Action Review: Eye in the Sky

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by: Matthew J.R. Kohler

Eye in the Sky is not your normal action film.  To be honest, I don’t know if it even is an action film.  However, it has traits that a good action film should have.  This weekend, I got to watch Alan Rickman’s last major role, and I was not disappointed.

The movie doesn’t take long to set up.  The main three characters, played by Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, and Alan Rickman, are introduced and are defined within ten minutes.  It also helps that the movie is only 100 minutes.  Shorter running times often force the film to move straight into the conflict, rather than adding scenes that aren’t needed.

It has been a while since I have seen a small movie.  What I mean by a small movie is that the scope of the movie only focuses on a small group of people in a specific, limited situation. It’s about a certain select people who are in danger, not the fate of the world.  Overall, the conflict hinges on a little girl who is playing next to a house. There are armed suicide bombers are in the house, and her proximity to the house means she would die if an airborne drone were to strike at the terrorists. Who knew a movie can cut so deeply over a small problem? That’s what makes this movie intense.  Not only can every human understand what the problem is, but you follow the little girl throughout the movie.  This helps the conflict build as she becomes someone you want to see survive.  How many times do you watch an action movie and feel emotional by the end?  Not many.

In Eye in the Sky, the character’s personalities are shown through their decision making.  Alan Rickman and Helen Mirren are strong leaders who will do whatever it takes to get the job done.  Aaron Paul is a new pilot whose never experienced war, but follows orders. The rest of the government officials have most likely never experienced battle.

Helen Mirren, who has worked on the case surrounding these terrorists for six years, is fixated on getting the job done.  Not only does she know what is at stake (the little girl’s life and the repercussions of the missile fire), but also she has a task to do, and she wants to prevent as many casualties as possible.  I could never accomplish what Helen’s character did.  But, I can see her point of view.  In her mind it’s either one girl’s death (followed swiftly by a PR nightmare), or potentially watching eighty people get killed as a result of her failure to strike at the terrorists.  On the other hand, the little girl has a face.

Giving the collateral damage a face makes the story more powerful. For example, in Star Wars, the audience cares a lot about Alderaan when it gets destroyed by the Death Star because we have seen and gotten to know Princess Leia, and understand how much her home means to her.  Contrast this with the destruction of the Hosnian system in The Force Awakens. Because we know so little about those affected by the disaster (or might have missed the system’s name even mentioned), as an audience, our ability to sympathize is significantly lessened.  Besides giving the girl a face, how the filmmakers showed her character, as a peaceful child who respected her elders and worked hard, was very effective. She was also innocent to the events happening above her.

As the film progresses, the stakes are continually increased.  At first, the mission was one of capture, and suddenly it became shoot to kill.  At this point, the situation gets more serious.  The stakes do rise, and they make sense for the film.  The opening scene sets up the little girl in the story too, so that the audience isn’t shocked that she is part of the conflict in the movie.

The final twenty minutes is gripping, but also ends it the best way possible.  In the end, you leave with a lot of questions.  Personally, I knew I could never do what these people do, but also realize that nobody should have to make those choices.  But in this movie, the ending wisely keeps it clean.  Yes, it is a serious topic, but it is tamed.  What also helped me enjoy this movie was that it didn’t beat me over the head constantly with its point.  Eye in the Sky is a great film; and in a world of huge blockbusters, it proves that less can be more .  The story delivers from beginning to end.  It is not the greatest movie of all time, but never tries to be.

Rating: 9/10

+ The entire cast

+ Pacing of the film

+ Build up to the main conflict

+ Gives a lot to question after viewing

+ Ending is great

– Wish the end had a little more impact

 

Don’t Believe the Hype! – The World of Warcraft Movie

by: Matthew J.R. Kohler

Sometimes a trailer does not indicate the quality of a movie, but other times you just know when you’ve seen the trailer that the movie just isn’t going to be good.  Such is the case with the upcoming Warcraft.  “World of Warcraft” is one of the biggest games ever, and its developer, Blizzard, is one of the biggest names in gaming.  I’ve talked to several peers about the upcoming film adaptation. They told me the film would look sweet if it were done in the same style as the cinematic cut scenes from the game.  If you’ve never seen one, then pause for a moment and watch.  The cut scenes are amazing!  They’re also animated.  The trailer, of course, clearly shows live action footage.  Well, barely.  We actually see the classic mishmash of garish CGI and badly colored live-action footage.  This movie looks exceptionally bad, so I decided to make a complaint/remind you that this movie is happening.

