Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Eighteen, Part One – ‘Batman Begins’ (2005)

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The Premise
Film fanatics and friends
 Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. There has been a few disagreements, a few mutual pleasures, but mainly there has been a cinematic education of sorts for both.

The film at number eight in Yasser’s list is the first of a trilogy he expects to be “THE trilogy of [his] life”. Did Fred like it?

You can read the entries from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.

To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.

Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
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Yasser: Fred, this week you’ve been given ‘Batman Begins‘. As you know, Batman is my favourite superhero and character. I absolutely love him

Fred: Yes. You have a shrine, I believe

YA: It’s not a shrine. It’s a display

FS: (laughs)

‘Batman Begins’
2005 – USA
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes

FS: You love Batman and you love Christopher Nolan. This film was always going to be in your top 10, wasn’t it?

YA: Yes. It came in eighth when I made the list. It might be the hype of ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘, but it’s possible it should be higher on my list

FS: Why?

YA: The pace of the film is fantastic. The way the origin story, illustrating Bruce Wayne’s (Christian Bale) journey before becoming Batman, doesn’t seem like a chore whilst you are waiting for him to become Batman. To be honest, Wayne’s origin story feels like the better half of the film, and the Batman half feels slightly rushed

FS: It did feel a little hurried in places, particularly around when he decides to become Batman. I’d have expected a little more incredulous opposition from Alfred (Michael Caine), for instance

YA: Agreed. So, the question I’ve been gagging to ask you – ‘Batman Begins’: what are your thoughts?

FS: When it began, and there is the sequence with Bale, Liam Neeson and Ken Watanabe in the mountains where Bale gets trained in all his fighting skills, I thought ‘this is the most Yasser-friendly movie I’ve ever seen

YA: (laughs) What?

FS: Fight scenes? Check. Disillusioned hero follows a mystical path to enlightenment? Check. Liam Neeson? Check

YA: (laughs)

FS: There was elements of a lot of your other choices and, I’ll be honest, that section was the part I enjoyed the least. All in all, though, it was really, really good

YA: REALLY?

FS: Oh yeah! So enjoyable!

YA: I can melt with relief now

FS: (laughs) There was nothing that hadn’t been done before, but what Nolan does, like Spielberg before him, is make things feel new, and that is a great trick

YA: Let’s start with Nolan. I believe he’s a living legend

FS: Hmmmm… how many films has he made? Six? Eight?

YA: (laughs)

FS: He might go down in history if he keeps this standard up. Why do you like him so much?

YA: He’s a film-maker of old. He doesn’t like CGI, 3-D, digital film. He has a direct style. He doesn’t piss about with strange trickery. He likes to stage big productions and only uses CGI to enhance a shot, if required

FS: Good man

YA: What do you think of him?

FS: I’ve seen three of his films and he seems to be getting better and better. Through the evolution of ‘Memento‘, this and then ‘Inception‘ you can see he’s learned how to pace a film. He also has a knack of getting stunning visuals on film. The look and feel of Gotham City, for instance, was perfect. You’d never want to go there! My favourite thing about him, though, is he always makes sure he has good actors in his cast. That makes a big difference to me

YA: Good actors now flock to him if they’re called

FS: Oh! Also, he doesn’t insult the audience’s intelligence. If you miss a plot point in his films it’s tough. You just have to play catch up

YA: Some people didn’t think Christian Bale was right for the role

FS: I’m surprised at that, but then they said that about Michael Keaton too. I think Bale will go down as the definitive big-screen Batman

YA: Those idiots ate their words after this came out

FS: It’s tough for an actor playing a superhero to make the role believable, but he did just that. I never once questioned Wayne’s motivation to become Batman and that is down to Bale

YA: Exactly. Bale got it just right

FS: I like it when an action hero is shown to be fallible by getting injured or being outsmarted. This happens to Batman and it adds to my support for the character

YA: Yes! Bale played three characters, in essence: Batman, Bruce Wayne, and the Wayne he shows to the public

FS: … which was funny. He wasn’t quite convincing in his public persona, but I think that was deliberate

YA: Bale was surrounded by a big cast of good actors. Let’s talk about Bruce Wayne’s greatest ally, Alfred Pennyworth, played by Sir Michael Caine

FS: Caine is loveable, and that is key for the role

YA: He’s very much the heart of the film, and was Wayne’s conscience when required

FS: It would have made sense to have him question Wayne’s actions a bit more, but that isn’t Caine’s fault. He was charming, humourous and had great chemistry with Bale. You felt the love

YA: Caine came across really well. You felt Alfred’s effort in trying to raise Bruce to be a good man despite the circumstances he went through as a child, but even he couldn’t save Wayne from his past which led him to run away from home and go to the far east. Here, he meets Henri Ducard (Neeson). You mentioned that you didn’t like this sequence. Why is that?

