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The Origins of Batman


And another big name is back. Batman is once again taking on the villains of Gotham City after an eight-year hiatus from movie screens. Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan says the new movie is worth the wait.

KENNETH TURAN reporting:

"Batman" has finally come home. Not just to a story that painstakingly details his origins, but to an ominous cinematic style that suits the tale.

(Soundbite from "Batman Begins")

Mr. MICHAEL CAINE: (As Alfred Pennyworth) If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal and if they can't stop you, then you become something else entirely.

Mr. CHRISTIAN BALE: (As Bruce Wayne) Which is?

Mr. CAINE: (As Alfred Pennyworth) A legend, Mr. Wayne.

TURAN: "Batman Begins" disdains the mindless camp and pointless weirdness of its predecessors and positions its hero at the dark end of the street. This is a film noire "Batman," a brooding, disturbing piece of work.

(Soundbite of "Batman Begins")

Mr. CAINE: (As Alfred Pennyworth) You're getting lost inside this monster of yours.

Mr. BALE: (As Bruce Wayne) I'm using this monster to help other people just like my father did.

Mr. CAINE: (As Alfred Pennyworth) But Thomas Wayne helping others wasn't about proving anything to anyone, including himself.

Mr. BALE: (As Bruce Wayne) It's Rachel, Alfred.

Mr. CAINE: (As Alfred Pennyworth) Well we both care for Rachel, sir, but what you're doing has to be beyond that. It can't be personal or you're just a vigilante.

TURAN: Director Christopher Nolan's intention with "Batman Begins" is to create a myth grounded in plain reality. He wants his comic book adaptation to be as much as possible a human drama set in a believable world. This is a film that underlines the notion that Batman is that unlikely comic book hero who does it without superpowers. He's someone the director has said who really is just a guy that does a lot of push-ups, a heck of a lot of push-ups. Christopher Nolan has built a reputation for skillfully made films, including "Memento" and "Insomnia." This "Batman" is a carefully thought-out and well-made movie. It's driven by story, psychology and reality, not special effects. And Christian Bale's performance is an excellent fit for Nolan's conception of the dark night. Always a humorless, almost sullen actor, Bale uses those qualities to create a painfully earnest character driven to a life of crime fighting almost against his will.

(Soundbite of "Batman Begins")

Mr. BALE: (As Bruce Wayne) People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can't do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man from flesh and blood I can be ignored, I can be destroyed. But as a symbol--as a symbol, I can incorruptible. I can be everlasting.

Mr. CAINE: (As Alfred Pennyworth) What symbol?

Mr. BALE: Something elemental, something terrifying.

TURAN: The most encouraging thing about "Batman Begins" is the way director and co-writer Nolan has managed to make a $180 million epic seem like a personal film. Bringing that kind of sensibility to blockbuster material may sound next to impossible, but "Batman Begins" shows it can be done if you're willing to do the push-ups.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan is a movie critic for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.