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When The Hobbit films came out, people were furious that the movie was mainly CGI.  Why were they mad?  Not only were The Lord of the Rings films made with mostly practical effects, but also because the filmmakers meshed the practical and digital effects together seamlessly.  Despite the backlash, the filmmakers of Warcraft decided to go for The Hobbit look.  Why?  Don’t you want more people to go see your movie?  In the trailer, there are cuts from CG orcs to actual actors.It’s very jarring because of how different the live-action footage looks when compared to the CGI.  These type of shots are the worst shots because most of the CGI looks like a dang PS2 cut scene!  If you want the movie to be dominated by CGI, why don’t you just make an animated film instead?

Because nothing was real in The Hobbit, none of the action scenes were cool, or could ever be believable.  You also never get magical moments in those films.  Many of the actors spilled blood when filming The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it shows.  The only thing that was spilled in The Hobbit was the tears of Ian McKellan, who was so sick and tired of standing in a studio, in front of a green screen, saying lines to people who weren’t there.

And don’t even get me started on the lighting!  Well, actually, I’ll discuss it, because it’s important.  When everything in a movie is dark (in both lighting and color), that is a sign that the filmmakers are trying to hide their substandard CGI.  Just look at how most movies with terrible animation look dark.  Sadly, the attempt to mask it usually fails.  Look back at Harry Potter 5.  I remember watching it in theatres and laughing out loud when they showed the giant.  That was nine years ago, and today the same strategy is being used.  No longer can they be out in the sunlight thanks to us making fun of the fight scenes of The Matrix Reloaded.  Now, everything is dark!

So, should you care?  No. The trailers don’t make me want to view this movie at all.  But, some good could come from this movie.  It could be such a colossal failure that we’ll stop getting video game adaptations once and for all.

Choreography 101: Flips Hurt the Fight

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by: Matthew J.R. Kohler

I don’t know when this trend started, but every movie now has characters who know Parkour.  As Captain America and the Transformers have demonstrated, somehow Parkour is very easy to learn.  It CAN be used effectively, and I’m here to tell everyone how to use this dangerous tool.

People doing aerials: I’m all for that.  Over the last year, I’ve been learning more acrobatics to increase my falling dynamic.  But, sometimes Parkour is used so much that it stops becoming special.  When you give away the kitchen sink in the first scene, the character’s maneuvers become less special.  A good example is Captain America in The Winter Soldier.  We see what he is capable in the first ten minutes of the fight, so there are no surprises in the rest of the film.  Every time I watch Police Story 2, I’m blown away by the showdown in the park.  Jackie Chan is fast, but this might be some of his fastest choreography.  When Chan uses the pipe, he is quick.  I would have loved to see more diversity instead of the occasional flip.  If you want to talk about realistic, then let’s discuss Parkour’s biggest problem.

            -Watch closely, these are TRAINED warriors

How many times have you seen someone flip, and their opponent just watches them?  Why doesn’t the opponent just kick the flipper in the face?  It’s such a boneheaded choreography mistake that upsets me not only as a martial artist, but also as an action fan.  I want to be in the universe, but if you keep having choreography errors where one just watches the other guy do something cool, then I’m going to lose interest.  “Daredevil” the show is guilty of what I just described.  The fight scene between Nobu the ninja and Daredevil was a fight between two great martial artists.  Yet the fight suffers at the hands of Parkour.  Several times Daredevil throws a corkscrew kick or a “high risk” move, and the NINJA just stands and takes it.  Now, I know if you can get the move off then the speed of the flip is fast, but the ninja’s reflexes should be too.  It would have been great to see Daredevil paying for doing these childish moves on him.  Instead, they both do childish moves!

