, it is that much more remarkable that such a team has assembled to give Batman another shot. Christopher Nolan, director of the acclaimed “Memento,” and Christian Bale of “American Psycho,” have given us the best vision of Batman yet.

They have charged themselves with a more difficult task: show how a man realistically becomes a superhero and how his larger world plays a part in that. In the process, the film must go deeper than simple flashbacks and must do more than simply fawn over the Batmobile, Batcave and Batsuit.

And that is exactly what they’ve done. They recount the journey, from the days of a young Bruce Wayne to when he returns to the corrupt city of his youth to save it. In one brilliant twist, he must actually defend the city from those who would rather tear it all down and start over.

And the result is a story that emerges unhindered by the problems of Batman past. There is not one tone here, but myriad shades of good and evil, corrupt and just; the story is not about a select few polarized characters but about an array of personalities with their own agendas; the film’s action, politics, characters and style are not superficial and simple but richly textured and layered. This is an adventure film with both brains and brawn to spare.

What “Batman Begins” does best is show the calculated and strategic war of redemption waged on the city’s institutions. From the justice system to Wayne’s corporations and even the city’s public transportation, each must be reinvented to exist again in the service of good.

This is a movie about the believable and calculated war waged by one man in bringing his hometown back from the brink. Notice it’s not only about gizmos or villains, but about something greater.

Perhaps the biggest rebirth of all is that of this franchise. Nolan and Bale, along with co-writer David S. Goyer, have turned every weakness into an advantage.

They’ve accomplished a feat that would make their hero proud.