Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
The floodgates are open. The script has officially leaked. Sometimes, you see it happen with a film. The material doesn’t just get out. It gets out ev-er-y-where at once. Harry and I were both sent copies of it this week by an unnamed friend of the site (thanks, man), and then I get this e-mail from Supernova’s favorite cherubic BNAT veteran...
I didn't like the title BATMAN BEGINS at first. It felt, and still feels in a way, clunky. INTIMIDATION GAME didn't sound exactly right either. What to call the movie that sets the Batman film saga right back to square one? The film that wipes the slate clean, from not only the cinematic abortion that was BATMAN AND ROBIN, but even Tim Burton's two films? Having thought it over and after reading the script, BATMAN BEGINS is the best possible title, and it sets the franchise off to a terrific start, with so much potential that fanboys will need to wear raincoats to the theater, so overcome with orgasmic joy will they be.
I don't know what Christopher Nolan will bring to the film, but his sense in casting is dead on perfect. The actors that have been cast fit their parts perfectly.
As far as the previous Batman films, only the first one feels like it's anything approaching good to me, and even that film feels sloppy. Nothing against Prince, but his musical interludes didn't work, and like Bruce says in the original film, some of BATMAN is very much Tim Burton, and some of it isn't. Well, the first film also doesn't come close to the angst and power that the character has, the darkness and tragedy in Bruce Wayne that compels the fans to follow his story again and again.
This is the part without spoilers. If you don't want to read any, cut loose after this paragraph... but feel comforted that for the first time, they got it right. Not the TV show. Not the films we've seen so far. This feels like Batman, and it brings the franchise to a point where anything is possible. All the characters you know and love are treated well and fairly, and if Superman gets this treatment, maybe the WB won't be the ire of fanboys everywhere. With this script, I feel that Warner Brothers is on the right track with this character, and I can't wait to see the sequel to THIS particular Batman film.
First off, there are ninjas. Just to get that out of the way. Ninjas, who kick ass.
We begin, as the screeching of bats and the darkness of wings gives way to sunlight, in a garden. A girl, RACHEL, is running from a boy, BRUCE WAYNE. As they hide from the Wayne Manor staff, they are two children at play, until Bruce falls through an abandoned well in the back kitchen garden. Bruce falls into blackness.
His eyes open in a Bhutanese prison, as Bruce (Christian Bale), now 28, serves his time. He spends his days fighting the other prisoners. He is drifting through his life. Six prisoners start a fight, and Bruce methodically takes them down, until the guards put Bruce in solitary confinement for the other prisoners's protection. In his cell, a voice speaks out. It is DUCARD (Liam Neeson), a servant of RA'S AL GHUL (Ken Watanabe), offering to teach Bruce the skills of the League of Shadows, if he passes their tests. He offers him something he has been looking for for a long time: purpose.
We all know the story of Batman - Bruce Wayne fights crime to avenge his parents' death - but David Goyer puts us right in the middle of it this time. No mere flashback for us - we are taken through the ordeal that Bruce suffers and feels guilty over. If Bruce hadn't been frightened at the play they went to see that night, if he hadn't begged his parents to leave, their deaths by Joe Chill (yes, NOT the Joker, but the original killer of the comics, and I'm thankful that got remedied) might have been avoided. He feels responsible to a fault, and he travels the world, in self-destructive behavior.
Bruce travels to the Himalayas to train with Ducard and Ra's Al Ghul's League of Shadows. Imagine a ninja sword duel with Batman versus Qui-Gon Jinn. Yes, I sense the fanboy stiffies sprouting now. It's a kickass fight as written, and I'm confident that Nolan will make it pop on screen. Through out the training ordeals that Bruce goes through, he learns to live with his fears - his fears of bats due to his fall in his youth, his fear of loss, his fear of the knowledge that he may have been responsible for his parents' death. He learns the value of masks. And at the end, he is offered membership... for a price. The League of Shadows isn't some altruistic group out to save the world, but to destroy it. Ra's Al Ghul tells Bruce that he wants to destroy Gotham, and through what they have taught him, he will be the one to do it. Bruce refuses, and there is a fight with many ninjas (!!!). Ra's Al Ghul is killed in an explosion, but Bruce saves Ducard's life. With that act, he is ready to begin. He calls ALFRED (Michael Caine) to have him picked up, and Bruce starts to pick up the pieces of his life.
When Bruce returns to Gotham, Wayne Enterprises is in shambles. Its not his father's company anymore. It's all about the profits, about defense contracts, and the board of the company is trying to have Bruce Wayne declared dead so they can complete the takeover of the company. Unfortunately for them Bruce shows up and defeats their plans, and meets LUCIUS FOX (Morgan Freeman), who heads the Applied Science Division after he refused to go with the board and was booted off. It's here that we see the development of many of the iconic Batman symbols - the suit, the Batmobile, the grappling hook. When Bruce reaches his 30th birthday, he inherits all of it.
