What I Liked
• The performances. A real fantastic ensemble, perhaps the best in any of the movies yet. For sure Christian Bale is the best Batman yet. There is one scene in particular, in which Batman is interrogating a criminal, that showcases how Bale ditched the stoic-as-hell routine for something a lot more human. Gary Oldman plays against type as a cop who brings everything together and does it damn well. Cillian Murphy, who’s turned in three fine performances in a row now (28 Days Later & The Girl With the Pearl Earring being the others), has all the pseudo-charms of a young hotshot working in law...with a great evil twist as the villain Scarecrow.
• The car. I was so worried about how it might turn out, but it makes for my favorite action sequence in the film. Just watching it tumble and crush over police cars was a real treat. They had a real vision beyond action figures when they decided on the design for the Batmobile
• Visually brilliant. Gotham City looked great in that they didn’t make it overly-bleak so it was a believable city, not one that only exists in green and gray and rains all the time. And by the way when it does rain, it’s great. Ra's Al Ghul’s Iceland place was great as well, especially the open ice arena outdoors in which Bruce battled Ducard. The Blue Flower drug lead to some real innovative camera and effects work, although the “ooooh I have red eyes!” bit was a little overused. You think the people of Gotham would have some more diversified fears.
• Although it felt odd at first, what with Bruce at a prison and Ducard thrown right into the story, the movie doesn’t waste any time getting to where it needs to go. Not many 2 hour 20 minute blockbusters are paced as well as this was.
•Some great truly great scenes to watch. The building of Batman’s arsenal, Batman construing the scheme to foil Falcone by dropping hints to various characters, the murder of Bruce’s parents and the afformentioned interrogation scene.
What I Didn't Like
• Far too many cheap one-liners and spots of crummy dialogue. Several attempts to establish Alfred as comic relief made me cringe. The flick has tons of action-cliché one-liners strewn throughout, yet it's unfortunate that my two favorite action sequences in the film were tainted with shitty one-liners. The car chase had too many cutaways of cops spouting off cheesy one-liners (“It’s a giant...black...tank,” “Hey...who is this guy?!”) and did Scarecrow really have to actually say “You should lighten up” before throwing a lighter? I really loved the look of Scarecrow riding on horseback, but that FDR quote was a massive groaner. And yes, we even had the pleasure of hearing lines such as “I gotta get me one of those!” and “Hey, nice ride!” in response to the Batmobile. Over and over I kept being reminded of the nonstop Mr. Freeze gags in Batman & Robin, except I didn’t have the phrase “Oh silly Arnie,” to help me bury them. And not to mention the constant spurting off of self-help advice by characters, especially Ducard, who seemingly can only speak in lame nuggets of wisdom. The Bruce and Rachel scenes took a cue from Anakin/Padme in being rather unwatchable, mostly consisting of dull monologues from Rachel about how Bruce should improve his life. I remember being pleased to see that Batman Returns was not only going to be directed by Christopher Nolan, but written by him as well. Yet if I had seen this prior to seeing any of Nolan's other work, it would be hard to believe he was ever nominated for an Academy Award for writing.
• I wanted so badly to see more of the action sequences in the movie, but for some reason, Christopher Nolan decided to show the action sequences in very quick cutting tight shots. The biggest example of which was the fight on the dock with all of Falcone’s guys. I felt like I was hearing a cool fight but only seeing nothing but the blur of a quick moving camera. Just about every single action sequence besides the car chase suffered from this.
• As great as this cast was, I’m not really sure what the point in casting Katie Holmes was. Looks wise, I didn’t have any trouble believing she was the District Attorney of a major city. Yet her unmemorable, sappy performance not only stuck out like a sore thumb in an otherwise fine cast, but has her taking third to Nicole Kidman and Kim Basinger as far as Batman's damsels in distress go.
• And then they are the various problems in the story I disliked. I really don’t buy that Batman could somehow program the Batmobile to do everything needed for Jim Gordan to do his part in the finale of the film. Not to mention that the movie expects us to accept the plot twist of Henri Ducard actually being Ra's Al Ghul as valid and plays it up like a huge twist. I mean, they fooled me...but...would you mind explaining to me why? What? No? Okay...I guess we're supposed to buy it then...thanks. And I couldn't believe that the main plot to destroy Gotham City involved the use of the corny "superdehydrator." First off, I'd already think this plot device would be lame in the first place, but I find it amusing that nearly the same exact machine was used in the 1966 campy-as-hell Batman movie! And yet, there it is, recycled for this "new, brooding Batman." And how about that finale? I could've asked for a better finale than the little tiff we got on the Gotham City monorail. And about that leave-the-door-open ending...come on...we’ve done The Joker before folks. Hell, The Joker in the first movie is still my favorite part of any Batman movie ever. Sure, we’ve entered yet another stylistic-phase for this franchise, but it’s still the same franchise. I think it’ll take a great casting decision for me to feel any better about rehashing my favorite part of this series.
All In All
Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty to really enjoy in Batman Begins, but contrary to the mass-praise it's received, I really thought it was just an OK installment in a movie series in which I’ve never understood what all the fuss was all about. My expectations going into the movie were varied. While I wasn’t that sold on what I had heard or seen in the trailers, I was excited about the idea of Christopher Nolan completely re-inventing the series. I was hoping it would result in a great film so that other series’ I enjoy but are in dire need of re-invention (a la Alien and James Bond) would receive huge, succesful overhauls from young filmmakers. And while Batman Begins is definitely a more solid installment than the three that proceeded it, it's no successful overhaul.