Who are you?

Film In all my excitment about tomorrow night I'd forgotten that Batman Begins again this weekend. Which is a shame, because to a degree I didn't give it due reverance. Since the only comic book I've read in years is Whedon's X-Men I suppose I came to the film as a piece of cinema rather than an adaptation. There are probably hundreds of smaller references in here which I'd never understand and I've no idea what fans of the comics make of this (which perhaps puts me on the other side of the Hitchhiker's-style debate). What I saw though was an extra-ordinary piece of film making which managed keep the spirit of everything which has gone before, whilst keeping its own coherence.

It's exciting that the studio would sanction another origin adventure so close to the Tim Burton film. I was never a fan of that -- too stylised for its own good lacking clear characterisation. What's suprising here is that rather than giving what the audience wants, two horns and a cape, we hardly see the dark knight until into the second hour. There is quite a complex flashback structure creating an underpinning of the psychological reasons why Bruce Wayne would want to hang around in caves with bats as friends, while at the same time subtly setting up some important plot information later in the film. If there's a slight problem with the train sequences they reminded me a bit too much of Highlander -- especially all the sword play. Also I defy anyone not to be waiting for Neeson to tell Bale to 'be mindful of the living force'.

The development of the iconography of the bat are also handled incredibly well. In this explanation for the wonderful toys, its Bruce using largely existing hardware rather than items he's developed himself -- and also granted some of them are a bit fantastical -- it takes the point of view that its not about the tools, its how they're used, which is a step up from a magical utility belt which can do everything. Over and again, we are reminded that this is just a man -- a highly skilled, well trained man -- but flesh and blood nonetheless. He gets hurt, we see bruises. This adds an extra vulnerability. Unlike previous incarnations Batman isn't somehow a seperate character apart from the billionare playboy, its the conduit through which the playboy saves the world.

It is a cameofest, a dream for any player of Six Degrees. There is a moment about half an hour into the film as all of the major characters are introduced and they're all played by names actors. It's real kitchen sink casting, an Ocean's Eleven for actors of a certain age, but there are some brilliant choices and it's great in particular to see Gary Oldman not playing the lunatic for a change. Michael Caine's Alfred is also a great creation. Katie Holmes just feels like a better more exciting love interest not just around to be saved but integral to the story. There was also something for the Nu-Who fan, with The Long Game's Christine 'Cathica' Adams playing a secretary. One day to go.

What this proves is if you get a Chris Nolan to make a superhero film, you'll get the best example of the genre money can by. He'll take the character seriously, do experimental yet crowd pleasing things with him and make the audience want to see more. Up until now, I thought the cartoon series was the best imagining of the character I'd ever see. This is just as good if not better. Of all the comics adaptations this year I'd be very surprised if any of them are better than this.

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