FS: To be brutally honest, I probably would have enjoyed it if I hadn’t recently watched some of your other choices like ‘Fearless‘ and ‘The Last Samurai‘ that have similar sections.

YA: How was Neeson?

FS: He was a great asset to the film. I’d never really seen him play a bad guy before, but he should do it more often

YA: He’s an awesome bad-ass

FS: I’d forgotten about him when he returns later in the film, but I was pleased when he did. His character’s motivations were a bit odd, but they were no more odd than most action movie villains

YA: He wasn’t the only baddie Batman faced. He was also confronted by Dr. Jonathan Crane aka Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy). I think with Batman finding his feet and confronting his fears Scarecrow was probably the best choice for Batman to encounter

FS: You mean that to go straight in with one of the more famous villains would have been too much, too soon?

YA: Yes

FS: Murphy didn’t have a lot of screen time, so I’d agree with that. If The Joker or Penguin had so little screen time the fans would have felt short-changed. It was enough to give them a new Batman

YA: ‘Batman Begins’ was essentially about Wayne confronting his fears. I don’t think it was necessarily about him facing external antagonists

FS: Well as a villain who brought those fears to the surface, he was a good choice

YA: Let’s talk about the rest of the cast – Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman, Tom Wilkinson and Gary Oldman

FS: I like Katie Holmes, although I’m not sure why. I remember she got a lot of stick when the film was released, but she is just the weakest member of an excellent cast. There is no shame in that

YA: Freeman’s character was similar to Caine’s

FS: Yes, that’s true. Some good moments, good chemistry with Bale…

YA: Tom Wilkinson was threatening throughout as Carmine Falcone. His gangster accent was epic!

FS: There is an actor who can play anything. To watch him in ‘Martin Chuzzlewit‘. ‘The Full Monty‘, ‘In the Bedroom‘, ‘John Adams‘, and now this is like watching five different actors

YA: I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play anything poorly

FS: No – never

YA: A really significant relationship in the film is Batman’s partnership with Sgt. Jim Gordon (Oldman). Gary Oldman was impressive, wasn’t he?

FS: I never really knew what to make of him in the past. A lot of his performances have left me cold, and I find he used to overplay his roles. That was the reason I was apprehensive about him playing George Smiley. However, he was excellent as Smiley and he’s excellent here. In fact, he was the best actor in the film. I enjoyed his performance more than anyone else’s

YA: With good performances all round

FS: Yeah. He’s someone I’m appreciating more as I get older

YA: I like to think that in all things Batman, it’s essential to have a Batmobile. In a way. it’s a character in itself. The Tumbler they have in ‘Batman Begins’ is awesome. They made a 400 bhp car that could turn corners and batter through walls

FS: It was pretty cool, and not what you expect the Batmobile to look like

YA: So Fred, what didn’t you like?

FS: There was one major problem I had with it

YA: It was about a guy who dresses like a bat?

FS: (laughs) Well remembered! No. I found the editing was shoddy in places

YA: How so?

FS: In the first half, there were scenes, such as the first chase involving the Batmobile, where the cuts didn’t match. It was very clunky and heavy-handed

YA: Nolan likes to move on. He’s famous for getting the scene right in one or two takes and not doing it again and again

FS: I was surprised that such a smooth director would allow such slips in his film

FS: Is there anything else you want to talk about? What do you love about it that we haven’t mentioned so far?

YA: It’s very hard to explain why I love this film so much. Batman is very fundamental to my childhood, and this realises what I want for Batman on the big screen to perfection. It was a very sincere approach, and I think it is true to the comics. It should be higher on my list… AAAAH! It’s just too epic

FS: (laughs) It’s a top-drawer Hollywood blockbuster. It’s exciting, engrossing and contains great set-pieces. Nolan, Spielberg’s heir for making big budget films that are intelligent and entertaining, is a masterful director and his greatest quality is his refusal to cast bad actors. The cast are all very good, with Oldman, Caine and Wilkinson particularly good. As for Christian Bale, it took me while to warm to him, but he will surely go down as the definitive movie Batman. Alas, the clunky editing in the first half and the rushed pace of the second were minuses. Also, whilst the action was exciting, I never felt tense. That said, I’d watch this again. It wasn’t perfect but it gets a very high 8/10

Next time: Yasser gives his opinion on ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’

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4 thoughts on “Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Eighteen, Part One – ‘Batman Begins’ (2005)

    […] Batman Begins […]

    […] YA: Much like how I struggled when you asked me about Batman […]

    […] If you remember, one of my other choices was ‘Batman Begins‘, which you […]

    […] but you did help to remind me that I like a good action movie now and again. Things like ‘Batman Begins‘, ‘The Dark Knight‘ and ‘Casino […]

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