Flipping makes no sense when someone is critically injured.  Unless you are a superhuman, “Daredevil” the show is about an ordinary human (with insane athleticism).  So how is a man, whose body is downright shredded, able to still do kip ups and handsprings?  He is bleeding a lot, AND he is injured in vital areas, which should prevent him from moving that way.  In the final fight of Romeo Must Die, Jet Li’s fists are burnt.  Then, the villain peels flesh from his hands.  Li is not able to use his hands for most the fight, and he has to protect his hands.  This told a story.  Daredevil didn’t do any of that.  The fight scene could have showed Daredevil understanding that his battles have to be shorter.  Otherwise, his injuries will catch up to him one day.

The concept of involving gymnastics in a fight scene is exciting.  Jackie Chan used them for falls and Tony Jaa used them to showcase his skills.  Which one is right?  Both are; they just have to be used in the right way.  I think fight scenes fall flat when they try to be flashy.  When you are just showing moves on the screen that don’t mean anything and do not advance the story, then this is how you lose your audience.

 

Don’t Believe the Hype! – The Civil War Trailer

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by: Matthew J.R. Kohler

Well, Marvel had been teasing that Spider-Man would be in the new Civil War trailer, and you know what?  It happened!  That’s right, everyone: we finally saw a glimpse at the third iteration of Spider-Man within nine years.  But, honestly, who cares?  Here’s why you shouldn’t.

Spider-Man is one of the most popular characters in the Marvel universe. However, in the films, the only story that he really has is “Do I stay Spider-Man or not?”.  We have had five films, and all of follow this same question.  The only legit Spider-Man story is “Kraven’s Last Hunt”, about the black-suited Spider-Man, which was tarnished by the lackluster Spider-Man 3. Spider-Man is a classic character, and he did have an interesting and prominent role in the “Civil War” comic book.  In this upcoming movie, though, Marvel has already said that Black Panther would fill this role.  Whatever Spider-Man’s role is in this film does not seem essential, seeing as how this is Captain America’s movie, and Spider-Man’s getting his own solo film next year.  So, from a story standpoint, what’s the point of including him?

Financially, we all know the point of including Spider-Man.  In the trailer, we see him grab Cap’s shield and say a canned line.  That is sure to draw fans of Spider-Man into the theater, but  the point remains that trailers nowadays should be less about gimmicks and action, and more about content.  With how much money Hollywood is pumping into movies now, there is no way the action or costumes shouldn’t look professional, nor should it be surprising that a certain character owned by a separate company is appearing in a Marvel movie, so let’s just get over it!  Story is the missing piece in most things now, and it is something that can’t be purchased the same way that a visual effect or costume can be.  The proof that this film is just another cash grab is illustrated by how this movie is straight-up ripping off the Civil War comic, and relying on every superhero and his brother to bring home the bacon.

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            -Why are they posing like models?

How many heartless movies have you watched that have budgets of over $100 million?  There are the Transformers series, G.I. Joe series, the new TMNT series, Iron Man 2 and 3, Thor 1 and 2, Captain America 1, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2, Ant-Man, Spider-Man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine 1 and 2, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, Green Lantern, Fantastic Four 1, 2, and the reboot, Ghost Rider 1 and 2, all of the Punisher movies, and Daredevil.  A couple of these movies some could consider fine, but most are terrible.  Notice that the last three Spider-Man movies were part of that list.  That means the last time Spider-Man was cool in a movie was twelve years ago.  Back then, Hollywood had less control over the content of superhero films, because it was a new, largely unproven, idea.  But, as the films became more profitable, that all changed.  Spider-Man 3 and Amazing Spider-Man 2 were less about the titular character and more about the villains; and Amazing Spider-Man was a product of Hollywood’s insistence on rehashing the original Spider-Man—the top-grossing movie of the franchise.  True fans of Captain America, perhaps the most popular character in the Marvel universe next to Spider-Man and Wolverine, have not been happy with his less-than-accurate films courtesy of Marvel.  I don’t even like the Thor character, but I was still amazed by how awful his character has been handled by Marvel.  That said, if you are a true fan of Spider-Man, then you should be scared that he’s in Marvel’s hands.

