Batman Benign

Let me say, for the record, that I mostly liked the new Batman flick. Didn’t love it. Didn’t think it was a revelation of cinema. Just liked it.

It seemed to me a lot like an okay poem that hinged on a few good turns of phrase. There were great moments in the film, but as a whole, it was a bit uneventful and—yes—a little boring.

And I even like Katie Holmes.

I liked the new rendering of Gotham City but felt it lacked a certain…Gothic feel. It was sort of too post-apocalyptic, and the entire film tried to cultivate a sense that the city lost its innocence when the Waynes were killed (September 11? What?). Right down to the ensuing economic depression…curious.

The scariest thing about Batman Begins from a political perspective is how it supports America’s current seek-and-destroy ideology on terrorism. Batman—not a vigilante, because that’s “selfish”—is on a crusade to cleanse Gotham City of those who engage in crime. Evil doers, perhaps? “It’s not who I am underneath, it’s what I do that defines me.” The film uses this phrase to transcend Batman’s identity from crimefighter to benevolent angel, but it has a converse effect: in some senses, Batman is nearly the outlaw the criminals are.

I more enjoyed Burton’s take on Batman, even though they got a bit campy. I enjoyed the addition (finally) of Arkham Asylum to Gotham City. I thought the villain’s reveal was a big fat cinematic whoopee cushion.

Gary Oldham was a revelation as Sgt. Gordon. And wouldn’t this film have been better if Christian Bale were shirtless even more? Although, by the end of the film, I had already felt disgusted with myself for eating half a bag of popcorn and downing a soda after seeing his no-fat, muscled torso flex under and over his bedsheets. (Being gay cuts both ways.)

My favorite take on Batman was the WB cartoon series of the late 90s. It cultivated Gotham City as a moody Art Deco wonderland, complete with women whose stockings had a seam up the back of their legs. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Even Two Face, one of the biggest villain duds, was given appropriate due in the series.

Overall, Batman met my minimum expectations. I think the next one will probably be better.

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