SPOILERS BELOW (as if reading this far hasn't spoiled it enough)
Okay, I just saw it this afternoon, and I have to say that I was absolutely blown away. Fan-freaking-tastic.
I was never a real fan of the Batman movies. The original Michael Keaton Batman movie was good but never the kind of thing that it 'should' have been. They never paid real attention to the fact that Batman is a traumatised individual driven by anger and the desire for justice and revenge. Later Batman movies that with Mr Freeze, Robin and Batgirl, were just stupid. The lame attempts at comedy removed Batman from its true origins and feel. For example, when Bane (from the 'Venom' Batman sequence) was introduced in this horribly comical manner, I was so disappointed. The Venom graphic novel could be a superb movie in itself, and the studio and writers totally dropped the ball.
As soon as I saw Daredevil, I thought that it was the kind of movie that Batman should have been to begin with, and I've said so here on a number of occasions. Now my expectations and hopes have been completely outdone. This movie is gritty, as realistic as you can get for a superhero movie, explores Bruce Wayne's true motivations and feelings, and simply does not stop with the action.
The gadgets are all 'possible'. Throwing knives (not cheesy 'Batarangs'), monofilament grappling lines, ultrasonic bat-callers, the nomex/kevlar Batsuit, everything is within the realms of scientific possibility. The Batmobile is a totally kickass piece of machinery. And the Batsuit has NO NIPPLES, thank god!!!
There was so much potential for overacting in this movie, but everything was done very tastefully and 'realistically'. Bale is superb at expressing the different emotions of Bruce Wayne and Batman, Caine is full of class and loyalty as Alfred, Liam Neeson is Qui-Gon-BAD in this movie, this time the *evil* master whos 'apprentice' turns out to be *good*, unlike Anakin. Morgan Freeman had a nicely avuncular feel. Even Katie Holmes, who has been getting a bit of schtick as the love interest, isn't as bad as people had been making out.
There is even some nice bantering humour, which lightened things enough to provide respite from the seriousness of other parts.
Something I found genuinely frightening was Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow, and the way the fear-inducing hallucinogen was introduced. Kids should NOT see this movie, as they will definitely have nightmares. Heck, *I* was frightened by that one. Murphy's role as a twisted psychiatrist is interesting. He is soft, almost effete, and menacing not from a physical point of view, but from what he can do to your *mind*. And to me, that is even more frightening than some hulking behemoth who knows no pain.
The realism of this Batman is all throughout the movie. Mention is made of tiredness, exhaustion, physical injury and damage. The scene where Wayne saves Ducard from sliding off the cliff is teeth-clenchingly painful. Batman is not a 'superhero', he is a highly driven human being doing the best with what he has.
Also realistic was the portrayal of Bruce Wayne's father as a wealthy doctor and philanthropist who was trying to make the city better. Very caring and loving to his son and others, warm hearted and generous, Wayne Sr's murder is still a shock when it comes. The scene where a young Gordon comforts Bruce immediately after is very touching.
The action scenes are superb. The Batmobile, the train sequence, the grappling line flights, everything was handled excellently.
As much as I love martial arts movies and HK action movies in particular, I love the fact that the fight scenes in Batman Begins were far less slick and acrobatic than anything in recent superhero adaptations. It's almost as if the director and writer said, 'we don't NEED some Hong Kong fight choreographer to make this movie great!' And they did. The fight scenes did seem a little choppy and quickly cut, but I believe this was to bring more brutal realism to the action.
And the soundtrack! Hans Zimmer rules in this one. I don't think I heard any stupid popular rap, techno or grunge tracks in this movie. Everything was glorious orchestral scores that brought out the rich feeling of the movie.
This movie does not 'follow' any of the other Batman movies, and makes some departures from the comics. This is a complete reinvention and updating of the franchise, and IF they stick with this direction, I will be first in line to see any sequel they may make.
I have not been this excited and impressed by a movie since the original Blade and the first Matrix, and I've seen a lot of movies since then. I only saw it this afternoon, and I want this on DVD NOW!!!