As I mentioned, there are too many characters in this movie.  So, how much screen time is Spider-Man really going to have?  Not a lot.  Again, what’s the point of him being in it?  Why should we care?

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Now, go buy “Kraven’s Last Hunt” and read it.

Choreography 101: Emphasis on A LOT

by: Matthew J.R. Kohler

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Not many times do I appreciate constant action scenes in a film.  The main reason being that I don’t have enough time to process one action scene, let alone anticipate the next.  Ideally, plot and character development should take place during the “breathing room” between the action scenes.  It’s a problem all too common in recent action movies (Winter Soldier, Mad Max: Fury Road).  But, the focus of my article is not movies of today.  Instead, this is about a movie from the 90s that gave us a perfect balance of abundant action, and plot and character development.  That movie is Terminator 2.

T2 does an amazing job of keeping the audience engaged.  The first thirty minutes set up all the characters, making the audience wait and wait for that first explosive action scene.  During this build-up, it is hinted that the T-1000 is not the only villain.  Within the first act, we see the arrival of the machines, their hunt for John Connor, and the big chase scene.  After that, we only see the T-1000 in two small scenes before the climax.

Writer and director James Cameron knew that the more you show your emotionless villain, the less that people care.  What Cameron does is establish how awesome the T-1000 is, then waits for an hour and some change to reintroduce him.  And you do get to see some impressive action with the liquid-metal assassin.  Not only does he smash up a semi-truck, but also he morphs into John’s foster parents—something the first terminator couldn’t do.  Plus, what crippled the T-800 in the first one does not even faze this villain.

The movie was most focused on the characters connecting or reconnecting with each other, while preparing for battle.  Act II is where this focus is most prominent, hence the lack of action for over an hour.  During this time, John tries to reconnect with Sarah, who struggles to regain her humanity.  Intertwined with those characters’ goals is John’s relationship with the T-800, to whom John tries to teach what it means to be human.  He also looks up to the T-800 as his first real father figure (something that Sarah observes and points out to the audience).  What results is a famously robotic character gradually humanizing its mannerisms, speech, and even emotional understanding.

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Honestly, the villain of Act II is Sarah.  The scene that demonstrates this best is when John wants to allow the T-800 to learn.  To do so, he and Sarah need to take out his chip and switch it from read-only.  Sarah, being the machine that she is, wants to destroy the chip while they have the chance, because she doesn’t trust that the T-800 is actually on their side.  What ensues is her and John arguing about whether or not to trust the machine.  Not only does this show how much Sarah has changed since the first film, but also how much compassion John shows, just like his mother did.  In the next few scenes, we see just how emotionally distant Sarah is from John, because she is obsessed with stopping Judgment Day.

Cue the focus shift to Dyson.  After learning from the T-800 that Dyson is responsible for creating Skynet, Sarah abandons the T-800 and her son to kill him.  Naturally, it is up to John and the T-800 to find her and stop her.  They are too late, so it is up to Sarah to stop herself from pulling the trigger.

            Arnold doing what he does best

Clocking in at two-and-a-half hours, this movie, like the T-1000, is relentless.  Yet, it never feels rushed.  Cameron takes time with developing the characters, and letting them speak.  That’s why when action scenes do happen, they don’t feel rushed.  Our heroes’ next mission is to take out Cyberdyne, the place that holds all of Dyson’s Skynet research, as well as the arm and broken chip of the first terminator.  Instead of running from the villain, like in the first one, our heroes are going straight to the source, to take it out once and for all.  Once again, the movie doesn’t focus on solely the T-1000.  That doesn’t take anything from the villain, though, because every time he appears, his actions are catastrophic.