Bruce learns that Joe Chill, the man who killed his parents, is being offered parole in exchange for testimony against local crime lord Carmine Falcone, and Bruce decides to take revenge. However, Rachel (Katie Holmes), now an assistant district attorney, prevents him from acting. Later, Chill is killed by one of Falcone's cronies, and Bruce realizes that the corruption of Gotham City goes much deeper than his own petty revenge fantasies. The corruption, in fact, goes much further than Bruce knows, all the way back to China, where the REAL villain bides his time...
Gotham City needs a symbol. A symbol of fear, yes, the fear of his childhood, but turned into a force for good. In a mask, Bruce contacts JIM GORDON (Gary Oldman), one of the few honest cops in the city, and tells him to look for a sign.
The first time we see Batman in the script isn't until page 58 of the script, almost an hour in, if the axiom of one minute a page is true. As in SPIDER-MAN, we are so invested in the character that by the time Batman actually shows up it all has a sense of context. The first Batman fight has the feel of someone who really is new at this sort of thing, but it feels exciting and I'm looking forward to seeing it on screen.
There's a lot of ground for the film to cover, but it never feels rushed. It feels well-paced, and introduces characters at leisure. It never feels dull. It's fresh.
What about the other villain, the SCARECROW (Cillian Murphy)? He has a terrific entrance, and isn't just a throwaway baddie for Batman to fight, but figures into the larger story. And Goyer does something really cool that more superhero movies need to pay attention to - the Scarecrow's not disposable. Ra's Al Ghul is also used very well. He feels a little like how Dracula is introduced in the Bram Stoker novel. He's a villain that isn't onscreen a lot of the time, but you continuously feel his presence. This movie really has three villains. Ducard, as written, is just as much an equal for Bruce as the others. With all the crime in Gotham, Batman is never at a loss of bad guys.
Am I leaving anything out? Oh hell yeah. A lot more than you realize. The script's 128 pages long, and I'm only to page 58. And I really can't go any further without really ruining it. There's some twists, including one that I really didn't see coming until it was right on me. But the script has confidence in the characters, and everyone's well written, including Alfred, who I can't wait to see Michael Caine play. He really is Bruce's moral center, the one that keeps him grounded, and Bruce and Alfred have a nice banter and a warm relationship that should translate well on screen. The only character that may get a little short shrift is Rachel, but this is a superhero movie, and sadly, historically, the women in superhero movies aren't exactly given the best lines.
This feels like a film written for Batman fans. The introduction of all the iconic symbols that make Batman the hero we know and love is done particularly well, including the Batmobile, which I can't wait to see (think THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, rather than the skinny car the films are used to). They even make an effort to explain how Bruce can afford all this stuff, and lay a scientific foundation that actually gives "all those wonderful toys" a sense of reality.
In fact... and I might get lynched for this... this is a better introduction to the Batman character than YEAR ONE. Frank Miller's comic works for comics. But this is a movie... and it MOVES. At some points... well. The fight scenes just click and pop off the page, and if they are choreographed as well as they read, we're in for a treat. We even get to see Gordon in some action, which is nice.
Problems? Only one, really... Rachel. She's written like a token female character, needing to be rescued by Batman, the character who gets to put to voice all the romantic aspects to the story... she's not much more than a plot point. She does get some nice moments, towards the end, but we're always wanting to get back to the action.
I think the fans are going to go apeshit over this, frankly. It's done almost completely right, and starts the franchise anew. The last page of the script... well, it'll get fans all a twitter with casting ideas. I hope the WB signs both Christopher Nolan and David Goyer to a three picture deal, because this story's not done. It reinvents the franchise, and I dare say it improves on the Burton vision. This is the Batman origin the fans have been waiting for. I can't wait to see it, and it's now one of my most anticipated films of 2005. With this and Episode III, if all goes well, it's gonna be a good year. Post-LOTR... we're in for some good times, I think.
Well said, man. I don’t think I can write a review of this one in good conscience, since I did some business with David Goyer last year and owe him a huge debt of gratitude for taking a chance on me. I’ll say this much, though... I am deeply impressed by his script, and I think it’s one of the three best BATMAN scripts I’ve read. Sam Hamm’s first draft of BATMAN, the one that kicked the whole thing off, was a really persuasive and powerful re-imagination of the character, and so was BRUCE WAYNE, the pilot script by Tim McCanlies that got unmercifully dicked around by the lunatics at the WB network and Tollin/Robbins in a ridiculous power struggle that led to SMALLVILLE. If McCanlies had been able to make his show about Bruce Wayne, I think it would have become the definitive version of the character. I think he would have been able to create a great, rich mythology around the character.
And I agree with Nordling. The best moment in this script is on the last page, and that’s not an insult. That’s just saying they managed to find the perfect ending, an ending that will make fans leap to their feet in the theater and howl, enraged at the idea of having to wait for what’s next. I hope Goyer and Nolan already have their sequel outlined so they can get busy on it as soon as they deliver this one for next summer.