The film that saved Batman
It's easy now to expect another great Batman movie next year, but in 2005, I had never seen a truly great Batman movie (or even a good one as far as I am concerned). The Tim Burton films were not for me and the Joel Schumacher films were not for anyone, not even Schumacher's mother*. Christopher Nolan flew in like a hero and saved fans of the greatest comic book character of all time from only having memories of uninspired interpretations of the Caped Crusader.
* I can't confirm this but I would like to think that it is true
Batman is not a singular role; the actor has to portray Bruce Wayne, the Bruce Wayne the public sees, and of course Batman, the symbol that criminals dread. Christian Bale has proven to be the first actor to successfully pull off all three of those characters, and that has been the most important aspect to the new trilogy's success. The audience is completely connected to Bruce for every step of his journey; we understand the tragic circumstances that made him the loner he is, we understand how the people around him made him grow past his hate, and we understand and believe why he wanted to harness his abilities to devote his entire life to fighting crime in his home city. Understanding those three elements of the Bruce Wayne character are essential to losing yourself in the story. Without that, the film is just a cartoon.
On top of that, Nolan created an incredible atmosphere for Gotham City, where the city was defined not by sets and locations (which were great), but by the desperation and corruption of its citizens. Rachel Dawes, James Gordon, and Lucius Fox are the good citizens waiting for the opportunity to bring as much good as possible. Carmine Falcone and The Scarecrow are preying on fear, and robbing the city blind; no one is there to keep them in check. The atmosphere for Gotham provided the perfect setting to get behind Bruce Wayne all the more.
Rewatching Batman Begins for the umpteenth time, I've decided that it is a nearly perfect movie. However, there is one glaring weakness: Katie Holmes. Holmes's performance as Dawes is meant to be the heart of the movie; she needs to be the person we connect with when Bruce is a lost soul. Unfortunately, Holmes does not get the job done. If Maggie Gyllenhaal played Dawes from the beginning, I think we would have had a better movie.
Dark Knight will be review for tomorrow.