The climax perfectly pays off the build-up from the first two acts.  The action continues to expand, but at a slow pace.  The movie knows to ask you to focus on only one exciting moment at a time.  When Arnold uses the mini-gun, that is all you are watching.  When Dyson gets whacked, that is all you see.  There is no intercutting with other equally crazy action scenes.  And, there is no constant cutting to make the action look “good.”  T2 works so well because the shots linger on the action, thereby emphasizing it to the level of amazingly awesome.

To their credit, most action films today do have some cool action, but a lot of it is very rough around the edges.  I just re-watched the elevator fight from Cap 2.  While I love the idea of the fight, I wish the execution of it was not rushed.  It’s funny how inspirational T2 is to modern movies, yet they generally forget what made T2 such a masterful action film—its fast-moving slow-burn that allows you to see the full potential of all of its key scenes.  There’s not much that beats the final grenade blasting the T-1000’s upper torso in half, or the 100% real explosion of the 100% real Cyberdyne building.  By simply focusing on one spectacle at a time, said spectacle becomes a lot more iconic, because it is more memorable.  It’s not drowned out by twenty other spectacles happening at the same time.  What makes matters worse in modern action films is the constant cutting and the shots are too shaky and up-close to fully immerse the audience in the action.  I would like to see more movies stop trying so hard to impress me, and return to the largely forgotten simplicity of less is more.

 

 

The Dark Knight Rises: How Not To Do Fight Scenes

by: Matthew J.R. Kohler

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In my time in watching movies, I have never seen such a popular movie that has terrible fight scenes.  By this point, everyone should know that Christopher Nolan does not have an eye for fight choreography, and that Christian Bale and Tom Hardy are not fighters.  Instead of breaking down this terrible flick, I’m going to break down what could have been interesting fights.

In the first movie, Batman is trained by the League of Shadows (ninjas!).  Like I have said before, effective fight scenes are more than just action; they are part of the story.  In the fight, you should show the character’s transformation.  When Bruce Wayne first returns as Batman, it was fine.  But his first fight scene was pitiful.

Batman and Catwoman team up to take on Bane’s henchmen.  The fight scene could have been fun, but half of the dang men fall without being hit.  Literally!  The camera is fairly far away, and the lighting is too dark, so it’s hard to see anything.  Maybe that is for the best because twice do you see men run up to Batman and fall (without getting hit).  How can this be in your film?  Your movie cost hundreds of millions of dollars!  Why didn’t you at least shoot it like the terrible fight scene from Batman Begins?  Sure, that’s camera cuts galore, but at least we aren’t watching the equivalent to tortoises slugging it out.

Slow and steady should have been the theme for this movie, because that’s all the fight scenes amount to.  The first Bane versus Batman fight is a prime example.  This is the first scene Batman and Bane face off.  Now, remember: both of them are trained “martial artists” and this is what happens.  Sure, the final bout of Batman Begins was cut a lot to appear to be faster, but at least someone had their hands up!  Why does Batman think he should be crotch-forward with his hands down?   There should be continuity within the fights.  Yet there’s Batman going from simple, close-quarter knockdowns to wide arm throws.  The fight is laughable, and every second falls flat.  It starts with Bale swinging (in a shot that is angled to where you can’t even see Bane getting hit).  This continues to happen later when Bane throws a turnaround punch.  The blow completely misses Batman, but because this is the Nolanverse, he goes a-tumblin’.  I think the only part of the fight that works is when Bane briskly climbs down a chain.  Although, that little moment represents the horrible truth about this movie: it’s more interested in showing you physical feats that the characters can do (like pull-ups!) than actually showing them perform cool, useful fight moves.

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When a protagonist is beaten in a fight, a film will logically show him or her train for a rematch.  Training in this film, though, is nothing more than Bruce working out.  How do push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups prepare you for the fight of your life?  What if Batman had to learn a new style, or instead of heading directly for Gotham after rising from the prison, he travels to a new teacher?  Either of those would have made his return much less lame.

