eeping my promise, I am avoiding work as much as possible at home. So yesterday, I went with M to see Batman Begins. We went to the matinee because… well that’s all I can afford on my lowly teacher’s salary. We went to the Cinema de Luxe in Fairfax and I was rather impressed. It is an entertainment center unto itself. A piano in the lobby, a separate Sbarro and Nathan’s Hot Dogs concessions along with the ubiquitous popcorn, sodas and candy. Of course, what caught M’s eye–okay, my eye, too–was a bar! Yes a bar with beer and other “refreshments”. Why did they never think of this before?
Anyway, Batman… I must say first that I have never been a Batman fan. Indeed, I have never been a DC Comics fan. Super heros living in non-existing cities did not catch my fancy as a kid. Marvel characters seemed more realistic, I told M yesterday.
“Right. A guy shooting webbing from his wrist and swinging down Midtown Manhattan is more realistic than a billionaire dressed in a bat suit stopping crime in Gotham,” sarcasm dripping like molasses from her mouth…
Okay, maybe Spiderman or the X-Men or the Hulk are not necessarily more “realistic” but there is something I can relate to. Especially Spiderman. He was full of teenage angst and sarcasm towards authority. The Hulk resisted authority. The X-Men had special abilitites that were persecuted by the authorities. These attitudes were compelling during the late 60s and 70s in my youth. Not the perfect Johnny-Do-Good Superman or the ever faithful Batman.
So when the first Batman came out with Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker, I was skeptical. It was dark, certainly not like the comic book I knew, but it was also unexplained. At least to my satisfaction. But still it was interesting. More interesting than I would have thought. Then the next one with Danny DeVito as the Punguin was fun and campy. But campy is not what I wanted from a Batman movie and I stopped watching them. I did not see Batman Forever with Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carey–okay, I think Van Kilmer as Batman turned me off. Neither did I see Batman and Robin–George Clooney? C’mon…. And Catwoman? Well, I would have gone seen it just for Halle Barry, but I think M would have gotten upset so I refrained…
In any event, I had no reason to see Batman Begins… until anyone and everyone started to rave about it: Great. The best. So cool.
Alright already! So after taking a huge dose of skepicism, I went. Well, perhaps going to a movie with lowered expectations influenced my reaction, but I’m glad I went. I must say unequivocally that Batman Begins was pretty good. It was dark, the acting was competent, the special effects were interesting (if not mesmerizing). But the best part of the movie is the story. It is the back story of how Batman came to be. Warning! Spoilers Approaching: As I mentioned, I was not a Batman fan and so cannot vouch for the accuracy to this story–as I could about Spiderman–but it was very satisfying. It explained in great detail why Batman came to be. His decision to fight injustice was a response to the muder of this parents–this much I knew. But they also explained the process he went through: why a billionaire playboy excelled in the martial arts; why he had so many gadgets and a cool car–and this car was really cool; why he chose the bat as his symbol. It was very well done, I must tell you.
Perhaps what freaked me out the most was Christian Bale. Some knew him from American Psycho, a movie I didn’t see. I only got to “know” him last week when I saw The Machinist when he played a 120 pound, guiltridden man. The more I think of the movie, the more I am impressed with it. It’s worth renting. But even more amazing is the method actor Bale. He lost over 60 pounds to play the part. He did not use makeup to look skinny, and he was incredibly emaciated. I mean look at these pix. He is not the same person as the one above in Batman. His waist looks like… what? 27 inches? I haven’t had a 27 inch waist since I was 14. I can’t believe that this is good for his health, but it is impressive to see a man who is so dedicated to his art. It reminds me of DeNiro who gained 20-30 pounds to play an old retired boxer in Raging Bull and who plucked his hair to become a bald Al Capone in The Untouchables. But losing over 60 pounds is truly unhealthy. And according to Bale, he just stopped eating for weeks! This is scary devotion, the kind that perhaps I should show to my craft… no, just not my craft, maybe I can do this to lose the weight I need to fit into my pants again!
Anyway, If you’re interested in action movies that actually have a story, see Batman Begins, not a bad flick at all.