Batman’s first fight back from the pit is saving JGL.  Once again, Nolan did not understand how to use Batman in action scenes.  Several times the henchmen are holding guns and not using them.  Why?  Earlier in the film they were going to kill everybody because Batman said, “They just don’t care.”  So why didn’t they just fire while Batman is fighting them all?  Another thing— Batman is a ninja, so why didn’t he throw a flash bomb to blind them all, before knocking them all out?  Then, you could have JGL open his eyes to him finishing off the final opponent.  That way, this movie would have one less stupid scene.

Speaking of stupid scenes…of course it had to happen: the rematch between Batman and Bane.  Against the backdrop of Gotham’s police and thugs “duking it out” (or clearly pretending to hit each other, rather) our main protagonist and antagonist engage in one final bout.  This fight is supposed to be the climax of Bruce’s “training” for 30-plus minutes in the pit.  And, the first thing we see is…him throw the exact same punch at Bane from the first fight…???  Holy Cannoli is this sad.  This fight is also pathetically slow with the added minus that Batman, for some odd reason, has forgotten how to fight.  Just like their prior fight, mistakes occur left and right.  Bane throws a sidekick at Batman with his right leg.  When it shows Batman react, Bane is recoiling his left leg.  Nolan forgot the 180 rule that day I guess.  What turns the tide in this fight is that Batman punches Bane’s mask, which apparently makes Bane blind.  I’ll say it again: Batman is a detective and a trained fighter, so why didn’t he try this earlier?  I would like to have seen Batman try to break it in the first fight.  Bane would have then had to defend himself.  That way, Batman would know Bane’s weakness, but would need to figure out a strategy to take him down

The biggest problem of this movie is the action.  Nolan never new how to show action or tell a story through it.  This film is perhaps the worst example of that.  With glaring errors with the fighting, continuity errors, and henchmen just falling, it’s a shame that this movie cost so much.  My advice is, never watch this movie.  This movie is a crime against what I’ve been working on and many others before me have been working on: to tell stories through action.  Nolan is an embarrassment to fight scenes and action storytelling.  Hopefully, the passage of time will bury this film.

Rating: 3/10

Batman Begins: Grounding the Franchise

 

by: Matthew J.R. Kohler

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Recently, Christian Bale reported that he wasn’t thrilled with his Batman performance.  So, throughout the next two weeks, I will look back at all three of his performances in the Nolan trilogy.  I’ll start with the beginning of his run—Batman Begins.

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Bale played a much younger Bruce than anyone had at that point (besides Kevin Conroy in Mask of Phantasm).  And, he used the character’s youthfulness to his advantage.  30-year-old Bruce Wayne is unlike any others.  He is cocky, charming, and likes to mention that he is rich.  While former Batmen Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney were also charming as “public” Bruce, none of them acted as immaturely as Bale’s public Bruce.  When Bruce plays this “character” to his peers, he acts like an obnoxious goof.  My favorite scene is when he is in the hotel.  Bale is dating “two” models and hears something about Batman.  Bale turns to the talkers, with the dumbest face ever, and, when asked of his opinion on Batman, he writes off the Caped Crusader as a guy who “clearly has issues”.  This scene marvelously shows Bruce owning the childish rich boy persona.  It would have been nice to see more scenes like this, because they enhance the character.  Not only does Bale own that character, but also he is funny.  But Bale also plays a serious Bruce when training.

Besides The Animated Series, Begins was the first time we had seen Batman train.  And who better to train him than Liam Neeson?  Batman Begins does what I love about some of my favorite movies: it gives a slow burn at first; but once it gets going, it never stops.  Throughout these training scenes, you see how much the character grows.  From being a cocky guy in prison to a humble learner in the mountains, Bale elegantly transforms the character.  The first time Neeson and Bruce meet, Bruce is, in Neeson’s words, “truly lost”.  But by the end of this long segment, Bruce learns much about himself.  Of course, his self-discovery plays into the overall story.

The movie contains a lot of foreshadowing.  The training segments foreshadow the character of Batman, the villains, their plans, and the end battle.  If foreshadowing is predictable, then it usually is not productive.  That said, Begins is anything but predictable.  Many of the weapons that Neeson demonstrates are what Bruce uses as Batman.  This was a great way to show how Batman came to be, instead of having a stupid scene in which Batman names off his weapons.  Sure, there is a scene in which Bruce is buying his mask, but the training sequence is one of the main reasons why this movie works.

Bruce returning to Gotham was expected, but so much had happened before then.  It almost felt like an entirely different movie before that point.  In the prior “movie,” we saw Bruce prepare to take revenge on the man who killed his parents, confront the crime boss who runs Gotham, and we saw Bruce expose the lowest form of himself to his lifelong friend, Rachel.  All of Bruce’s low points set up the second half of the movie perfectly.

Bruce is not the only character; however, that builds the movie to its payoff.  In fact, every character in this film has a purpose.  From Falcone to Crane to Ra’s Al Ghul, you get to see Batman work his way up to more and more powerful foes.  The one problem about this pacing structure is that the first thing Batman does is go after the big crime.  He doesn’t even stop smaller crimes first.  He just goes after the biggest fish, which leads into Batman’s first appearance.

While the buildup is awesome, the action is, unfortunately, terrible.  The first problem is that when Batman is fighting people, you literally cannot see what is happening.  The camera is too close, the lighting is too dark, and cuts happen every quarter of a second.  The other problem is that none of the action looks great.  The action scenes are especially disappointing because we don’t see Bruce apply any of his training that we saw earlier.

This franchise starter made a bold and admirable move—its main villains were never before seen in live-action films.  Scarecrow was by far the riskiest villain, in my opinion.  Before this film, he was not an important character in the Batman universe, unlike Ra’s Al Ghul.  But, Cillian Murphy destroyed the role, and Nolan did a perfect job of bringing Scarecrow, AKA Jonathan Crane, to the real world.  Not many villains of Batman roll over well into the real world.  Ra’s Al Ghul seemed easy, but I was unsure about Crane.  He doesn’t fight, and he doesn’t use any weapons outside of his fear toxin, and a creepy mask.  The character seemed to bizarre for what was supposed to be a grounded take on Batman.  What I love about the character is that he is always calm, cool, and collected, but brings an aura of power over anyone.  This shows even more so when he puts on his mask.  The best thing about Crane is that he is not in the film a lot.  But when he is, his screen time counts.  My favorite Crane scene is on the dock.  Crane disposes of Batman brilliantly, showing how much of a threat he is, especially with his fear toxin.

At the end, though, the bad guys were not the threat; fear was.  The film is all about fear, which makes the “fear bomb” even more significant during the climax.  It’s cool to think that all three villains (Falcone, Scarecrow, and Ra’s Al Ghul) had a part in the finale, yet the movie did not feel bloated with too many villains.  The final bout, however, is not great.  Pitting Bale (not a fighter) and Liam Neeson (the worst fighter in the Phantom Menace showdown) against one another is workable, but not when there is cutting every single second!  Within three seconds, Nolan cuts FIVE times.  Why?  It’s an attempt to make the fighters look faster.  But does that really make the fight better?  If you cannot see anything, then how could it be great?  Once again, another fight was poor, but in this sequence we are somewhat compensated by seeing Rachel electrocute Crane in the mouth, and we are treated to the showdown between Ghul’s pawns and Batman.

Overall, I love Batman Begins.  The tone of the film is perfect, and the dirty brown look of Gotham City no doubt conveys that tone.  One other gripe I have with the film is Michael Caine.  Sure, Caine is an amazing actor, but not as Alfred.  Caine just plays himself.  Begins has some problems, but it hits it home with its story and main actors, and for me that makes it an extremely worthy restart to the Batman series.  Tomorrow I tackle Dark Knight Rises.  Oh boy.

+ Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne

+ The tone of the film

+ The villains

+ The build up to Batman

– Action Scenes

– Michael Caine

= 7.8/10